Employment Law

Failure to pay minimum or overtime wages
Late payment of wages
Employee benefit rights
Wrongful termination of employment (private sector employees)
Wrongful termination of employment (public or government sector employees)
Breach of employment contracts/covenants-not-to-compete
Severance Package Negotiations
Discrimination

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Failure to pay minimum or overtime wages

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal law that governs the payment of minimum wages and overtime pay. Under the FLSA, the general rule is a simple one: all employees are entitled to be paid a minimum wage and time-and one-half for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek. Importantly, the entitlement to overtime pay is not limited only to employees paid on an hourly basis; rather, and “contrary to popular belief,” the right to be paid overtime extends to many salaried employees, including some well-paid salaried employees.

As with any general rule, however, there are exceptions, and, when it comes to overtime pay, those exceptions (known as exemptions) are of critical importance. There is an exemption for certain “executive employees;” one for certain “professional employees;” and one for certain “administrative employees.” There are also exemptions for certain public or government employees. Because there is a lot of “gray area” with each of these exemptions, an in-depth and finely tuned understanding of the law is critical in determining whether an employer has failed to properly pay overtime pay.

Our attorneys have handled numerous cases involving the right to overtime compensation, including a major class action litigated over the course of several years on behalf of more than 650 public employees working for one of Arizona’s counties. That case is typical of our willingness to tackle the most complex legal issues in employment law and to take on a wage and hour case no matter how large or small. Our attorneys also know that under both state and federal law, there are penalties for not paying wages, penalties like doubling or even trebling the amount of wages that should have been paid.

If you believe your right to wages, including overtime pay may have been violated, one of our employment lawyers would be pleased to speak with you.

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Late payment of wages

In a difficult economic environment, some employers fail to pay their employees on time, or after firing or laying off an employee, some employers delay payment of a final paycheck. Because most employees rely on the timely payment of wages and salaries, a paycheck that is just a few days late can lead to workers bouncing checks, or missing critical, time-sensitive payments.

The law recognizes the havoc that can be created by late paychecks. For that reason the law has provided for, and our courts will impose, penalties on employers who fail to pay earned wages on time. These penalties can include doubling or even trebling the amount of the unpaid wages, as well as recovery of the expense of litigation and interest on the wrongfully withheld wages.

Our attorneys are experienced at ensuring that employers pay their employees in compliance with law. If you believe your employer is not paying your wages on time, or if you’ve been fired or laid off and haven’t received a paycheck within 3 days, one of our employment lawyers would be pleased to speak with you.

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Employee benefit rights

An employee may have a right to much more than just an hourly wage or salary. As a condition of employment, many employees are given promises of benefits such as health insurance, life insurance, pensions and retirements, etc. Often, employers withhold part of an employee’s paycheck to pay for the employee’s share of insurance premiums, retirement contributions and other benefits. In tough economic times, it’s sometimes tempting for an employer to withhold such monies while not actually using it for the intended and promised purpose.

What can an employee do when their employer holds their money and doesn’t use it for the promised purpose? Both state and federal law prohibit an employer’s misuse of an employee’s pay. These laws impose severe penalties not only on a company but on the officers and directors of the company as well. In fact, officers who violate these laws may even be subject to criminal liability resulting in fines and even imprisonment.

If you think you are being denied your rights to employee benefits, one of our employment lawyers would be pleased to speak with you.

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Wrongful termination of employment (private sector employees)

Arizona is an “at-will” employment state, meaning that an employer can fire an employee, or an employee may quit employment at “will” without having to show good cause for the termination. This is sometimes mistakenly thought to mean that an employee has no recourse whatsoever if fired. It’s simply not true.

Sometimes people are fired for “bad causes.” Such bad causes include discrimination based on an employee’s race/national origin, age, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or religion. But they also include terminations because an employee “blows the whistle” on an employer’s misconduct or criminal behavior or because an employee asserts a variety of legal rights.

