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Labor & Employment

Labor & Employment

Employers face a variety of issues, including positive and proactive employee management balanced with compliance with ever expanding and changing federal, state and local legal requirements. Bracewell helps employers create and maintain a competitive and productive workplace. Our lawyers advise clients about legal requirements, develop customized solutions to ensure compliance with applicable laws, assist in crafting policies to minimize disputes with employees, help clients avoid litigation, and aggressively defend employers in litigation.

We recognize that business objectives are the key drivers of responsible labor and employment policies and initiatives. Our lawyers represent public and private employers in numerous industries, including manufacturing, education, energy, financial services, food service health care, staffing, media and technology. We learn our clients’ industries, and frequently take the lead in developing operational solutions. Our full range of services includes drafting agreements, policies and procedures; compliance standards with federal and state statutes and regulations; compliance-related investigations; management training programs; defense of workplace claims against employers; and assisting labor/management relations.

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Bracewell’s labor team helps employers balance the need to attract and retain key employees with the protection of valuable proprietary information and intellectual property. We work with employers to identify risks relating to information, customers, employees, and contractors and to recommend strategies to secure the greatest protections possible. We draft effective, enforceable restrictive covenants, non-compete covenants, and other employment agreements and policies. When former employees or contractors violate the terms of these agreements or policies, our lawyers institute litigation and take swift action to minimize potential losses through a variety of legal options, including assertions of rights, demand letters, cease and desist instructions, temporary restraining orders, and preliminary and permanent injunctions.

Bracewell has years of experience in employment class and collective actions and multiple-plaintiff litigation. We defend clients in wage and hour, discrimination and other workplace-related disputes, including class claims for lost benefits under ERISA; discrimination claims based on race, gender and national origin; stock drop cases under employee stock plans; and wage and hour collective actions. We efficiently and effectively manage the discovery and data management challenges presented by class or collective actions with resources that often provide significant savings for our clients. We routinely defeat motions for class certification, obtain judgments against named plaintiffs and obtain dismissals of class and collective actions. When appropriate, Bracewell has negotiated creative and effective resolutions, offering our clients as much protection and finality as possible.

Bracewell attorneys assist our clients in avoiding the issues at the core of labor and employment problems:  employee complaints, governmental agency actions, and union-related disputes.  We assist clients in Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action compliance, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) compliance, internal workplace investigations, labor relations and unions, sexual harassment investigations and remedies, and the effects of technology on employee privacy We help clients avoid costly legal sanctions by providing informed guidance on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regarding coding, storage, retention and communication of electronic health and benefit information. 

Bracewell’s labor and employment group has great depth of experience in litigation, with trial experience including Federal Labor Standards Act  (FLSA) collective actions, complex Employee Retirement Income Securities Act (ERISA) litigation, and employment discrimination jury trials. Bracewell takes a business-minded approach to employment litigation and has an exceptional record of avoiding trials with successful dispositive motions and favorable settlements. In situations in which it is appropriate for a case to go to trial, Bracewell’s team is ready. In addition to employment trial experience, Bracewell’s team has substantial jury experience in non-labor matters, including criminal proceedings.

We represent clients in a broad array of industries - energy, utilities, medical devices, technology, bio-medical, religious organizations, and health care – and provide comprehensive legal guidance regarding business immigration matters, including obtaining non-immigrant and immigrant visas for foreign employees; responding to audits, inquiries and investigations by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL); complying with U.S. labor and immigration laws in the hiring, retention and management of domestic workforces; complying with U.S. and foreign labor and immigration laws in the transfer of employees between domestic and international subsidiaries; and utilizing the E-2 and EB-5 investor options as a strategy for raising capital and obtaining Lawful Permanent Residence.

Our lawyers assist employers in responding to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspections and other inquiries. We represent employers in contested citation proceedings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) and its administrative law judges. We assist with occupational safety and health self-auditing, including both compliance and best practices auditing, and provide day-to-day advice concerning compliance questions that arise. Our team has experience dealing with a wide variety of OSHA standards as well as many General Duty Clause, and has been involved in more than a dozen fatality or multiple fatality OSHA cases at either the inspection or contested citation stage.

Union workforces present unique challenges for employers. Bracewell’s labor and employment team has the depth and experience to assist clients with a multitude of potential issues pertaining to union avoidance, campaigns and elections, unfair labor practice conflicts and collective bargaining. In addition to assisting clients negotiate with labor unions, our lawyers possess a deep understanding of state and federal regulations dealing with traditional labor issues and those governed by the NLRA and OSHA.  On a regular basis, we create effective employment contracts with enforceable non-compete covenants, anti-raiding provisions, arbitration clauses and confidentiality agreements.

Experience

Recent Notable Matters

Helen of Troy Limited — lawsuit by its former CEO, who was seeking severance and stock shares after his sudden departure

KCI and LifeCell — all matters related to immigration, including preparation of H-1B, L-1A, L-1B, TN and other non-immigrant visas; the preparation of applications for employment and family-based, permanent resident status and citizenship (including permanent resident status based on the EB-1 Outstanding Researcher and EB-1 Multinational Executive categories); and also immigration compliance, including the proper completion and retention of Form I-9, E-verify, and DHS I-9 and H-1B audits. Additionally, Bracewell successfully represented LifeCell in an investigation/audit by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the result of which was a significantly reduced fine and preservation of federal contractor status.

L-3 Communications Corporation — outside labor and employment counsel, providing legal advice at the highest levels of management of the largest division of a major defense prime contractor regarding employment-related federal, state and municipal laws and regulations, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, Family Medical Leave Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, National Labor Relations Act, immigration and non-competition issues

Oiltanking Texas City, LP — nationwide wage and hour collective action for unpaid worktime and overtime claims, ultimately the case was dismissed with prejudice and no class was certified

REXAM Beverage Can Americas — almost 50 union grievances, including settlement negotiations and arbitrations in collective bargaining negotiations

Valero Energy Corporation — all matters related to immigration, with advice and counsel regarding employer compliance, and in obtaining Intracompany Transfer Visas and Tier 2 General Visas for various U.S. employees transferring to the U.K., as well as NAFTA-based TN visas for U.S. employees transferring to Valero’s subsidiaries in Canada. In addition, Bracewell provides advice and counsel to Valero on the development of high-level/macro human resources, hiring and employee retention policies.

WDFG North America LLC — all U.S. locations regarding all employment issues, including union relations, collective bargaining, start-up of new corporate operations, employee benefits, employment agreements, restructuring, compliance, and multiple litigation proceedings

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