When people ask me what I do for a living, I say I am an employment attorney. Then suddenly a deep pause occurs between us and they ask “what’s employment law”. I have tried every possible response to explain in as few words as possible what it is that I do. I have recently settled on the following, “I do everything that involves your job.” The response I get is still “hmmm” meaning the person is still unsure what I said. I then stroke up a few choice words like job discrimination, compensation, severance negotiation, litigation against employers. The light bulb dimly appears.
My work covers a vast area of clients in all stages of employment, from the high income executive to the employee going on to disability retirement. I comfortably navigate the various and many legal concepts that apply to this broad range of clientele/cases. I feel my mission is to provide the answers to important client questions and meet their financial expectations, but yet avoiding the pitfalls of litigation.
What I do is critical to the economic and emotional survival of many employees and their families. For instance, I remember a situation where a husband was experiencing early stage Alzheimer’s, I mean “early stage” like in his fifties, but was still actively working. The wife was obviously panicked with the fear of the unknown on multiple fronts. I was able to quietly work with the family, the employer and the insurance carrier to place the husband on long term disability and provide comfort and security to the family.
In other similar tragic cases, I have had to navigate both the job discrimination case and long term disability claim for individuals who have ALS, Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis. Often employers choose to fight and I have to deliver the counter punches to protect my clients. When employees get really sick, some employers choose to look the other way, isolate the employee and cast them out as a performance problem. My assumption is that employers would rather run the risk the employee will leave, never commence litigation and never file a disability benefit claim. I have been successful in finding solutions that protect the employee’s income, but I have had to use litigation to force the employer to eventually do the right thing for the employee and his/her family.
On the other end of the spectrum, I routinely handle executive and non-executive severance package negotiations. Often the cases are straight forward and the parties can easily reach agreement without the thought of a legal dispute. Client employment contracts and company ERISA severance plans provide the basis for many resolutions. But the majority of the cases where severance compensation is offered, I have had to dig very deep into the client story, revealing anger, humility and tears, to uncover a treasure trove of legal disputes (race, sex, age discrimination, retaliation, wage disputes, contract claims) that gave clients an upper hand in the negotiation. If the parties cannot come to an agreement, litigation is the likely next step in the bargaining process. And, litigation is what I do every day.
I will candidly represent that I have moved tens of millions of dollars from one side of the bargaining table to the other over the years. I do not keep a running tally of all the money paid, as that is not my concern. The point is that if I am responsible for such a large financial transfer of corporate wealth, then employment law is really important and must be better understood.
Employment Law What’s That? If you would like more information about this topic, please contact our employment attorneys in Connecticut and New York, Carey & Associates PC at 203-255-4150.