Labor and Employment

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Our Approach to Litigation
Trade Secrets & Non-Compete
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King & Spalding’s Labor & Employment Practice Group provides labor and employment services to employers ranging from preventive advice and training to litigation and representation under federal and state labor and employment laws.  The Group is committed to providing the highest quality legal services in the most timely and cost-effective manner possible.

Collectively, our lawyers have tried well over 100 jury cases, and defended dozens of employment class and collective actions.

  • Chambers USA:  America’s Leading Business Lawyers recently noted that this group enjoys “a wonderful reputation for its depth of experience, focus on client service and delivery of practical advice.”

  • Law360 selected Michael Johnston as one of five Employment Law MVP’s for 2014.  U.S. News and World Report quoted a client as saying “Michael Johnston at King & Spalding is one of the best, most experienced employment trial lawyers in the country.  His excellent skills coupled with the laudable support always provided by his colleagues makes him and King & Spalding an especially attractive firm in any matter, but especially high stakes litigation.”

  • In Chambers USA, a client commented that Sam Matchett is a “fearless litigator with exceptional advocacy skills.”  Also in Chambers, a different client praised David Tetrick for his “spirited and focused” approach to ERISA and class action litigation.

  • King & Spalding was listed as one of Corporate Counsel’s  Go-To Law Firms for Labor & Employment based on feedback from its corporate members.

  • Our lawyers represent clients across the nation, utilizing all of the firm’s U.S. offices.  Our lawyers have made appearances on behalf of clients in the state and federal courts in dozens of states, in all of the federal Courts of Appeal, and in the United States Supreme Court.

Our goal is to help clients:

  • increase the effectiveness of their employment policies and practices,
  • minimize the risk of legal challenges to their decisions, and
  • maximize the defensibility of their actions.

Once a dispute arises, however, the Labor & Employment Group can bring to bear its considerable resources and trial experience to resolve even the most complex matters.

Class and Collective Action Practice

Class actions attacking employment and payroll practices as well as benefit administration have become a major threat to corporate America, creating high-stakes cases for employers.  Our trial lawyers offer experienced and innovative representation in the defense of these cases and in the trial of other significant, complex cases.  Our reputation for defeating class certification is widely recognized and we routinely appear in courts nationwide on behalf of clients subject to private class and collective actions, as well as EEOC pattern-and-practice cases.

Because class action litigation can generate public relations concerns, and can become costly and time-consuming, we also have extensive experience and success in resolving disputes before going to trial.  We have effectively utilized alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) techniques, such as mediation, arbitration and other private settlement procedures to obtain favorable dispositions of class actions.

When negotiation and ADR cannot resolve a class action dispute, the Group’s seasoned trial lawyers are ready to aggressively defend our clients in court.  We have successfully defeated class certification in dozens of cases. 

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Diversity Practice

We recognize that attracting, managing and retaining individuals of diverse backgrounds can add significant value to any organization.  Businesses that value and properly manage diversity often report increased employee creativity, loyalty and productivity.  Our lawyers help clients capitalize on those benefits by:

  • representing clients in OFCCP audits, inquiries and investigations;
  • conducting internal audits for legal compliance, risk identification and litigation avoidance;
  • managing the development of appropriate affirmative action plans;
  • providing training to senior and mid-level managers on legal compliance; and
  • avoiding and defending claims of “reverse discrimination.”

The Labor & Employment Group is comprised of a diverse group of individuals that draws upon each other’s strengths to provide top-notch legal services and creative solutions for our clients.  We practice what we preach.

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Restrictive Covenant and Trade Secret Litigation

Our lawyers have significant experience prosecuting and defending cases in both federal and state courts involving alleged:

  • misappropriation of trade secrets, and violation,
  • breach of non-compete and non- non-solicitation covenants,
  • tortious interference with contractual or business relationships,
  • breach of fiduciary duty, and
  • employee raiding.

