Labor & Employment
Practice Group Chair: Ronald G. Polly, Jr.
Hawkins Parnell Thackston & Young LLP’s Labor and Employment practice group has been recognized by its clients as providing elite, professional, and cost-effective legal representation in litigation, investigatory, and advisory matters involving the employment relationship. Its lawyers represent clients on a national basis, and the groups’ clients include Fortune 500 companies, privately held entities, public employers, and senior company executives.
The Labor and Employment Group has experienced attorneys based in its offices in New York, Georgia, Texas, and California, allowing for efficient and practical nationwide representation wherever our clients may need it. We have represented clients and litigated cases and administrative matters in more than 40 states. Its members are licensed to practice in California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.
The Group’s attorneys include alumni from some of the country’s largest firms, the former General Counsel of a financial services company, and a former Assistant General Counsel of a major manufacturer. We leverage those experiences in working with in-house counsel, litigation managers, and human resources departments to provide results-oriented and cost-effective legal services. Its attorneys are regularly called on by national organizations to speak on a number of topics, including class action litigation, employee violence, and wage and hour issues.
HPTY’s Labor and Employment Group has developed particular expertise in handling labor and employment matters in the healthcare, financial/investment, retail, manufacturing, professional services, and transportation industries, advises technology and professional firms on labor and employment matters, and represents city governments, school districts, and similar political bodies with respect to the unique issues that face public employers.
Class Action, Collective Action, and Mass Plaintiff Cases
The Labor and Employment Group has substantial experience in litigating complex class-action and collective action cases, both under the Fair Labor Standards Act and similar state laws. Its lawyers have been involved in large employment discrimination and wage-hour matters for decades, and have deep insight into the unique challenges such cases bring with respect to discovery, document management, business disruption, and settlement. Since only 2009, lawyers in the Labor & Employment Group have been lead counsel in more than 15 class action, collective action or large multi-plaintiff cases, including:
- Defending a national provider of homecare services in an FLSA collective action challenging the exempt status of more than 2,700 companion workers in two states;
- Defending a state-law class action alleging violations of Georgia’s Minimum Wage Act;
- Defending a class action arising under the California Labor Code alleging that more than 1,400 workers who resided on the work premises should be paid for time spent sleeping;
- Defending a national healthcare provider in a class action arising under the California Labor Code alleging that housekeeping and laundry workers at a healthcare facility worked off the clock;
- Defending federal class action cases for a client in two states alleging violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act;
- Defending a national personal training services company in multiple class action cases involving more than 6,600 combined employees filed against it under the California Labor Code and the FLSA, asserting claims for unpaid minimum wages and overtime, wage statement violations, and pursuant to California’s Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”);
- Defending a city government in collective and multi-plaintiff actions involving, among other things, alleged off-the clock work by its public works employees and misclassification of members of its Fire Department;
- Defending a national provider of janitorial and security services in a multi-plaintiff case filed by H2-B visa guestworkers alleging violations of Title VII and the FLSA, including allegations of extortion, involuntary servitude, and false imprisonment;
Wage and Hour
As described above, HPTY’s experience in handling major wage and hour cases is extensive. Its attorneys have a substantial expertise in litigating and advising clients with respect to the difficult wage and hour issues that face employers. In addition to the class and collective action cases described above, HPTY’s lawyers regularly represent employers in single-plaintiff FLSA cases, before state and federal compliance agencies such as the federal Department of Labor, California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”), and similar state agencies across the country. In addition, HPTY’s attorneys regularly advise clients on wage and hour compliance issues, assisting them to avoid the very costly litigation that can ensue, and conducting compliance audits of positions and departments. Among others, HPTY’s attorneys have handled matters involving:
