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Our Practice Areas
Cottonwood Employment and Labor Law
Litigation and Advising
Human resources and workplace disputes are challenging. On the one hand, these issues often involve a number of complex, overlapping, and ever-changing state and federal laws. And, of course, on the other hand, these issues can be and usually are emotionally charged. Our priority is to ensure the comfort and confidence of our clients during these challenging moments.
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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Experienced Employment and
Labor Law Team

Our team at Denevan Falon Joyce has experience in a variety of different areas of employment law. Our attorneys have experience representing employers with drafting employment contracts, policies, and handbooks, providing training, navigating the intricacies of labor relations, resolving workplace disputes, and advising on a variety of compliance matters. With our in-depth knowledge of Cottonwood employment laws and regulations, our attorneys have experience litigating the enforceability of covenants not-to-compete as well as non-solicitation and confidentiality agreements.

Our team also has experience handling cases in which it is claimed that an employer has discriminated against an employee on the basis of age, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, and race. Employees are also protected against sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination, as these are forms of gender discrimination. If you believe that you have been subjected to discrimination or harassment because you belong to one of these groups, our employment law team may be able to assist you.

For more information about our employment law practice, please subscribe to our blog that frequently addresses timely employment and labor law topics.
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How Our Experienced Attorneys
Can Help You

Employment and labor law generally refers to the variety of laws that govern the relationships between employers and their employees. As with other types of cases, litigating employment law cases involves filing a lawsuit, presenting arguments and evidence, and seeking a judicial determination on the matter. Employment law litigation can arise when employees or employers believe their rights have been violated, and they are unable to resolve the issue through negotiation, mediation, or other alternative dispute resolution methods. Our attorneys have experience with a variety of aspects of employment law:

Administrative Claims: A claim that an employee has been discriminated against or harassed must begin with the filing of a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or one of the state or local agencies with whom the EEOC partners to investigate violations of the many state and federal laws governing employee rights. Once the Charge is filed, the EEOC or state or local agency will investigate the Charge. When the investigation is complete, or when a certain period of time has passed since the filing of the Charge, the investigating agency will issue a Notice of Right to Sue letter, which is necessary to start a lawsuit alleging discrimination or harassment. While this process is designed so that employees and employers might proceed without an attorney, it is fraught with many technical requirements and short timeframes, making it advisable to work with an attorney in either bringing or responding to a Charge of Discrimination. If you wish to bring a Charge of Discrimination, or if your company has received one, our employment law team may be able to assist you.

Employment Litigation: Our team has experience both bringing and defending employment-related claims, giving us the unique ability to understand and anticipate the dynamics on both sides of these cases. Employment-related lawsuits can arise in a number of situations, including alleged violations of federal employment statutes and regulations, such as Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, wrongful termination claims, and labor disputes. If an employment-related claim has been brought against your or your company, or if you believe that you have been subjected to discrimination or harassment because you belong to one of these classes, our employment law team may be able to assist you.

Investigations: Workplace investigations can play a vital role in both discovering and addressing employee misconduct. If an employee has complained about workplace misconduct, or if you suspect that it has occurred, you may consider hiring an external attorney, who brings impartiality, objectivity, and knowledge of employment law and best practices, to conduct a formal workplace investigation.

Employee Training: Consistent employee training is key to the success of your business and the well-being of your employees. Regular training of your managers on topics such as employee performance and employee discipline are important to ensure a productive workforce. Similarly, regular training on sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation is not only important to prevent problematic workplace behavior but also to reduce liability. Our attorneys have experience crafting and providing a training program for your managers and employees that is unique to your company's needs.

Policies & Handbooks: Employment law is constantly changing. If your company does not have an employee handbook, or if your employee handbook has not been reviewed and updated, our attorneys can review your handbook and other policies to ensure that they are consistent with current law and appropriate for your business's and industry's needs.

Hiring & Firing: We understand that human resources are challenging for many reasons. Not only are the applicable laws complex and ever-evolving, but these situations are emotionally-charged and often call for quick decisions. If your business finds itself struggling to deal with a problematic employee or other difficult human resources situation, our attorneys are happy to walk through the facts of the situation, educate you on the law, and provide you advice on the best approach to mitigate your risk.

Contracts: Our attorneys have experience with reviewing or drafting any number of contracts that govern the employment relationship. For example, at the beginning or throughout an employment relationship, an employer may require an employee to sign an employment contract, a non-compete agreement, a confidentiality agreement, and/or a non-solicitation agreement. Or, if an employee is being terminated under circumstances in which an employer is concerned that a claim might be made, an employer may request that an employee enter into a severance agreement, which releases any claims that the employee might have against the employer in exchange for a payment of a sum of money. The enforceability of these different types of contracts is governed by a wide variety of laws, and it is important for an attorney to review or draft them to ensure that you understand and comply with the law.

Protecting Trade Secrets and Other Business Information: Your business has worked hard to create and refine its unique ways of serving its customers. This information is incredibly valuable to your organization, and it is important to take the appropriate steps to ensure that it is kept confidential. Our attorneys have experience drafting non-compete agreements, confidentiality agreements, non-solicitation agreements, and non-disclosure agreement to ensure that your employees do not use your confidential business information for their own purposes. And if they do, our attorneys have experience litigating the enforcement of these types of agreements and contracts.

