Employment and workplace relations laws impact every company – from a start-up hiring its first employee to a multinational powerhouse facing a complex class action. K&L Gates’ labor, employment and workplace safety lawyers focus exclusively on representing management-side clients in matters arising from the employment relationship. We provide counsel to a wide range of private and public employers, from multi-national companies with thousands of employees in numerous and distant locations, to companies with one site and relatively few employees. Our clients span a broad range of industries including technology, pharmaceuticals, retail, banking, manufacturing, broadcasting, construction, mining, energy, financial services, health care, and governmental entities.
Our 160-strong team spans the United States, Europe, Australia and Asia, allowing us to assist our major national and international clients with multi-state and international employment issues, including the movement of personnel between countries, reductions in force, integration of new employees following acquisitions, and the establishment of new offices.
For the third year running, the U.S. labor and employment practice at K&L Gates was recognized as a Tier 1 national employment practice in the U.S. News/Best Lawyers survey of major companies and lawyers throughout the United States. Our team garnered national first-tier rankings in three discrete employment and labor areas: Employment Law - Management; Labor Law - Management; and Litigation - Labor and Employment. Our labor and employment group also received 16 regional first-tier rankings in key locations throughout the United States. Our Australian practice was recognized as Employment Law Firm of the Year at the 2012 ALB Australasian Law Awards and by Chambers Asia-Pacific as a leading practice in the area. Our UK practice is lauded by Chambers UK and Chambers Global.
We offer our employer clients a robust practice encompassing day-to-day advice and counsel, defense of employment disputes and investigations, wage and hour class actions, workplace safety actions, immigration issues, traditional labor law, and business transaction support.
Effective personnel management is an important means of minimizing the number of lawsuits an employer faces and increasing the likelihood of success when suit is filed. We assist our clients in attaining that goal by providing counsel on the increasingly technical requirements of employment laws, regulations, and court decisions. We also guide employers in compliance with laws and regulations administered by government bodies, covering issues such as occupational safety and health, leaves of absence, immigration, prevailing wage, worker classification, and Office of Federal Contract Compliance requirements.
We regularly provide advice, counsel, and training on all aspects of employment law, including employee handbooks and personnel policies, reductions in force, human resources audits, affirmative action issues, substance abuse, problem employees, workplace security, attendance and leave of absence issues, disability accommodation issues, management training, unemployment compensation, immigration issues, employment agreements, insurance coverage for employment-related liabilities, and sexual harassment training and investigations.
From our offices in the United States, Australia, Asia, and Europe, we are able to provide our clients with employment advice in numerous countries. Where we are not licensed to practice, we frequently work with other counsel to ensure compliance with employment laws wherever our clients’ businesses take them.
As a management-side practice, we defend all types of employment litigation, including whistleblower claims, enforcement of non-competition agreements, discrimination and retaliation, and wage and hour class actions. With an increasing number of lawsuits and growth in the size of damages awards, the need for practical, cost-conscious, and experienced defense counsel has increased dramatically. K&L Gates’ seasoned trial lawyers have the experience and judgment to resolve cases and try cases effectively as the needs of the client demand. Our lawyers defend employers before government agencies, courts, and tribunals, and in alternate dispute forums.
K&L Gates employment litigators handle cases from the threat of litigation to conclusion, including individual actions as well as the most complex collective and class actions. We have trial lawyers with a proven track record strategically located in our U.S. offices from Alaska to Boston, across Australia and in London. As the world has moved increasingly toward an information-based economy, the firm’s high-tech client base and our lawyers’ technical sophistication has made us exceptionally well-suited to litigate employment issues in high-tech and other modern industries with considerable intellectual property rights issues, from the protection of such employer rights in the face of increased employee mobility to assistance in formulation of complex stock compensation issues.
With government agencies globally playing an increasing role in enforcing employment regulations, we assist clients in response to investigations and audits, frequently resolving issues before further action is initiated. Should an employer client face administrative action initiated by any of the agencies charged with enforcing employment law, we have demonstrated success in challenging and winning these disputes. Our agency experience includes matters relating to worker classification, wage and hour, disability, discrimination, and more.
Wage and hour matters, including class actions, have risen dramatically in the United States and can pose significant financial risk to clients threatened with litigation. We regularly provide advice on issues relating to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act as well as parallel state laws, including tracking hours worked, calculation of regular rates and overtime wages, whether individuals qualify as statutory employees, classification of exempt employees, and innovative methods for minimizing uncontrolled payroll expenses. Our wage and hour practice assists employers at every level: prevention-oriented education, audits, and policy corrections; responding to agency-initiated actions; challenging class certification in collective actions; and vigorously defending employers at trial.
We also have extensive experience dealing with audits and investigations by the United States Department of Labor and its state counterparts. We can assist with initial information requests and interviews, help assemble information to respond to the agency’s initial conclusions, and provide representation in any subsequent challenges and administrative appeals that are necessary.
Our lawyers also have considerable experience litigating wage and hour issues in state and federal courts. We understand how to handle small statutory and contract wage disputes in an efficient manner and how to manage complex class actions. In fact, our lawyers have handled dozens of wage and hour class actions, involving potential classes of hundreds of thousands of employees and potential damages of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Our lawyers have an exceptional reputation across Australia for having one of the most experienced and highly regarded legal teams in workplace safety law. We have been involved in many of the most significant cases from both the defense and prosecution perspectives, and we have worked in some of the harshest environments such as construction, mining, energy, transport, agriculture and manufacturing.
We aim to place our clients in the best position possible to comply with their obligations and to avoid incidents arising.
Members of our team have experience practicing in criminal law (prior to commencing their safety practice) for a number of years. Given that workplace health and safety (WHS) law resides in the criminal law jurisdiction, this expertise gives our team a unique knowledge of the WHS environment, allowing us to advise clients with consideration to both the defense and prosecution aspects of an incident.
Our experience extends to preparing WHS policies and compliance programs, conducting in-house training, advising clients on their rights and responsibilities in the event that an incident occurs and liaising with the relevant safety regulator, police and coroner during investigations.
We assist clients in identifying and addressing their WHS legal requirements with an emphasis on proactive strategies for compliance and accident prevention. We are mindful of the need to conduct any litigation in a way that properly protects our clients’ interests without souring the working relationship between our client, its insurers and the relevant regulatory authorities.
Our approach to acting for clients in workplace incidents involves minimizing the risks of liability for the client, protecting individual directors and managers, and maintaining the public image and reputation of the company. Our 24/7 on call service offering ensures we are on site immediately to manage an incident.
K&L Gates labor lawyers have decades of experience representing employers whose workforces are unionized or subject to works councils. Our U.S. labor experience covers issues including management training, election campaigns, collective bargaining, contract interpretation, grievances and arbitrations, unfair labor practices, work stoppages, decertification, and the Railway Labor Act. In Europe and the United Kingdom, we advise employers on negotiations with works councils on wage levels, workforce changes, redundancies, and resolution of disputes.
Our Australian practice is highly experienced in providing strategic industrial relations assistance to major corporations including workforce planning, assistance with collective bargaining and representation in industrial disputes. Our lawyers are also experienced in representing employers in courts and tribunals in relation to industrial action, picketing and major bargaining disputes.