- Alleged misclassification of exempt employees;
- Alleged “off the clock” work;
- Challenges to whether employees are paid on a “salary basis” under the FLSA;
- Exclusions from time worked, such as unpaid sleep time;
- Issues involving non-traditional workers, such as piece-rate workers;
- Independent contractor issues;
- Meal and rest periods required by state law;
- Paycheck format issues under state law;
- Issues regarding the calculation of overtime and the “fluctuating workweek” calculation;
- The calculation of overtime and bonuses and commissions for non-exempt employees;
Discrimination, Retaliation, and Harassment Cases
HPTY’s Labor and Employment group also regularly defends and advises employers faced with claims of illegal discrimination, retaliation, and harassment under federal and state law. Our attorneys have served as defense counsel in hundreds of cases and arbitrations alleged under Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) similar state and local laws, and whistleblower statutes. HPTY lawyers have handled a number of serious matters under such statutes, including:
- Defending a national auto-parts chain in a discrimination and harassment lawsuit filed in Fresno County, California, under California state law; this case was tried, and a complete defense verdict was returned;
- Defending a national intermodal carrier and transportation company against claims asserted by the EEOC that its leave practices created a disparate impact against disabled employees;
- Defending an employee staffing agency a lawsuit brought by the EEOC involving allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation;
- Defending a local government entity against claims of severe sexual harassment and state-law torts that occurred over a period of more than 5 years; the case was tried to verdict after Plaintiffs demanded over $5 million in damages; the plaintiff received a minimal amount from the jury;
- Defending a school district against whistleblower claims brought by its former general counsel, implicating a number of unique privilege and immunity issues, and against claims brought by fourteen employees claiming that the district’s most senior operational employees conspired to demote them because of race;
- Defending a national janitorial services company against multiple claims asserted in Florida courts and administrative tribunals alleging that the company had discriminated against employees based upon their race and national origin;
Tort Cases Involving Claims of Employee Violence and Sexual Assault
HPTY’s Labor and Employment Attorneys are also experienced in handling serious and tragic matters involving employee violence, including sexual assaults committed by employees. Its attorneys’ experience in this area have enabled them to handle such cases efficiently, effectively, and without excess negative publicity. HPTY’s attorneys have handled a number of such matters, including:
- A case involving the sexual assault of an elderly man with dementia that was recorded on videotape;
- A case involving multiple instances of alleged sexual assault against a resident of a Traumatic Brain Injury facility;
- A case involving alleged sexual misconduct between students of a local school district, filed under Title IX;
- A case filed against a franchisee of a national fast-food chain alleging that an employee sexually assaulted a special needs adolescent.
Employment Contracts, Restrictive Covenants, Trade Secrets, and Confidential Information
The Labor and Employment Group is also experienced in drafting, evaluating, and enforcing employment contracts, restrictive covenant agreements, and non-disclosure agreements across the country. Its lawyers are called upon to advise and assist employers in protecting and retaining their most important and confidential trade secret information, customer goodwill, and employees. HPTY’s lawyers also advise employers who are considering hiring an employee subject to non-compete covenants as to the enforceability of those covenants and the attendant risks of hiring such individuals. We pride ourselves on providing accurate risk assessments and thinking creatively to allow employers to hire qualified employees without violating legal obligations. HPTY lawyers have:
- Represented a major investment bank in enforcing restrictive covenant and trade secret covenants against a group of investment bankers hired by a competitor;
- Represented a major financial services company in a case involving the theft of sensitive customer lists and information by a former employee;
- Drafted restrictive covenant agreements for numerous employers, tailoring such agreements to the law of the states where they were likely to be enforced/challenged;
- Drafted employment agreements for senior executives, popular sports figures, and numerous other categories of employees;
- Negotiated multiple settlements for employers seeking to hire employees subject to non-compete obligations, tailoring the employee’s work responsibilities to ensure compliance.
