Smith O’Callaghan & White is dedicated to helping clients achieve two fundamental goals: avoid liability and litigation whenever possible and deliver outstanding results whenever litigation arises. We provide preventive counseling and support as needed, and minimize the burden and expense to clients of litigating matters in order to obtain favorable and timely resolution. Our attorneys have extensive experience in the area of labor and employment law and utilize this expertise to provide thoughtful, creative and practical solutions to complex issues. While our practice covers the full-range of labor and employment matters, some key aspects of our work include:
Our attorneys are seasoned and experienced litigators who routinely represent clients before federal and state courts, administrative agencies and in arbitration and mediation proceedings. We have extensive experience litigating matters involving alleged discrimination and harassment, as well as claims of retaliation and wrongful discharge. We have a well-established record of achieving successful outcomes for our clients. It is our record of success and complete dedication to each client that has made us a go-to law firm for employers facing or engaged in critical or contentious employment litigation. Our attorneys have experience with all types of employment litigation, including cases involving:
- Claims of discrimination and harassment brought under Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and other federal, state and local statutes, alleging discrimination based on race, gender, religion, national origin, pregnancy, disability, age and other protected classifications.
- We recently spoke and presented a webinar for corporate in-house counsel: “Non-Competes, Trade Secrets, Departing Employees and Raiding: Key Tips for In-House Counsel to Protect Your Company’s Interests.” Link to Webinar
- Claims of wrongful discharge based on public policy exceptions and breach of employment contract.
- Employment-related torts, including defense of employee privacy and surveillance claims, negligent hiring, supervision and retention claims, and defamation, libel and slander claims, as well as litigating claims on behalf of employers in cases involving workplace misconduct and employee theft.
- Whistleblower and other claims of retaliatory discharge.
- ERISA-based claims, including alleged breach of fiduciary obligations.
- Reductions-in-force and plant closings, and resulting claims under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act.
Non-Compete and Non-Solicitation Agreements
Our primary objective is to protect the business interests of our clients, and we have significant experience in handling the unique threats to business that may be posed by current and former employees. We work with our clients to investigate workplace misconduct and to enforce restrictive covenants, including non-compete, non-disclosure and non-solicitation agreements against departing employees. We have a wealth of experience drafting such agreements to best protect the business interests of our clients, as well as advising companies and senior executives on the enforcement of such agreements. We also work with corporate clients and employees in defending against claims of breach of non-compete and non-solicitation agreements, defending against such claims in lawsuits, by declaratory judgments and in negotiating appropriate settlements of such claims.
Trade Secrets and Unfair Competition
We are committed to protecting our clients’ trade secrets and confidential business information. We have substantial experience handling complex trade secret matters in federal and state courts throughout the country, whether in enforcing trade secret obligations or defending against allegations of mis-use or disclosure. Time is frequently of the essence and companies need to act swiftly to prosecute or defend against these types of lawsuits. Our lawyers are nationally-recognized and experienced in acting on an emergency basis, including by seeking and defending against temporary restraining orders, injunctions and motions for expedited proceedings.
Employee Pirating and Tortious Interference
We frequently represent corporate clients who are concerned about employee raiding and pirating attempts by competitors, to prevent improper access to confidential business information, unfair competition or tortious interference with established employee, customer and vendor relationships. Such targeted attempt to decimate a workforce or particular office location can have devastating effects on a business. We have been very successful in handling such cases in federal and state courts throughout the United States.
We provide day-to-day counseling to clients addressing a wide range of labor and employment issues. We are frequently called upon to provide guidance and counsel on discipline and discharge decisions, reductions-in-force, administration of leaves of absence, responses to requests for reasonable accommodation and other potentially problematic employment decisions, particularly those that employers fear may result in litigation. Our attorneys provide expert and practical advice to employers concerning compliance with governing laws, required documentation and recommended procedures to allow clients to make necessary business decisions while minimizing the risk of liability.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
We frequently are called upon to investigate and evaluate the pre-resignation conduct of departing employees. Such investigations are designed to identify and flush-out breaches of fiduciary duty by employees, such as, the improper copying and downloading of confidential business information, theft of company property, improper steps to compete prior to resignation, diversion of sales or business to a competitor and the coordinated en masse departure of employees designed to inflict damage upon the employer.
Our firm is frequently retained to investigate internal complaints of workplace discrimination and harassment, alleged business impropriety, whistleblower claims and possible violations of law such as the False Claims Act. We understand that these are particularly sensitive matters for employers and treat such investigations with the utmost sensitivity. We have the ability to adeptly and confidentially investigate such matters, interview relevant witnesses, review relevant evidence, and report our findings and recommend strategies for possible next steps.
Administrative Agency Proceedings
The firm regularly handles all types of employment-related charges and complaints filed with federal, state and local agencies, including the EEOC and the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Our expertise in handling such matters allows our attorneys to provide clear guidance and valuable assistance at each step of the administrative agency process, including: performing preliminary investigations of charges and complaints, preparing written responses, interacting with agents and investigators, participating in fact-finding and mediation conferences and engaging in hearing and motion practice before administrative law judges.
Arbitration, Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution
We represent the interests of employers in arbitrations under collective bargaining agreements and individual employment contracts, mediations, and in other alternative dispute resolution proceedings. The firm has extensive experience counseling employers and avoiding litigation through the use of such methods and has experience with the drafting, interpretation and application of contract clauses requiring them. For example, we represented a large Florida healthcare provider in one of the leading and first cases in the Northern District of Illinois compelling arbitration of private employment contract disputes under the Federal Arbitration Act.
NLRB and Labor-Management Relations
Our attorneys have significant experience handling a variety of labor-management relations issues. We counsel management on all aspects of labor-management relations – advising and representing not only employers with unionized workforces, but also those employers seeking proven strategies to remain union-free. Our experience in traditional labor law matters includes drafting, negotiating and administering collective bargaining agreements, representing employers in labor arbitrations and handling unfair labor practice charges and other matters pending before the National Labor Relations Board. Our attorneys have extensive experience responding to union organizing efforts and providing legal counsel to clients in representation, decertification and deauthorization elections, as well as with the development of positive and proactive employee relations strategies.
Breach of Employment Contract Litigation
We are frequently called upon to defend breach of employment contract claims, including various issues that threaten to disrupt our clients’ businesses. We have been very successful in disposing of claims by former employees in both express and implied contract actions, as well as wage payment and collection act claims.
The firm provides ongoing support and counsel to clients addressing workplace misconduct, such as employee theft and other wrongdoing. We work with our clients and provide guidance during the investigation and decision-making processes to minimize exposure to wrongful discharge claims. The firm routinely counsels clients on compliance with employee privacy and employee surveillance laws. We have substantial experience defending the interests of our corporate clients on matters involving workplace defamation, libel and slander. Our success in this area includes establishing defamation law favorable to all Illinois employers on the defense of absolute privilege and the doctrine of compelled self-publication in employment-related defamation cases.
Preparation of Affirmative Action Plans
Our firm has extensive experience preparing and defending affirmative action plans for public and private sector employers. We provide counsel to employers who are federal contractors regarding workforce survey and analysis and required affirmative action programs to ensure compliance with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”).
We are often called upon to advise on executive compensation matters, including negotiating, drafting and reviewing executive employment, severance and change in control agreements for members of senior management, to ensure enforceability, compliance with applicable federal and state laws and appropriate compensation and benefits provisions.