Responding to High-Stakes Workplace Disputes
Employment counseling is about crisis prevention and crisis management. Specifically, employers require counseling when no lawsuit has been filed, but the employer suspects that legal action is imminent or understands that, how it responds to an internal complaint, employee request, or developing workplace dispute, may trigger a legal claim or, if handled properly, may entirely prevent one.
Because the focus of our employment counseling practice is on preventing litigation (and the related disruption, cost, and distraction), the decisions that are made at this stage in the process – after an internal complaint or request is made, but before any legal action is taken – are especially crucial. How to effectively respond to employee complaints, and how to manage and contain an evolving workplace crisis, are not merely about knowing what the law says. Instead, the key is knowing how the situation will likely develop in practice. And that knowledge only comes from experience addressing high-stakes employment matters on a regular basis.
In addition, because no two situations are identical, it is essential that counsel have a detailed understanding of the employer, its operations, its relationship with its employees, its objectives, its overall legal exposure, and its risk tolerance. Our firm’s partnership approach with our clients means that, when the risk of an employment claim arises, we already understand the organization’s unique concerns, its culture and, as a result, we can more rapidly develop customized solutions designed to resolve the situation before it progresses.
We counsel employers how to respond to:
- Complaints of harassment, including sexual harassment;
- Reports of discrimination, including gender and racial discrimination;
- Requests for accommodations, i.e., changes to standard workplace policies and procedures, including requests due to illness, disability, religious observance, pregnancy, or domestic violence;
- Employee internet and social media activity that may be disruptive or damaging to the employer’s operations, business interests, or reputation;
- Union-organizing efforts or other activities intended to affect terms and conditions of employment;
- Reports that an employee is under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol;
- Information that an employee is abusing time off or leave of absence policies;
- Employee fraud or theft;
- Employee theft of confidential information, including trade secrets;
- Employee diversion of business opportunities;
- Employee solicitation of clients or customers on behalf of competitors.