Labor and Employment

Labor and Employment
Carlton Fields represents employers of all sizes in all types of employment disputes, including state and federal court actions, administrative charges and hearings, arbitrations, class and collective actions, and informal mediations. Our clients in this area operate in a wide range of industries, such as health care, financial services, hospitality, manufacturing, construction, energy, not-for-profit and academic institutions, and in the public sector.

Services

Litigation and Dispute Resolution
We regularly represent and defend employers and management in litigation involving a variety of claims, including employment discrimination of all kinds, sexual and other types of harassment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, whistleblower, wage and hour disputes, family and medical leave, breach of contract, emotional distress, and negligence. Our lawyers have appeared before state and federal courts, state human rights agencies, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, OSHA, arbitration panels, and various administrative tribunals. With a niche in class action defense, we offer clients the resources to defend employment class actions and other complex litigation matters.

Counseling, Training, and Risk Avoidance
Our lawyers also counsel and train employers on the most effective litigation avoidance practices. We keep our clients informed of the latest developments in labor and employment law, which is constantly changing and varies by locale. By working as a team with our clients, we help ensure compliance. Our efforts enable them to limit, and sometimes completely avoid, exposure to liability in costly lawsuits and government audits.

With this goal in mind, our employment lawyers are dedicated to reviewing and advising clients on their employment and pay policies and practices. Our efforts include, for example, assistance with drafting and implementing employment policies and procedures; preparing employment agreements; training supervisors, managers, and human resource professionals on employment law compliance; and audits of overtime and other pay practices. We tailor our services to the individual needs of each client.

Immigration
We provide comprehensive immigration services for employers in the pharmaceutical, manufacturing, technology, retail, and communications industries. We help employees process and prepare nonimmigrant work visas, such as H-1Bs, L-1 intracompany transferee visas, and E-2 visas for investors. Additionally, we help process immigrant permanent residence applications via employment-based visa petitions/labor certification (PERM). We also counsel employers on immigration policies and help them develop programs. In addition, we conduct I-9 audits and training, draft I-9 and corporate compliance policies; and defend I-9 audits and ICE investigations. Our immigration clients include artists, athletes, and entertainers; and EB-5 investors, regional centers, and developers.

Internal Investigations and Employee Relations
Our lawyers' accessibility, guidance, and advice enables our clients to take maximum advantage of the brief window of opportunity that exists to address workplace problems, which are, in some cases, unavoidable despite training and counseling. The speed with which an employer responds to workplace problems, and how effectively it remedies them, frequently determines whether a lawsuit is filed. Prompt, effective solutions can avoid exposure to liability altogether, while a slow, ineffectual response can sometimes result in an award of punitive damages.

Representative Matters

  • Obtained complete defense verdict after seven-day federal jury trial in case brought by former employee against her former employer for violations of Family Medical Leave Act (retaliation), Florida Civil Rights Act (handicap, race, age, national origin, and sex discrimination), Americans with Disabilities Act (handicap discrimination), Age Discrimination in Employment Act (age discrimination), and Title VII (race, national origin, and sex discrimination)
  • Secured reversal and entry of judgment as matter of law from the Eleventh Circuit on behalf of employer whose former employee had obtained jury verdict of a sexually hostile work environment and retaliatory termination
  • Procured summary judgment, and decision affirming same on appeal, for medical center accused of discrimination in violation of Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violations of state statutes, for the medical center’s failure to provide a sign language interpreter to hearing-impaired patient and his hearing-impaired wife 
  • In a case where a former employee alleged he was discharged because his wife sued his employer for sex discrimination and retaliation, established new law that “marital discrimination” under the Florida Civil Rights Act includes only the state of being or not being married, and does not include the status of being married to a specific individual
  • Obtained complete defense verdict, after six-day federal jury trial, in section 1981 race discrimination case brought by physician who was denied medical staff privileges at hospital
  • Counseled financial services firms on classification of employees and independent contractors
  • Defended broker/dealers before state department of labor in a dispute over classification of its financial representatives as independent contractors instead of employees
  • Obtained dismissal at EEOC and states’ human rights commissions of discrimination claims against numerous clients
  • Obtained a defense jury verdict of an Americans with Disabilities Act action for a major insurance company
  • Advised life insurance company on acquisition of agents from competitor
  • Obtained injunctive relief and money damages for financial company in case where departing salesperson stole trade secrets and manipulated or destroyed electronic data
  • Assisted international manufacturing company with downsizing and closure of U.S. plant
  • Conducted investigation of copyright piracy and theft of IT software and equipment by corporate employees
  • Won summary judgment for Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company in breach of employment contract case
  • Obtained federal district court summary judgment in age discrimination complaint filed by a former senior executive of a major financial company; the decision was affirmed by the circuit court of appeals
  • Obtained summary judgment on a claim by a former senior executive of a major financial company seeking severance benefits
  • Investigation of whistleblower complaints
  • Defense of broker dealer in FINRA arbitration over claims by former representative of wrongful discharge, defamation, breach of contract and interference with business expectations
  • Obtained dismissal of state court action by airline pilot based on ruling that his fraud and intentional infliction claims were preempted by the Railway Labor Act
  • Obtained L-1 Nonimmigrant visa petition approvals in 2 weeks for Japanese manufacturing company’s engineer, project manager and product development scientist.
  • In collaboration with attorneys in the Corporate and Tax group who represent a Turkish company with several foreign affiliates, obtained E-2 (employee) visa for Turkish Managing Director within two weeks of submission from the United States Consulate in Istanbul.
  • Conducted Internal I-9 audits of construction company’s work force of over 500 current employees and 500 + terminated employees.
  • Written I-9 company policy for companies in the construction and real estate development industry.
  • Obtained an O-1 visa (exceptional ability) and O-2 (essential support personnel) for a well-known tennis professional and assistant coach from Chile.
  • Obtained E2 (investor) visa for Brazilian nationals opening numerous franchise locations for the number one ranked hair care franchise in the United States.

