Providing Guidance and Direction to Clients
The multifaceted and often interrelated employment laws and regulations may be difficult to navigate even for the most seasoned employer. Our experienced labor and employment litigation attorneys use their legal experience and knowledge to help employers and businesses understand the law and ensure compliance with employment laws, rules and regulations.
Development of Policies and Handbooks
Policies are an invaluable way for employers to ensure compliance with employment laws, communicate fundamental information to a company’s workforce, and assure that employees have a uniform understanding of the employer’s policies and expectations. Such policies encourage consistent treatment of employees and often serve as a means to protect an employer against future liability. Our attorneys have vast experience with developing internal policies, procedures, and handbooks for their clients. We work with our clients to maintain sensible workplace policies which are lawful and compliant with employment laws, promote staff initiative and productivity, and decrease the likelihood of employee claims and lawsuits.
Some examples of policies that our clients have a current interest in developing are:
- Weapons policies prohibiting or permitting “Conceal Carry”
- “Bring Your Own Device” policies (governing the Employees’ use of their personal electronic devices to access company software and technology)
- Anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies
- At will employment policies
- Equal employment opportunity policies
- Family and Medical Leave Act policies
- Medical Leave of Absence policies
- Maternity Leave policies
- Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act policies
- Time keeping and reporting improper deductions policies
- Overtime and lunch breaks policies
- Vacation, personal and sick time, or other paid time off policies
- Progressive discipline policies
- Absenteeism and Tardiness policies
- Electronic Communications policies
- Social media policies
- Confidentiality policies
- Drug and alcohol policies
- Expense reimbursement policies
- Workplace violence policies
Legal Assistance with the Hiring Process
Regardless of whether a client is a new startup company or an experienced business owner, our attorneys guide and counsel all types of companies on the basic Human Resources functions necessary to get the client’s business “off the ground.” Our attorneys assist clients with ensuring they are posting all legally-required employment notices. Our attorneys also advise clients on the potential risks for employers when interviewing and selecting employees for employment.
Such topics include:
- Disclaimers and notices recommended for employment applications
- Legality of questions asked of applicants on applications and during interviews
- Use of criminal background checks and credit checks during the hiring process
- Documentation required to verify employment eligibility (I-9 Forms)
- Permissibility of pre-employment medical testing
- Terms recommended to be included or excluded in a formal offer of employment letter
- Potential risk of obtaining and issuing applicant/employee references from and to other prospective employers
Our attorneys also provide guidance to clients on compiling the all-important personnel file for employees and ensuring that sensitive and confidential personnel records are kept appropriately.
Compliance with Wage and Hour Laws
One of the most important employment laws that employers must comply with are laws related to compensation of and payment of wages to employees. Failure to abide by wage and hour laws could be a costly mistake for employers and could result in penalties, fines, and back wages assessed by government agencies. Our experienced attorneys advise clients on all aspects of wage and hour issues, including exempt and non-exempt classification of employees, minimum wage, overtime pay, payment of wages to tipped employees, compensation for preliminary and postliminary functions (“donning and doffing” clothing), waiting time, sleeping time, on-call or stand-by time, meal breaks, training time, commuting/travel time, deductions from employees’ wages, paid time off, compensatory time, time spent attending lectures and training programs, equal pay issues, child labor laws, and payroll record keeping requirements.
Proper Classification of Workers
Although there are some exceptions, employment laws generally apply only to employees. Accordingly, a client’s decision to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees will be subject to heightened scrutiny by government agencies. Improper classification of a worker could result in significant cost to the company who hired the contractor believing the worker to be a non-employee, including unexpected responsibility for back wages, lost benefits, other compensatory damages, penalties, and interest. Our attorneys have experience with advising companies on the proper classification of its workers to ensure compliance with applicable law. We also have experience handling audits and litigation related to allegations of improper classification of a worker.
Legal Advice when Handling Disciplinary Issues
Terminations can be emotional, difficult situations for both employers and employees. Disciplining and terminating employees may, and often does, result in legal exposure for the employer. Our attorneys are available to discuss risks associated with disciplining and terminating employees. The attorneys at Quinn Johnston understand that there is often a practical solution to most employee problems and issues. Our attorneys pride themselves on thinking outside the box to develop practical options and solutions when disciplining and terminating employees. In the event termination is inevitable, our attorneys routinely advise clients on ways to minimize the risk of legal exposure, including recommendations on appropriately counseling and disciplining employees, properly documenting employee disciplinary actions, correctly conducting termination meetings and exit interviews, as well as other important post-termination considerations.
