How to Find the Best Dallas Employment Litigation Defense Attorney
- If a disgruntled employee sues your Dallas business, you should not underestimate the claims against you no matter how frivolous the case might be.
- DFW businesses face thousands of employment cases each year, so don’t take things personally.
- The best thing to do is to team up with attorneys that have the authority and experience to present a forceful response, but always with your business-goals in mind.
Statistically, almost every employer will eventually face an employment conflict. The Dallas market is no exception. Each year, thousands of DFW employers find themselves accused of wrongful termination, workplace misconduct, unsafe work conditions, civil rights violations, torts, retaliation, or discrimination in disputes or court proceedings with former employees. When this happens, employers must avoid the number one mistake—that is to not underestimate the conflict before things escalate.
Employment Disputes Are on the Rise
As a Dallas employer, sooner or later you may be confronted with litigation brought by disgruntled employees. When this happens, you need to team up with skilled attorneys that know how to balance a forceful response with a quick, effective, and business-minded resolution. Among the most recent types of employment litigation cases in Dallas are the following allegations:
- COVID-19. Employment disputes have spiked in the aftermath of the coronavirus and its impact on the economy and employment.
- Non-Compete Violations. Is the non-compete restriction enforceable? Did the departing employee or contractor violate the terms of the agreement? Non-compete disputes are common for two reasons: one, departing employees often don’t seem to care about the aftermath of employment; two, non-compete provisions cannot be overreaching, that is drafting the legally appropriate language is key to enforceability. In the absence of clear guidance from courts, non-competes can quickly become the center of litigation.
- Theft of Company Secrets. Employers must protect themselves against departing employees who are copying and stealing company property, in particular intellectual property such as client lists, patient lists, customer information, software programs, and other valuables and protectable property.
- Discrimination. Violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employers to discriminate against staff based on race, religion, gender, color, or national origin.
- Disability. Title I of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against equally qualified employees based on their disability.
- Age. Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which bars employers to discriminate against employees ages 40 or older based on their age.
- Pregnancy. Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which disallows employers from discriminating against a woman because of pregnancy or a related condition.
- Termination. Wrongful termination cases, which largely refers to employment termination of protected classes of employees, e.g. the FMLA protection.
- Retaliation. Retaliation describes the terminating, harassment, humiliation, or demotion of employees as a form of punishment for reporting a discrimination complaint or lawsuit.
Spike in Employment Cases Due to COVID-19
Especially in times of Covid-19, employees have begun to bring cases against employers for not providing a safe workplace in violation of OSHA and other regulations. All across the country, including the DFW metroplex, the dire economic situation and the difficult consequences of handling the Coronavirus crisis have led to a spike of litigation cases.
- Unprecedented Amount of Terminations (more than 20m unemployed)
- Exposure to Hazardous Workplace During Covid-19 (lack of PPE)
- New Employment Legislation and Benefits
In addition to these strictly employment related allegations, employers and employees, just like landlord and tenant, may also engage in litigation over the terms of their employment contract (e.g. promised, but unpaid bonus payments) or over torts such as product liability lawsuits due to injuries sustained at work.
Does Your Attorney Have Federal Court Experience?
Employment litigation can be serious business: Wrong lawyer, wrong strategy, wrong outcome. The key in finding the right attorney to represent your business is not to look for a lawyer that claims to be the “most aggressive.” Instead, employers should understand that successful employment attorneys have two central qualifications: experience in federal court and superb (as in: beyond excellent) writing skills.
Practicing federal law is not a hobby. When your business is on the line, and one of your former partners or employees is trying to hold you hostage (“either you pay me, or I sue you”), you must respond with a forceful and proven strategy. Now, 95% or more of all lawyers in the United States practice in state courts—because 95% of all civil and all criminal cases are filed in state courts. The majority of employment cases end up in federal court because many of the legal protections that employees enjoy were enacted by the federal government, not the states. Take for example, the FMLA, the Family Medical Leave Act or the many discrimination claims under federal law. Chances that your case is federal in nature are very high.
What does this mean for you, the client? The difference between practicing in federal court versus state court could not be any more significant. It is not just a completely different court system with different court rules and procedures, but also different types of judges. Federal judges are appointed by the President of the United States. That appointment is for life. They are utmost independent and not subject to any election or re-election campaign (unlike state judges).
Federal cases are unlike anything you may see on TV. Very sophisticated attorneys must impress very sophisticated judges. Proceedings are predominately in writing. That means that if your attorney does not know how to write a motion, how to write a compelling brief, or which federal case to cite to support your case, the other side may triumph. Especially when it comes to case resolution in federal employment law proceedings, there are two critical phases in each case, both requiring written arguments. The first opportunity to get a case against a defendant dismissed is right at the very beginning. Experienced writers will have a track record of convincing federal judges to dismiss a case right away. Where this is not possible and the parties have to go through some discovery, the second opportunity arrives in form of a so-called Motion for Summary Judgment (MSJ-Motion). Before you hire any attorney, you must have a clear understanding that your lawyer candidate has a track record of obtaining or defending these MSJ motions in federal court. Some of these motions are true masterpieces of legal analysis, sometimes exceeding 50 and more pages of compact arguments and factual summaries. Experience in federal court, experience with federal case law, and experience with federal court motions are quintessential skillsets for any successful corporate defense attorney in employment litigation cases.
Make Sure Your Attorney Won’t Delegate Your Case to Junior Lawyers
When interviewing lawyer candidates to trust with your case, make sure that you know exactly who will lead your defense and who will be involved in the case representation. Especially at larger firms it is not uncommon to first speak with the partners at the firm, but then, invoice after invoice, see a lot of additional names of attorneys that spent time and your money on the case. Most cases do not require junior lawyers and no lawyer fresh out of law school should experiment on your case or use your case as a training exercise, at your expense. If you are interested in a certain lawyer of a firm, make sure that lawyer will not delegate you to others once you become a client and pay your retainer.
Understanding the Legal Fee Structure Before You Sign
Those that challenge you and your business are in a comfortable position. Typically, their attorney will handle the case on a contingency basis, which means that the lawyer will file the lawsuit and work on the case without demand for any legal fees. Only if the lawyer is able to win, either by settlement or in court, will the lawyer be paid, typically a portion of the total fee collected. Defense attorneys, those that have to respond and argue against the lawsuit filed against you, do not operate like this. Defense lawyers do not accept these types of contingency agreements. Instead, a law firm will ask you to pay an upfront retainer and charge you hourly. For example, if you pay $ 10,000 to your employment defense law firm and they charge you at the hourly rate of $ 500.00, you will secure twenty hours of work before the firm will ask you to replenish the retainer. Obviously, to the point above, if you have three associates also working on your case, your hourly contingent will be exhausted quickly, as every hour by every lawyer in the firm counts towards the exhaustion of your funds.
To combine your interest of a good legal representation with a fair budget, you should have a clear understanding before you sign any attorney contract what the expected fees are, who will work on your case, how many people will work on your case, and what the hourly rate is that is applied to your retainer.