Williams & Connolly’s employment counseling practice includes the representation of diverse employers, senior executives, journalists and other media professionals in a broad range of complex or sensitive employment-related matters. Our clients include public, private and non-profit organizations or their leaders across an array of industry sectors.
A primary focus of the firm’s practice is assessing and advising on potential risks in the clients’ creation and ongoing management of employment relationships.
We also frequently counsel our individual clients when forming and severing business relationships, and counsel our corporate and individual clients alike on matters arising out of COVID-19 and its aftermath.
In providing advisory services to employers, the firm helps its clients navigate the formation, maintenance and dissolution of employment relationships, plan strategically, and develop and implement related policies and procedures, including:
- Developing and implementing employee handbooks and policies for employers addressing such subjects as conflicts of interest, alternative dispute resolution, employee complaint procedures and related investigations, confidentiality, trade secrets, intellectual property, restrictive covenants and severance;
- Advising employers regarding hiring, evaluation, documentation and termination decisions;
- Developing and implementing compensation and retention programs for employers;
- Negotiating and documenting offer letters, employment, consulting, non-compete, non-solicitation and separation agreements and other related documents;
- Providing counseling and strategic advice on employment policies and decisions;
- Counseling corporations and partnerships regarding structuring departures of key executives and partners; and
- Drafting and/or providing advice as to various COVID-19 issues, including vaccination, masking and testing policies.
Executives, Journalists & Media Professionals
In providing counseling services to senior executives, journalists and other media professionals, we help clients negotiate and document the terms of their employment and, when relevant, their separation from employment, including:
- Counseling clients as to the impact of any continuing obligations to current or prior employers, such as confidentiality, non-compete, non-solicitation and non-disparagement agreements, as well as obligations of exclusive negotiation and rights of first refusal;
- Negotiating and documenting executive employment agreements, talent agreements, offer letters, equity awards and restrictive covenant agreements;
- Advising senior executives in the context of a sale of business or other change of control; and
- Negotiating and documenting separation agreements, including any post-separation rights and obligations.
COVID-19 Employment Issues
COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic continue to raise many employment-related issues with respect to federal, state and local leave laws, including the Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), state counterparts, and United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) regulations. These include:
- Navigating overlapping schemes of paid and unpaid leave laws arising from the federal FMLA and its state and local counterparts, as well as key provisions of the newly created Family First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).
- Potential liability risks associated with federal, state and local wage and hour laws arising from periods of mandatory remote work and work-from-home.
- As employees are furloughed, laid off and/or returned to work, these employment decisions may raise potential issues, including claims of discrimination based on age, disability and other classes protected under federal, state and local law.
- Potential exacerbation of pay disparities arising from accelerated hiring in some areas leading to exposure to Equal Pay Act claims and related discrimination claims.
- Navigating challenges presented by maintaining a hybrid work force and implementing and enforcing equitable policies and practices.
- Employees who have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19 will also implicate various statutes and regulations governing actual and/or potential disabilities, including prohibitions against discrimination and affirmative obligations for accommodation.
Forward-thinking employers should plan to conduct a comprehensive review of their existing employee handbooks and policies in light of lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and forced shut downs, as well as the anticipated ongoing related challenges. Williams & Connolly has substantial experience addressing these types of substantive issues, and we are ready to assist.