Avoidance Legal Exposure during Layoffs/Reductions in Workforce
Quinn Johnston’s attorneys have vast experience with advising on workforce restructuring, downsizing, mass layoffs, plant closings, and merger and acquisition integration. Our attorneys routinely advise clients on the specific notice requirements and legal ramifications when experiencing a plant closing or mass layoff. Even for smaller layoffs, our attorneys advise on important legal and discriminatory considerations that employers should evaluate to reduce legal exposure when undergoing a reduction in workforce. Our attorneys also have experience with ancillary matters arising due to layoffs, including advising on early retirement incentive programs and drafting severance agreements, releases, and waivers for separated employees. Our attorneys are also available to discuss alternative options for decreasing labor force costs without reducing the workforce. Employers considering a merger or acquisition may also benefit from services offered by the firm’s Business and Transactions Practice.
Training Programs for Supervisors and Employees
Our attorneys routinely conduct training programs for human resources professionals and management team members. In fact, the Quinn Johnston firm hosts a complimentary annual labor and employment seminar that attracts approximately 100 attendees each year. Proper management training may significantly reduce legal exposure for a client.
Our attorneys offer educational training on numerous employment-related subjects, including:
- Anti-harassment training (company-wide and for supervisors)
- New hire training
- Union avoidance coaching
- Training on proper counseling and discipline of employees
- Instructions on proper documentation of employee disciplinary actions
- Training on conducting termination meetings and exit interviews
- Hiring process (for interviewers) advice
- Guidelines for proper maintenance of personnel records
- Document retention requirements
Internal Investigations and Human Resources Audits
The only way to comply with employment laws is to be well-informed about them. Our attorneys have experience in conducting audits for employers to ensure compliance with employment laws. During an audit, our experienced attorneys review a client’s policies and practices to determine whether the company is complying with applicable employment laws. Our attorneys identify potential problems with an employer’s policies or practices related to conducting its human resources operations. As part of the audit, our attorneys recommend adjustments that the company should undertake to proactively correct improper policies and practices, all of which ultimately minimizes the risk of liability.
Counsel During Government Audits
Our clients often receive notices of audits by government agencies. Our attorneys routinely assist employers with government investigations, audits and other administrative proceedings, including audits and proceedings involving the Illinois Department of Employment Security and Illinois and federal Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the National Labor Relations Board..
Development of Drug and Alcohol Policies
Our attorneys assist with developing and creating drug and alcohol policies that fit the needs of our clients. We advise on the various types of testing available to an employer, including pre-employment, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, and random drug testing. We also counsel clients on the risks of allowing employees to undergo rehabilitation to correct any drug or alcohol problems. We assist with ensuring clients are compliant with the federal and Illinois Drug Free Workplace Acts and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration/Department of Transportation drug programs, if applicable to their business. Employers needing advice related to transportation issues may also benefit from services offered by the firm’s Auto and Transportation Practice.
Leaves of Absences: Complying with Employment Laws
When employees have a health condition necessitating time off from work, there are numerous issues that employers must consider, including protections afforded employees by the Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Worker’s Compensation rules and laws, and other state and federal laws. If the employee’s request for leave is for military service, there are also protections afforded employee by state and federal laws. Each of these laws have a different purpose, and our attorneys are experienced with assisting clients in navigating the complex inter-play of these laws. Our attorneys are experienced with advising clients on how to handle an employee’s leave request or unexpected absence in the best way to minimize legal risk to the employer.
Employment Agreements, Restrictive Covenants and Severance Agreements
Our attorneys have experience with drafting employment agreements, non-compete agreements, non-solicitation agreements, confidentiality agreements, intellectual property agreements, and separation and severance agreements. The Quinn attorneys are available to walk employers through the basic terms that must be included in these agreements to best protect the client’s interests, as well as discuss the available options to include in the agreements that fit the client’s needs.
About Quinn Johnston
Quinn Johnston was featured by Fortune Legal Marketplace as a 2013 Top Ranked Law Firm based on Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent ratings for ethical standards and legal ability. Several of our attorneys have also been named as Leading Lawyers by their peers in the Leading Lawyers Network. We represent clients throughout Illinois, including in Peoria, Springfield, Bloomington-Normal, the Quad Cities, Champaign-Urbana, Decatur, Quincy, Jacksonville, Lincoln, Galesburg, Belleville and their surrounding areas. Our experienced litigators strongly defend clients while maintaining a high level of professionalism and ethical standards.