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Showing 124 posts in Civil Litigation.

Halloween Flashback: Our Scariest Stories for Employers

Ghosts, ghouls, and ghastly liability; the last is certainly enough to spook any employer. For this Halloween, we take a trip down Elm Street to revisit the most startling nightmares we’ve ever covered.

It Came From the General Counsel’s Office. In March of this year, we told the story of an in-house attorney who won a $14.5 million verdict against his employer after he raised concerns about FCPA violations at the company. The company’s case faltered when the trial revealed that a negative review of the attorney had been backdated. Read More ›

Sales Representative Who Was Paid $900,000 Can Still Claim Violation of Overtime Law, Says Federal Court

Under federal law, employers must pay employees time-and-a-half if they work over 40 hours in a workweek, unless the employees are exempt from the overtime law. Employers don’t usually think of an employee who takes home $900,000 in a year as a non-exempt employee who needs to receive overtime pay. But the case of Pierce v. Wyndham Vacation Resorts Inc. shows that these employers may need to think again, especially when those employees are mainly paid on commission.

In Pierce, a class of commissioned sales representatives sued Wyndham—a resort chain—claiming that they were not exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) overtime provisions. Wyndham moved for summary judgment on some of the claims, arguing that certain sales reps earned more than $100,000 per year. Most made well over that amount, with some taking home upward of $700,000 or even $900,000 in a given year. Wyndham also argued that these reps performed “executive duties.” Read More ›

Swimming Pool Company’s Non-Compete Claim Takes a Dive

When a company believes that an employee has breached a non-compete agreement by going to work for a competitor, one remedy it can seek is a preliminary injunction. A preliminary injunction is meant to preserve the status quo in a case pending a trial on the merits. In the context of non-compete litigation, this means that an employer can file a lawsuit and quickly obtain an order barring its competitor from hiring the employee.

Getting such an injunction isn’t so easy, however, as shown by an Illinois federal court’s recent decision in Cortz, Inc. v. Doheny Enterprises, Inc. Read More ›

How Do You Prove Damages When Executives Breach A Non-Solicit Provision?

In 2011, a group of executives left Horizon Health Corporation for a competitor, Acadia, but they didn’t leave everything behind. Horizon’s president took a “massive, massive amount” of Horizon documents with him on an external hard drive. And despite provisions in their contracts prohibiting them from soliciting Horizon’s employees, the executives recruited a key member of Horizon’s sales team, John Piechocki, who copied lists of sales leads and added them to his new company’s “master contact list.” Read More ›

What Makes a Work Environment “Hostile”?

Federal employment law protects against a number of different types of discrimination, including treating employees differently because of age, gender, or race. 

More and more often, employees bring discrimination claims based on harassment, rather than (or in addition to) claims based on employer decisions that appear to be discriminatory. 

However, an employee can only bring a harassment claim under federal law if the employer has engaged in "discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult" that was "sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment." See Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17 (1993). Read More ›

California Court Refuses to Shelve Barnes & Noble Manager’s Termination Claim

An employee without an employment contract is typically deemed to be an at-will employee. In an at-will employment relationship, the employer has the right to terminate the employee for any reason permitted by law, with or without cause.

Moreover, when employers write their employee handbooks, they frequently adopt strong language describing this at-will employment structure and warning employees of this termination right. But sometimes even this handbook language isn’t enough to protect an employer from a claim that an employee is exempt from termination without good cause.

That’s exactly what happened to Barnes & Noble in Oakes v. Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, LLC, a recent decision from the California Court of Appeal. Read More ›

Can Employers Discriminate Against Employees Based on Sexual Orientation? No, According to this Key Court

Federal law—specifically, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on a number of protected characteristics, including sex, race, national origin, and religion.

One major open question, however, is whether Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation. For example, if a job candidate is openly gay, can the employee refuse to hire that person because of his sexual orientation without violating federal law?

The Supreme Court has never spoken on the issue. Read More ›

Ex-General Counsel Dodged Privilege Claims Before $14.5 Million Verdict (pt 2)

In our last post, we detailed how Sanford Wadler, the former general counsel of Bio-Rad Laboratories, won a $14.5 million verdict against Bio-Rad.

Before Wadler could get to a jury, however, he had to surmount a significant hurdle: Bio-Rad asked the judge to exclude any testimony based on information Wadler learned in his role as in-house counsel. Bio-Rad relied on an attorney’s ethical duty to protect client confidences unless the client is threatening criminal activity that could lead to death or serious bodily harm. Read More ›

How Did This Ex-General Counsel Win $14.5 Million From His Former Employer? (pt 1)

Companies entrust their in-house attorneys with sensitive and confidential information in order to obtain legal advice on important matters. Thus, when an in-house attorney turns on his or her employer, the repercussions can be significant.

In a recent case involving just this situation, a jury awarded Sanford Wadler, the former general counsel for Bio-Rad Laboratories, an $8 million verdict for wrongful termination. The jury found that Wadler raised concerns about violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) at Bio-Rad, and that the company violated the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and California public policy when it terminated him after he raised those concerns. Read More ›

Beware the Deadlock: Delaware Courts Step in on Corporate Dysfunction

The board of directors controls a corporation, but individual directors don’t always agree on the future direction of the company. Sometimes, boards can split into factions. A company’s CEO may align himself with one side and oppose the other.

In rarer circumstances, these disagreements can develop into corporate gridlock. This happens when the warring factions on a board are equally divided.

What can a court do to fix this situation? Read More ›