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Employment Counseling

Day-to-Day Advice

Attorneys at Marshall Halem regularly help employers make employment decisions, which comply with the many evolving court decisions and laws governing the employment relationship. We counsel clients about discipline, discharge and reductions in force. We also develop responses to specific employee needs and issues. Our attorneys answer questions, discuss alternatives and propose strategies designed to meet each employer’s unique goals in a lawful manner. Regular communications with our clients allow us to tailor our advice to the specific culture, history and policies within each company.

We also help clients communicate with current and former employees in a positive manner intended to avoid litigation. We review and draft communications to employees, including offer letters, FMLA notices, warnings, performance improvement plans and termination notices. Clients routinely e-mail us drafts of communications to employees for review and editing.

Employee Handbooks and Policies

A concise, well-written employee handbook is a vital communication tool that can protect an employer from a variety of legal claims. Our attorneys have drafted, revised and updated hundreds of these essential documents. Our experience enables us to help employers prepare a handbook that reflects their unique culture and accurately describes their policies and expectations. On an on-going basis, we draft and send clients policies to address emerging issues such as electronic communications, social networking, and the “Safe Harbor” provision authorized by revised overtime regulations.

We are also sensitive to the specific legal requirements imposed by different states. Many of our clients have employees outside Massachusetts. We ensure that their handbooks comply with the laws of every state in which they do business.

Employment Agreements

We believe that every contract with employees or contractors should be clear and understandable. We draft employment contracts and confidentiality, non-solicitation, and non-competition agreements that meet our clients’ needs in a clear, non-intimidating fashion. We have litigated numerous cases seeking to enforce or avoid non-competition agreements.

We can draft agreements that satisfy the legal requirements of any state.
Executive contracts often present unique issues relating to compensation, equity, performance, bonus and severance. We regularly negotiate and prepare executive contracts for both for-profit and our not-for-profit clients.

Wage and Hour Issues

Compensation is one of the most difficult and complex areas of employment law. On a basic level, we help clients properly categorize employees as either “exempt” or “non-exempt” under the Fair Labor Standards Act. We also work with employers to develop bonus or commission plans that motivate employees while protecting the employer’s need for flexibility.

We have extensive experience drafting commission compensation plans and routinely advise clients about the compensation of commissioned employees.

State laws governing compensation also impose a number of restrictions on employers. Employers must be particularly vigilant to ensure that employees are paid all amounts due them. For example, a Massachusetts employer who fails to properly compensate employees may be assessed triple damages and attorneys’ fees. Other states impose similar penalties for failure to pay wages – and the definition of “wages” can be very broad.