ERISA
We help clients with ERISA Plan design, administration, and interpretation; and with regulatory compliance, monitoring and advocacy. Our representation includes profit sharing, 401(k), money purchase, and defined benefit pension plans. We draft, amend, and terminate ERISA plans to maximize benefits and minimize costs. And we prepare alternative plans that give our clients options that can boost benefits. We also assist with deferred compensation plans, including incentive stock options, nonqualified stock options, and cafeteria plans.

The firm's ERISA litigators regularly defend clients in complex arbitration, litigation, and mediation. We also help them administer their plans. This work includes representing ERISA plans, which are legal entities subject to suit under ERISA, and the defense of fiduciaries such as employers and plan administrators.

Our lawyers regularly speak at conferences and seminars and write on the topic of ERISA. Three of our partners co-authored the Handbook on ERISA Litigation (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business/Aspen Publishers, 3d ed. 2007), which is frequently cited by courts in ERISA decisions. We have also acted as ERISA counsel to leading trade associations, and prepared amicus briefs on their behalf in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal, including Harris Trust, Mertens, and Sereboff. Additionally, we acted as lead counsel before the Supreme Court in Knudson v. Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Co., 534 U.S. 204 (2002), a case clarifying the limited circumstances in which monetary relief is available under ERISA for breach of fiduciary duty claims.

Representative ERISA Matters

  • Counsel for numerous financial institutions and insurance companies in the area of ERISA litigation involving both employee welfare and retirement plans; In the health and welfare benefit plan area, we represent clients in multi-district class action litigation against major managed care providers. We have prevailed in matters for plan sponsors in cases involving such cutting-edge issues as: preemption of state law enforcement of a plan reimbursement provision; the inapplicability of the “make whole” doctrine to a health insurer’s or health plan’s enforcement of a plan reimbursement provision
  • Whether death benefits resulting from autoerotic asphyxiation are covered under an accidental death policy provision that excludes benefits for death resulting from the intentional infliction of bodily injury
  • Use and enforcement of the “gender rule” for purposes of coordinating plan benefits
  • Whether future medical benefits become vested and irrevocable for individuals receiving long-term disability benefits at the time of disability or at the time the medical benefits are incurred
  • Whether bipolar disorder is a mental or physical illness for purposes of limiting long-term disability benefits.

Representative Retirement Plan Area Experience

  • Defended 401(k) plan service providers in nationwide class action involving their receipt of revenue sharing fees
  • Obtained dismissal on behalf of a life insurance client in putative class action involving IRC § 412(i) plans
  • Prevailed on motion to dismiss for a 401(k) plan trustee in ERISA breach of fiduciary duty stock-drop case
  • Represented 16 state guaranty funds in litigation in federal court in California relating to claims by holders of more than $200 million in guaranteed investment contracts against the guaranty funds for alleged breaches of ERISA fiduciary duties in connection with insurer’s rehabilitation plan