The Labor & Employment group has successfully obtained and avoided temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions on behalf of our clients and have tried a number of these cases to successful verdicts.

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ERISA Litigation

In addition to defending individual denial of benefits claims, the Labor & Employment Group has represented dozens of Fortune 500 companies and insurers in multi-party and class action lawsuits asserting ERISA or state law claims involving, among other things, alleged:

  • wrongful denial of benefits,
  • breaches of fiduciary duty,
  • misclassification of a common law employee as an independent contractor,
  • utilization of incorrect discount rates, and
  • discriminatory denial of benefits in violation of ERISA § 510.

In several instances, we created significant pro-employer precedent at the trial and appellate court levels.

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Preventive Advice and Training

The escalating number of statutes and regulations governing the employment relationship creates increasingly diverse and complex issues in the workplace.  Because the best way to handle employment litigation is to avoid it altogether, a substantial portion of the Labor & Employment Group’s practice is devoted to helping our clients negotiate this legal maze. 

Our proactive approach to employee relations focuses on developing legally sufficient policies and practices which minimize our clients’ exposure to potential employee complaints, government agency actions, and union-related problems.  For example, we review and/or develop clients’ employee handbooks and supervisory policy manuals.  We also assist with the development of:

  • employment or separation agreements,
  • restrictive covenant agreements,
  • compliance and complaint procedures,
  • drug and alcohol policies,
  • electronic communications policies, and
  • participative management programs.

We have developed a comprehensive employee relations audit to utilize in connection with our review of personnel procedures.

We also conduct training for all levels of employees from executives to staff.  These training sessions include:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity (including sessions on race, age, disability, and sex discrimination; harassment; and FMLA compliance),
  • Wage-and-hour compliance,
  • Wrongful Discharge, and
  • The Manager's and Supervisor's role in Maintaining Union Free Status.

Consistent with this emphasis on preventive advice, the Labor & Employment Group regularly publishes a newsletter on recent developments in labor and employment law.  Additional “alerts” are provided to clients as significant, time-sensitive developments occur.

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Trial and Administrative Practice

While preventive solutions are the primary means to avoid costly litigation, once a dispute has arisen the Labor & Employment Group is well-suited to handle all phases of the matter – from dispute resolution to presenting clients in state and federal courts.  Our lawyers routinely represent clients in administrative proceedings before:

  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state deferral agencies,
  • The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and
  • The Department of Labor.

The range of litigation matters includes agency charges, investigations arising from those charges and lawsuits involving claims of discrimination, harassment, whistleblower retaliation, wage & hour violations, family and medical leave act violations, employment contract disputes (including enforcement of non-compete and non-solicitation provisions and ERISA benefit claims.

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ADR Practice

With the potential risks associated with jury trials, more and more parties are looking to alternative dispute resolution techniques to resolve employment disputes of all kinds.  The Labor & Employment Group’s lawyers are experienced in all forms of ADR and routinely use arbitration, mediation, and other settlement procedures to obtain favorable results for our clients in matters ranging from individual EEOC charges to multi-party and class action cases.  The Group’s lawyers have arbitrated and/or mediated hundreds of labor and employment matters.

Our lawyers also routinely advise clients on the legal and practical issues surrounding pre-dispute arbitration agreements and employment-promulgated ADR programs.  We advise clients on the advantages and disadvantages of such programs and, where appropriate, assist in the development and implementation of arbitration agreements and programs tailored to the client’s needs.  We have successfully defended numerous court challenges by plaintiffs seeking to avoid their pre-dispute arbitration agreements and obtained orders compelling their claims into arbitration.  We have established important, pro-employer precedent at both the trial and appellate court levels.

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Michael W Johnston 
T: +1 404 572 3581 ATLANTA
Samuel M Matchett (Sam) 
T: +1 404 572 2414 ATLANTA
David Tetrick Jr. 
T: +1 404 572 3526 ATLANTA
Cheryl A Sabnis 
T: +1 415 318 1250 SAN FRANCISCO