Companies that have employees may run into various types of employment disputes. Often, these arise from unjust dismissal, employment agreements, or covenants not to compete. A disgruntled employee may want to litigate a dispute. Businesses should take steps to make sure that they carefully comply with the law when dealing with their employees and minimize the chances of a costly courtroom battle. From his Kingston office, Plymouth County employment defense lawyer Michael S. Mehrmann can help protect their interests.Employment Disputes
Employment is at-will in Massachusetts, unless a contract provides otherwise. This means that either the employer or the employee may end their relationship at any time for any reason. However, there are exceptions. An employer cannot violate the law or public policy when terminating or dismissing an employee. It is illegal to dismiss an employee for a discriminatory reason, in violation of a contract, in order to stop an employee from receiving benefits or disability payments, in contravention of a public policy, or to punish an employee who has joined a labor union or protested working conditions with other workers.
An employee who is dismissed unjustly can recover money damages as well as equitable remedies like reinstatement. Money damages may include front pay, back pay, emotional distress damages, attorneys' fees, and punitive damages in egregious cases.
In many cases, it is possible to avoid employment disputes and the situations that give rise to a wrongful termination by taking care when drafting an employment handbook and individual employment contracts during the formation of a business. Employment contracts, in particular, set an expectation for an employee about what their job is. They may ask the employee not to work for another employer at the same time. They may set a term of employment and the rate of pay.
Sometimes the handbook is incorporated into the contract, and it can play a big role in the employee-employer relationship. For example, an employment handbook that spells out policies regarding sexual harassment, discrimination, and family and medical leave can ensure that supervisors do not discriminate against subordinates who come to them with a problem. Similarly, a well-worded policy can be used as part of an employer's defense against claims of harassment or discrimination. An employment defense attorney in the Plymouth County area can help you try to ward off potential litigation.
There are multiple anti-discrimination laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Massachusetts Equal Rights Act, which may apply to your company, depending on its size. It is important to create written workplace policies that address all of the laws that apply and provide mechanisms that allow employees to safely file good-faith complaints. Otherwise, an employee may have a basis to bring a claim for discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. This type of litigation can be very expensive for an employer to defend.
As a business owner, you most likely do not want your employees to take away valuable ideas and customer lists if they leave your business. It is possible to protect your investment by having employees sign a non-compete agreement or covenant as part of their employment agreement. These are disfavored in Massachusetts, but a carefully drafted agreement may stand up to an employee's challenge.
In Massachusetts, non-compete covenants must be necessary to safeguard a legitimate business interest, be reasonably limited in space and time with terms that are not more restrictive than necessary, and be consistent with public policy. Courts generally find that there is a legitimate business interest in protecting confidential information like customer data, business plans, marketing strategies, and goodwill. It is not legitimate, however, to try to obtain protection from usual competition or to deprive an employee of using their acquired skills and knowledge at another place of employment. The covenant will be interpreted in favor of the employee because the employee is considered to have a weaker bargaining position, and the employee needs to be able to work and use skills acquired at work.Contact a Knowledgeable Employment Defense Lawyer in Plymouth County
You can obtain sophisticated legal advice and representation in connection with your business needs without hiring an in-house attorney. Our firm takes pride in providing superior legal services at a fair rate. Plymouth County employment defense attorney Michael S. Mehrmann has the experience and skills to provide strong legal representation to a business during formation and dissolution and at all of the other stages of its life. He represents clients in communities such as Kingston, Plymouth, Marshfield, Hanson, Carver, Pembroke, and Duxbury. Call us at (781) 585-3911 or use our online form.