Phase 5 - Employment Law

​One of the most significant and expanding areas of our practice is relative to employment-related matters.

Employment issues are becoming more and more the subject of litigation and disputes between our clients, their employees, sales representatives, and others working on their behalf. Particularly as the economy becomes stronger, so do the desires of employees and agents to demand a larger "piece of the pie;" undertake competitive actions in their best interests and contrary to those of your company; and, in essence, disregard, in whole or in part, their fiduciary duties. Conversely, employers who have experienced employment disputes have begun to aggressively protect their interests through preparation of detailed employment agreements and non-competition covenants.

  1. Non-Competition and Non-Disclosure Agreements - Employment Agreements are commonly being used by employers to assure that employees comply with their fiduciary duties, both during the course of their employment and subsequently. A significant amount of litigation arises from employers not appropriately protecting their interests through the utilization of employment agreements which oftentimes contain the following major clauses:

  2. Non-Disclosure Provisions - While the Ohio Revised Code provides for the fact that trade secrets and other confidential information is not to be utilized by employees or other parties, an obligation is placed upon the employer to undertake affirmative efforts to assure that such information is deemed confidential and proprietary in nature. By providing for the fact that an employee may not utilize such proprietary information and trade secrets during and after employment, employers are capable of limiting claims by employees that information (such as customer lists, pricing information, etc.) are not generally known to the public and, therefore, become effective as barriers, thus limiting prospective unfair competition.

  3. Non-Solicitation Clauses - Through non-solicitation/non-competition clauses, employers are capable of limiting for a reasonable period of time (usually two (2) years), the actions of employees and parties with whom they deal from competing against them, thus protecting the client/customer base of the employer.

  4. Employee Compensation Benefits - So often, employment relationships are subject to disputes as to compensation and other benefits as a product of changes in circumstances and misunderstandings. Specifically, setting forth compensation and benefit guides is extremely critical to assure that disputes do not subsequently arise, particularly in areas where commission structures and incentives apply.

  5. Employment Manuals - Employment manuals have become appropriate vehicles to guide employers and employees in respect to their continuing relations. Pertinent clauses include rights to modify compensation and other benefits unilaterally by the employer; termination and grievance procedures; utilization of vacation and sick time; drug testing rights of the employer; and other enforceable provisions which are made part of the continuing opportunity and privilege of the employee to remain employed by the employer. Such policy manuals also prove to be strong evidence in the event of claims being made for improper termination and in respect to worker's compensation and unemployment matters. While Ohio is an "employment at will" State, i.e. Courts regularly recognize that employees are not entitled to continued employment unconditionally, there has been some movement toward allowing some claims of "employment entitlement" such that measures must be undertaken by employers to mandate recognition of at-will employment by their employees. Wrongful discharge cases are becoming more common as individuals (with and without employment agreements) contend that they are entitled to an inherent right to continued employment. Properly-drafted employment manuals and employment agreements can oftentimes defeat legal and equitable arguments by employees seeking the Court's interpretation that their employment is an entitlement, rather than a privilege.

  6. Representation of Employees - In the same fashion that we represent employers, we also represent employees. Our representation includes initial employment negotiations as well as matters involving termination, including severance packages and continuing compensation and benefits post-termination; etc. All of those issues addressed above are similarly important and significant in respect to employees.

  7. Sexual Harassment in Violation of Equal Opportunity Laws Claims - Combined with the documents presented above and through the utilization of strong policies limiting discrimination in respect to race, color, creed, gender, etc., employers and their officers can avoid unwarranted claims of harassment in respect to their actions as well as those of their employees.