Labor & Employment Relations

Primary Contact

Overview

Good employer-employee relations are essential to the success of any business. Our nationally recognized Labor and Employment Relations group, one of the largest in the Midwest, helps clients throughout the country make employment-related decisions and plan for the future.

Michael Best offers a comprehensive range of services in labor, employment, and employee benefits law. Chambers USA notes that our “market-leading” group has “a deep bench of experienced practitioners,” who clients say are “at the top of the game.”

 

We take pride in understanding your organization and its needs – whether it is publicly held or nonprofit, private or public sector; and whether your workforces are large or small, white- or blue-collar, unionized or union-free.

 

Our Approach

We counsel clients at the earliest stages of employment-related decision-making, and we help clients develop and maintain workable employment policies, practices, and procedures that comply with always evolving legal requirements. Our customized training programs can help you foster compliance, management skills, and positive employee relations.

Clients turn to us for timely solutions, proactive advice, and goal-oriented advocacy with respect to all of their employee relations needs, whether in the courtroom, during strategic planning, or at the bargaining table. We are dedicated to helping employers anticipate and plan for change, manage risk, resolve conflict, and protect their interests.

For clients with international operations, our exclusive affiliation as Wisconsin’s only member of the Employment Law Alliance can help provide seamless, cost-effective services in more than 120 countries including the U.S. and Canada. And for those interested in policymaking, our participation in employment law–focused committees established by the U.S Chamber of Commerce can give you a stronger voice with the federal government.

 

Service Areas

Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation

Counsel on all types of health and welfare benefit plans, qualified retirement plans, employee stock ownership plans, and executive compensation arrangements; and defense of related litigation and government agency audits and investigations.

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Employee Benefits Litigation

Develop strategies and programs to address benefits disputes; advising on best practices, proper compliance, benefits claims and appeals procedures; litigation avoidance approaches; and defense in state and federal courts.  

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Employment Litigation

Representing employers in single-plaintiff and class action litigation, administrative agency proceedings, and alternative dispute resolution involving employment-related issues such as discrimination or harassment, retaliation, wage and hour, workplace safety, family leave, disability accommodation, unfair competition and trade secrets, employee benefits, and executive compensation.

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Employment Policies, Practices, and Audits

Ongoing advice on employee handbooks, procedures and documentation for hiring and employee management, and other employment policies and practices; compliance audits and training; and the unique needs of government contractors, including affirmative action plans.

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Immigration

Assistance with employee mobility, hiring, and immigration matters such as visa processing, permanent residence applications, Form I-9 and E-Verify, visas and employment authorizations for U.S.-based employees working abroad, international and U.S. tax advice, and harmonizing employment practices across international borders.

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Labor-Management Relations

Serving as counsel to employers in union campaigns, elections, collective bargaining, strikes, NLRB and state agency proceedings, and grievances and arbitrations, as well as advising on employee relations and maintaining a union-free workplace.

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Unfair Competition and Trade Secrets

Helping clients protect trade secrets and intellectual property, develop and enforce restrictive covenants, guard against solicitation of employees, and implement proactive policies and procedures that can prevent the loss of assets; and representing clients in unfair competition and trade secret litigation.

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Wage and Hour Compliance and Defense

Advice on compliance with state and federal wage and hour laws, including audits of exempt/non-exempt positions, independent contractor classifications, and pay policies and practices; and defense of wage and hour litigation and DOL investigations.

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Workplace Safety and Health

Counsel on establishing occupational safety and health policies and procedures, reporting and recordkeeping obligations, maintaining compliance, and handling employee violations of safety/health policies; and representing clients in inspections by OSHA and MSHA, citation and post-citation proceedings, and related court challenges.

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Experience

  • Assisted five Wisconsin technical colleges in establishing a consortium for purposes of offering health benefits to their employees, with joint administration and joint self-funding of the cost of claims administration and re-insurance premiums. Because the colleges are state governmental entities and it was unclear whether state law allowed them to jointly self-fund employee health coverage, we helped draft changes that were enacted into Wisconsin law. We created governing documents and protocols for the member colleges and oversaw creation of the consortium and its “going live.”
  • Represented a Wisconsin chain of dental clinics in collective bargaining, and negotiated innovative agreements with two unions to facilitate comprehensive restructuring of our client’s clinic workforces.
  • For a large international manufacturer that had grown through acquisition over the prior decade, we completed the process of consolidating multiple qualified retirement plans into a single plan. In addition to advising on the design of the combined plan, we obtained an IRS ruling, assisted with recordkeeping conversion, and provided guidance on operational changes resulting from the company-wide consolidation. This project impacted over 5,000 plan participants and allowed our client to decrease its overall cost of plan administration.
  • Defended a national taxicab company in a wage and hour case in which Chicago cab drivers challenged the industry business model. The plaintiffs asserted that cab drivers were employees under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA) and, therefore, the defendant cab companies had violated the law by failing to pay minimum wage and overtime and by deducting fees from the drivers’ wages. The Seventh Circuit rejected these claims and found that the IWPCA did not apply to the drivers, because the cab companies did not promise or contract to pay wages to the drivers.
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