HPTY’s Labor and Employment Group also conducts sensitive internal investigations for employers into allegations of employee misconduct, including instances of employee theft, harassment, and violence. Clients trust HPTY’s lawyers to investigate fairly and thoroughly, using their experience and judgment to find the truth. Lawyers at HPTY have conducted confidential and sensitive investigations into allegations of executive misconduct implicating Sarbanes-Oxley, racial and sexual harassment, and potential criminal activity. [Because of the confidential nature of such investigations, further elaboration is unfortunately not possible]
Traditional Labor / Collective Bargaining
HPTY’s lawyers also have extensive experience in representing management in union organizing campaigns, handling arbitrations before the National Labor Relations Board under collective bargaining agreements, and defending unfair labor practices charges. Members of the group have:
- Successfully defeated a union organizing campaign on behalf of an international airline manufacturer;
- Represented an aluminum die-casting company in the damages phase of a massive action where employees asserted §8(a)(3) and 8(a)(5) claims under the NLRA;
- Handled multiple labor arbitrations and unfair labor practice hearings before the NLRB;
- Successfully challenged and overturned an election before the NLRB on behalf of national manufacturing company;
Recent Trial Experience
HPTY’s Labor & Employment Group sets itself apart from similar practices in other firms because its lawyers try cases to verdict. While we obtain summary judgment for our clients in many of our cases, we have also been fortunate enough to represent clients who are willing to go to trial in tough cases where they believe no wrongdoing has occurred. Recent trial successes include:
- A complete defense verdict in a month-long sex discrimination/sexual harassment case in Fresno, California involving allegations of indecent exposure and harassing telephone calls by a co-employee;
- A complete defense verdict involving claims of retaliation and sexual harassment in Colorado;
- As described above, partial defense verdict and a very small damages award in a sexual harassment case in federal court in Georgia involving alleged severe psychiatric harm, where the plaintiff’s pre-trial demand was in excess of $5 million;
- A judgment as a matter of law for a national transportation carrier in a Kentucky administrative hearing following the presentation of the plaintiff’s case;
- Defeat of a Motion for Preliminary Injunction brought by a major investment bank in a FINRA arbitration against executive employees who had departed to form their own business;
HPTY’s experience does not stop at the trial court level. On behalf of our clients, we have successfully handled, briefed, and argued multiple appeals before federal and state appeals courts. Our attorneys have appeared in eight of the eleven federal Circuit Courts of Appeal, the United States Supreme Court, and multiple state Courts of Appeal. Examples of recent appellate victories include:
- Successfully convinced the Washington Court of Appeals to uphold a judgment in excess of $250,000 for our client, a national auto-parts company, related to its counterclaim against a former executive employee who had attempted to sue the company for back pay;
- Successfully defended the entry of summary judgment in a federal Court of Appeals in a case involving claimed violations of Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, the FMLA, ERISA and purported retaliation;
- Successfully defended the entry of summary judgment in a race discrimination and retaliation case in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Articles and publications
- Skeletons as Party Favors
- Damages: A View From the Defense Perspective
- Uncertainty in Hi-Times: Considerations for Employers in a Changing World
- High Times: Impact of Changing Marijuana Laws on the Workplace
- Who Goes On a Verdict Form? South Carolina Law Needs Clarification
- Explaining Compensable Activities Under FLSA
- So Your Employee Is Accused of Sexual Assault - Now What?
- The Employee Free Choice Act: A Brave New Workplace
- Atlanta Claims Association: Annual Education Conference
- Texas Lawyer: Houston In-House Counsel Summit
- Texas Lawyer: Dallas In-House Counsel Summit
- ALFA International: 2016 Construction Practice Group Seminar
- The Knowledge Group: Hot Topics in ERISA Litigation Developments in 2016 and Beyond
- ALFA International: Labor & Employment Seminar
- National Center for Employee Ownership: Deferring Taxation Using the Section 1042 "Rollover" (Webinar)
- ALFA International: Tripartite Relationships – Who’s the Client Anyway? Litigating and Negotiating Settlements in Claims with Covered and Uncovered Losses
- Matthew Boyd to Speak at the Defense Research Institute's Sexual Torts Seminar
- Texas Trial Lawyers Ranelle Meroney and Amy Welborn Join HPTY's Austin Office
- Christopher Ege Named Partner-in-Charge of HPTY’s Austin Office
- HPTY Opening Napa Office with Prominent Employee Benefit Attorneys from Jackson Lewis
- Summary Judgment Obtained in Employment Breach of Contract Case
- Labor & Employment California Trial Victory
- Ron Polly and Alex Barfield Win Summary Judgment in Employment Case
- HPTY Listed in Atlanta Business Chronicle's Top 50 Law Firms of 2010
- Austin, Germaine A.
- Boyd, Matthew A.
- Ellis, Jr., Willie C.
- Jacxsens, Jr., Peter A.
- Rubel, Douglas A.
- Stevens, Kimberly D.
- Billheimer, Gordon E.
- Meroney, Ranelle M.
- Welborn, Amy C.
- Dowling, Matthew
- Bond, Beverly M.
- Helling, Troy
- Thicksten, Michael W.
- Gurnick, Matthew
- Johanson, David R.
- Karbassi, Nilofar
- Montoya, Jr., Phil J.
- Huang, Teresa Y.
- Johanson, David R.
- Markun, Rachel J.
- Hsu, Mark K.
- Johanson, David R.
- Lee, James Y.
- White, Ryan L.
- Fountain, Bill D.
- Johanson, David R.
- Markun, Rachel J.
- Scheffy, Mirna J.