Employers rarely admit a termination was done for a bad cause, so it’s important to be represented by attorneys who know what it takes to prove the real reasons for a termination.

Our attorneys have represented hundreds of terminated employees. If you believe you may have been terminated unjustly, one of our employment lawyers would be pleased to speak with you.

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Wrongful termination of employment (public or government sector employees)

The employment of some government sector employees, like police officers and firefighters, is not governed by “at-will” employment rules. Instead, because of the nature of their work, they can only be fired for “good cause.” In fact, with respect to such employees The United States Supreme Court has said that they have “constitutionally protected property rights to continued employment,” which prohibit their firing without the protections of “due process,” including a hearing before a neutral body.

Exactly what constitutes good cause is not often an easy question. Similarly, what constitutes “due process,” is not always well defined. Our lawyers are experienced in protecting the constitutional and civil rights of police officers, firefighters and other public sector employees. If you think you may be the victim of an unconstitutional termination, or that you’ve been targeted for such a termination, one of our employment lawyers would be pleased to speak with you.

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Breach of employment contracts/covenants-not-to-compete

An employment contract is a written document, negotiated and then signed by the employer and the employee, promising employment for a specific period of time, and setting out such things as rates of pay, benefits, promises not to compete, etc., over the life of the contract. Not all employers honor the agreements they negotiate, or sometimes they fire employees and try to prevent the employee from earning a living at their chosen trade or profession.

Over the years, we have handled numerous contract breach cases, and cases involving the enforceability of covenants-not-to-compete, not-to-solicit customers, etc. While these cases may not be easy, the issues are always clear: was the contract enforceable and was it broken.

These cases can raise complex issues of law. Our attorneys have experience with these cases and enjoy the challenge of tackling the most difficult legal issues and protecting the rights of our clients.

If you believe you have an employment contract issue, one of our employment lawyers would be pleased to speak with you.

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Severance Package Negotiations

A termination of one’s employment is a traumatic event as it immediately impacts the ability to pay one’s important monthly bills, including rent, mortgages, utilities and fuel costs.

While severance pay will never fully make up for the damage caused by a termination, a good severance package will certainly ease the transition into your next job. Although there are some situations where you can negotiate a favorable severance package on your own, we’ve found that to be the rare exception. To the contrary, whether using this law firm or some other, we believe there are real benefits to being represented by a lawyer in negotiations. A lawyer can either guide you in negotiations while staying behind the scene or, as is more common, negotiate directly for you.

Aside from having a good lawyer representing you, there are many factors that can influence the outcome of the negotiation of a severance package. They include the strength of any potential legal claim that you may have; the amount of severance that has already been offered; the length of your employment; your work performance; and a host of other factors. No two cases are alike, and each case needs individualized attention. Often, if there is a non-compete, non-disclosure, or non-solicitation agreement in effect that may also be an important topic for negotiation.

Our attorneys have negotiated a multitude of severance packages for clients over the years. In many of these cases, we negotiated substantial severance packages where none had been offered; in other cases we were able to greatly enhance the amount of severance pay that an employer had already offered; and in still others, we were able to negotiate for favorable references that are important in securing future employment.

If you are interested in discussing with us whether we can assist you in negotiating a severance package, or improving one that’s been offered, one of our employment lawyers would be pleased to speak with you.

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Discrimination

Unfortunately, discrimination in the workplace remains a fact of life even in the 21st century. This is true despite the existence, for over 40 years, of laws against discrimination and despite the increasing number of lawsuits brought on behalf of employees challenging discrimination.

While discrimination in the workplace continues, there is rarely “smoking gun” evidence of its existence. Instead, discrimination often takes more subtle forms, without any “paper trail” being left.

Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in complex employment discrimination cases. We enjoy the challenge of tackling the most complex legal issues, taking on the biggest cases, and standing up for the rights of our clients, no matter how difficult the case. If you believe you are a party to discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race/national origin, age, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or religion, one of our employment lawyers would be pleased to speak with you.

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