We help employers navigate the potential liabilities, pitfalls, and challenges of a modern workforce.

The complexities of the employee-employer relationship include an ever-changing array of local, state, and federal legislation and court decisions affecting the workplace. Drawing on our experience with the diverse facets of employment law, we guide employers through this challenging legal landscape.

We also understand that employees form the cornerstone of a company, and we collaborate with clients on strategies for regulatory compliance and best practices that support a vibrant and productive workforce.

Experience

Experience

  • Defense of $8 million claim for theft of trade secrets, employee disloyalty, breach of non-solicitation agreement, and aiding and abetting. Our client, a large truck parts supply company, hired the top two managers of one of its branch offices, with employment to start after a new branch office was built out by client. After waiting in place for three and a half months, the managers resigned from plaintiff’s branch without notice and immediately began recruiting plaintiff’s employees – and were successful in getting 55 percent of the workforce to join our client. The managers and all employees were “at will,” but one of the managers had a non-solicitation agreement, and the new employees brought customer lists with them. Plaintiff contended that the employee “lift out” irreparably destroyed their business in the state where the branch office was located. After a three-week jury trial in federal court, the jury returned a defense verdict on all counts.
  • Independent contractor classification challenge. Moss & Barnett represented a financial services company that serves clients through a network of independent brokers. The Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Division had found that a broker who had left the company was an employee, and that all similarly situated workers were also employees. Our team gathered documents and prepared witnesses for a hearing that would determine whether the company’s operating model was valid. The appellate division overturned the initial unfavorable determination and found that the individual and those who performed similar services did, in fact, meet the high threshold that our client used for qualifying independent contractor status.
  • Customizing a drug and alcohol testing policy. A client with employees in many different states needed an overhaul of its drug and alcohol testing policy. The company had some employees covered by the federal Department of Transportation drug testing requirements. Other employees were subject to testing to be determined solely by reference to the applicable state law. We crafted a drug and alcohol testing policy that met the requirements of the federal law and the varying requirements of all the states, maximizing the employer’s flexibility and control. We continue advising the employer on its implementation of the policy in specific circumstances.
  • Settling a former shareholder’s claims. The majority owner of a successful company was sued by a former minority shareholder she had previously bought out. The plaintiff alleged that his rights as a minority shareholder were violated before he sold his stock. In a case of first impression, the plaintiff claimed that he had been illegally terminated from his employment and was entitled to lost salary. He also claimed emotional distress damages for having been forced off the board of directors, and he argued that his stock sale did not preclude either claim. Our team of trial lawyers first persuaded the court to dismiss the employment claim, and then resolved the rest of the claim successfully. Decisive developments in the case included locating the plaintiff’s pertinent medical records and forcing the production of his personal diary, which revealed multiple sources of distress beyond his employment termination.
  • Employer wins in non-compete fight and back pay. Our client hired a new salesperson. Shortly after the salesperson started working, his former employer, a competitor in the same industry, sued the salesperson and our client, claiming breach of a non-compete agreement, and sought to prevent the salesperson from working for anyone in the industry anywhere in the world for a full year. The former employer actually secured a court order that temporarily forced the salesperson, who had also become our client, to stop working. After a hearing where we were able to present the full facts, the court declared the non-compete agreement unenforceable, allowing the salesperson to return to work immediately. He was also awarded back pay of more than $31,000 for the time he was wrongfully prevented from working, and his new employer was awarded more than $36,000 in attorneys’ fees for having to defend the case.
  • Preventive attitude check of employee handbook. A local restaurant, known as much for its atmosphere and attitude as for its food, asked Moss & Barnett to review its employee handbook. The quirky nature of the establishment was reflected in its handbook, which had irreverent comments and tongue-in-cheek quips. We modified the handbook so that it included all the essential elements of a good employee handbook, provided guidance on important personnel matters, and retained its original character.
  • Successful resolution of non-compete/non-solicitation dispute. Our client was a top executive of a national retail grocery, supply chain, and wholesale distribution company. After leaving the company to take a position at one of its largest competitors, our client and his new employer were sued in federal court for breach of a non-competition and non-solicitation agreement, misappropriation of trade secrets, and interference with contractual relations. After persuading the court to refrain from issuing a temporary restraining order against our client that would have prevented him from working for the competitor, we successfully settled the dispute, and our client now enjoys unencumbered employment with his new employer.
  • Minority shareholder buyout limited. When the client corporation abruptly fired its 49-percent owner, he sued for a premium, “fair value” buyout. After a “battle of experts” on radically differing valuations, the court ruled in favor of the company, drastically curtailing the amount and terms of the buyout.

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Learn More About Our Employment Law Practice

Our employment law team emphasizes prevention above all. Seeking to avoid costly litigation, we work with clients to develop a practical approach that addresses their concerns, culminating in timely and tested solutions. We also help implement compliance policies and procedures quickly and efficiently, minimizing disruption to our clients’ business.

Our preventive services include:

  • Affirmative action plans
  • Alcohol and drug testing programs
  • Disability and reasonable accommodation guidance
  • Discrimination and harassment management
  • Documentation of performance and discipline
  • Education for employees on the changing legal environment
  • Employee handbooks
  • Employee safety
  • Evaluation of an employee’s obligations to former employers
  • Executive compensation programs
  • Interviewing and hiring
  • Leaves of absence
  • Non-competition, non-solicitation, and confidentiality agreements
  • Reductions in workforce
  • Separation agreements and releases
  • Terminations
  • Training for managers and staff
  • Unemployment compensation guidance
  • Wage and hour/overtime eligibility audits

Despite due diligence and proper precautions, litigation can be inevitable. We regularly defend employment claims before state and federal courts, administrative agencies, and arbitrators.

Our experience includes:

  • Breach of contract
  • Non-dispute and trade secret violations
  • Discrimination, including age, disability, race, national origin, religion, sex, and sexual orientation, and all forms of harassment
  • Defamation
  • Drug and alcohol testing
  • Infliction of emotional distress
  • Retaliation
  • Tortious interference claims
  • Wage and hour, including final pay issues
  • Whistleblowing
  • Wrongful discharge, severance, and termination

Appropriately assertive in the litigation process – from initial claim through trial – we begin every litigation representation with a detailed discussion and risk assessment of the claim. We encourage our clients to collaborate in the formulation of a strategic defense, which typically facilitates cost-effective and efficient resolutions.

There are occasions when company assets – such as intellectual property, employees, financial resources, or other proprietary property – will come under threat. In many of these instances, a timely and proactive approach is imperative. We act decisively to help clients anticipate threats related to:

  • Breach of duty of loyalty and fiduciary duty
  • Breach of employment contracts and quasi-contracts
  • Breach of non-competition, non-solicitation, and nondisclosure agreements
  • Collection of past due accounts receivable
  • Employee safety concerns
  • Employee theft
  • Injunctive relief
  • Misappropriation of trade secrets or other intellectual property
  • Separation and termination agreements
  • Tortious interference with contract

Employment concerns rarely occur in isolation, and our clients often require counsel in several areas. Because we are a full service law firm, clients gain easy access to our resident legal teams in real estate, financial services, business law, family law, intellectual property law, and wealth preservation. Our internal collaboration with colleagues furthers our ability to add value and efficiency to the solutions we provide employers.

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