Employment Law and Labor Relations

Our Employment Law and Labor Relations Practice Area draws upon a diverse group of attorneys representing multiple disciplines to assist management with the most complex labor and employment issues.  Group member expertise includes attorneys skilled in employment litigation, alternative dispute resolution, intellectual property, privacy rights, ERISA, federal and state tax law, business counseling and M&A transactions.  As one of Hawai`i’s largest full-service law firms, we are also uniquely positioned to tap into the experience of attorneys in other practice areas to serve clients on matters that present more than just employment-related concerns.

Areas of Expertise

  • Discrimination/Harassment/Retaliation/Wrongful Termination
  • Employment Benefits/Executive Compensation
  • Employment Contracts, Manuals and Policies
  • Union/Employer Relations
  • Trade Secret Protection/Noncompetition Covenants
  • Employee Privacy Issues in the Workplace
  • Compliance Counseling/Strategic Planning
  • Workplace Safety/Workers Compensation
  • Business Immigration

Discrimination, Harassment, Retaliation, and Wrongful Termination
We have practice area litigation attorneys who regularly defend management against claims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation under Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Hawai`i’s Employment Practices Act and other discrimination laws; common law and statutory theories of wrongful termination (e.g., public policy and whistle-blowing protection); and collateral torts (e.g., negligent hiring, supervision, and retention, defamation, infliction of emotional distress, etc.).  Our litigation attorneys represent employers and supervisors in court and in proceedings before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Hawai`i Civil Rights Commission, Department of Labor, and other administrative agencies.  Our daily practice also includes advising employers on handling employee complaints and mitigating risks, providing training for supervisors and employees, investigating internal and administrative agency complaints, testing, counseling and assisting with reasonable accommodation requests, all to ensure compliance with applicable federal and state laws.

Employment Benefits and Executive Compensation
We have practice area attorneys who provide design, drafting and counseling services to clients over the entire spectrum of retirement and welfare benefit plans, including: (1) advising businesses as to the best types of plans for their particular circumstances; (2) drafting retirement and welfare plans and related documents to meet a particular client’s needs; (3) amending plans to maintain qualification under the changing tax and labor laws; and (4) assisting clients in keeping their plans in compliance with ERISA, including its anti-discrimination, coverage, employee communication, government reporting and fiduciary rules.

Employment Contracts, Manuals and Policies
We have practice area attorneys who work with businesses to design employment contracts, employee manuals, employment policies, and benefit packages for key management employees, including establishing option plans, SERPs, nonqualified deferred compensation plans and change in control agreements.  They can also assist with drafting post-retirement, severance pay and other similar arrangements and assist with COBRA and USERRA compliance with regard to employee benefits.

Union and Employer Relations
We have practice area attorneys skilled at advising and assisting employers in connection with union representation campaigns; negotiating and interpreting collective bargaining agreements; defending against unfair labor practice charges; representing employers in grievance and arbitration proceedings; and advising management personnel with respect to employer rights, duties and obligations in the face of labor disputes (e.g., strikes, lockouts and picketing).

Trade Secret Protection and Noncompetition Covenants
Our practice area attorneys work with members of our intellectual property practice area to devise a comprehensive strategy to protect employer trade secrets and other intellectual property in the workplace.  We are regularly called upon to prepare non-compete agreements, nondisclosure agreements, nondisclosure/anti-piracy agreements, and other restrictive covenants to protect our clients’ valuable proprietary information.  Our litigation attorneys also seek to enforce company trade secret protections and non-compete, non-solicitation and confidentiality covenants in state and federal courts in Hawai`i.

Employee Privacy Issues in the Workplace
We have practice area attorneys skilled at drafting personnel policies and advising employers with respect to legal requirements pertaining to alcohol and drug testing; medical marijuana, e-mail usage and internet access; employee monitoring, searches and surveillance; job references; and employee background checks.

Compliance Counseling and Strategic Planning
Our practice area attorneys regularly consult with employers, provide timely advice to management, and assist in investigations related to statutory employee rights encompassed in a myriad of federal and state laws (e.g., Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, FLSA, Hawai`i wage and hour law, Hawai`i Employment Practices Act, Hawai`i Prepaid Healthcare Act, etc.).  While always ready to assist with immediate legal problem-solving, we believe that strategic planning is often the best weapon in preventing challenges to an employer’s hiring/termination decisions and employment policies.  Through a series of supervisor training seminars, internal audits, and other forward-thinking programs, employers are encouraged – with our practice group’s assistance – to prevent employment-related legal problems before they arise.

Workplace Safety and Workers Compensation
Our practice area attorneys have experience assisting employers with audits of their existing programs and verify compliance with federal and state occupational safety and health laws and regulations. We help management develop programs and policies to comply with required standards, and represent clients in the defense of OSHA and HIOSH investigations and enforcement actions. Our practice area attorneys also advise insured employers on workers’ compensation issues and monitor and oversee claims being handled by insurer-retained counsel.  We take a pro-active approach by providing in-house education to clients and giving advice on claims management and cost containment issues.

Employment Law Issues in Mergers and Acquisitions
Our practice area attorneys work with our business and real estate transaction attorneys to identify and resolve employment–related issues that arise in most M&A transactions, including issues related to employer successor liability, dislocated worker notification statutes, termination and re-employment of employees, effects on bargaining obligations under collective bargaining agreements, and continuation/termination of employee benefit plans.

Business Immigration
We have practice area attorneys who can handle most of the business immigration needs of EB-5 investors, and local and foreign employers desirous of employing foreign professionals/specialty employees in Hawai`i.  We also counsel employers regarding their I-9 employment verification and record retention obligations under the Immigration Reform and Control Act.


Related Publications and Presentations
Our practice area attorneys edit, and regularly contribute feature articles to, The Hawai`i Labor Letter, The Hawai`i Employment Law Letter, and are frequent panel speakers on topics of employment law at Human Resources Management conferences in Hawai`i and on the mainland.

Practice Chair