Types of Employment Claims in Cottonwood

In Cottonwood , employees are protected under a variety of state and federal laws. In many cases, when these rights are violated, employees may pursue legal recourse against their employers through a Charge of Discrimination filed with the EEOC or state or local agency, and, eventually, a lawsuit.

Here are some of the most common types of employment law claims under South Dakota or federal law:

Discrimination Claims Cottonwood employees are protected against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, disability, and genetic information. Discrimination claims can arise when an employee is treated unfairly in hiring, promotion, termination, or other employment decisions due to one or more of these protected characteristics.

Harassment Claims: Harassment claims involve situations where an employee is subjected to unwanted, offensive, or hostile behavior based on a protected characteristic, such as sexual harassment or harassment based on race, religion, or gender.

Retaliation Claims: Employees have the right to engage in protected activities, such as filing a worker's compensation claim or reporting workplace discrimination, safety violations, or illegal practices, without fear of retaliation. If an employer takes action against an employee for engaging in this protected conduct, the employee can bring a retaliation claim.

Wage & Hour Claims:Cottonwood employees have the right to receive fair compensation for their work. Wage and hour claims can involve issues such as unpaid wages, failure to pay minimum wage, improper classification as exempt or non-exempt, denial of overtime pay, or violations of state or federal wage and hour laws.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Claims: The FMLA provides eligible employees with the right to take unpaid leave for specific family or medical reasons. Employees who are denied FMLA leave, face adverse actions upon returning from leave, or experience retaliation for exercising their rights under the FMLA may file claims.

Wrongful Termination Claims: Wrongful termination claims arise when an employee is fired in violation of employment contracts, anti-discrimination laws, public policy, or other protected rights. Employees may pursue legal action if they believe their termination was unjust or illegal.

Whistleblower Claims: South Dakota has laws protecting employees who report illegal activities or public health and safety concerns. Whistleblower claims can be filed if an employee experiences retaliation for reporting or refusing to participate in unlawful or unethical practices.
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AN IN-DEPTH LOOK

Denevan Falon Joyce
Experience That Matters

Racial Discrimination & Harassment: Our attorneys represented an individual who was verbally and physically assaulted in the workplace on the basis of his race and ethnicity and suffered significant emotional distress as a result of the experience.

Pregnancy Discrimination: Our attorneys represented an individual who was disciplined due to her need to take leave and attend medical appointments for a high-risk pregnancy, was repeatedly denied timely, private breaks to express breast milk, and was ultimately terminated after she voiced concerns to her supervisor.

Sexual Harassment: Our attorneys represented an individual who received hundreds of suggestive messages from her supervisor and was threatened with a demotion based on her complaints to management.
Retaliation & Age Discrimination: Our attorneys represented an individual who, as a manager, forwarded a concern that a subordinate employee was being sexually harassed. When he advocated for the harassed employee in the course of the ensuing investigation, his employment was terminated.

Sexual Harassment: Our attorneys represented an individual who, along with her co-workers, was repeatedly subjected to suggestive comments, jokes, and other conduct in the workplace, causing her to make the decision to leave her position with the company.

Disability Discrimination: Our attorneys represented an individual who was terminated for various unsubstantiated allegations that he had violated company policy after he requested accommodations for a mental health condition.
WHEN TO CALL
Frequently Asked Questions
Employment Litigation and Advising

Can I fire this employee right now?

Our team can help you proactively address problem employees or workplace disputes. Too often, when clients call with questions about these situations, the issues with the employee have not been adequately addressed or documented for a long period of time, and a proactive approach would have gone a long way to address the issue before it became a serious problem. Our attorneys have experience drafting and updating employee handbooks; auditing personnel policies and procedures; providing employee training on topics such as discrimination, retaliation, and sexual harassment; and providing guidance on difficult employment situations, including offering advice when a termination of employment is considered.

I got something in the mail from the EEOC. Now what?

Our team can also help you respond to allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. Not only do these claims involve unique state and federal laws, but emotions run high when allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation are made. Our attorneys have experience conducting internal investigations of reports or complaints of wrongful workplace conduct, responding to Charges of Discrimination, and, of course, defending lawsuits. We have litigated cases involving federal employment statutes and regulations, such as Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, wrongful termination claims, and labor disputes.

What can I do to stop my employee from stealing my business information and competing with me?

Employees have access to customer lists, trade secrets, and other confidential business information, which they can use to compete with their former employer. Our attorneys have experience drafting employment agreements that can afford you protection against this scenario, and they also have experience litigating claims involving breaches of covenants not to compete, non-solicitation agreements, confidentiality agreements and involving violations of state and federal laws protecting trade secrets and other confidential business information.

Am I doing enough to keep my employees safe?

Workplace safety is a priority of nearly every employer. Employers want to ensure that they are doing everything they can to send their employees home safely at the end of every day, and they also want to ensure that they are complying with federal workplace safety regulations to reduce risk and liability. Our attorneys can assist with providing advice and ensuring compliance, preparing for and managing OSHA inspections, and addressing citations.

What is the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation responsible for?

The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation (DLR) is a state agency responsible for overseeing various aspects of labor, employment, and economic development in the state of South Dakota. The DLR's mission is to promote economic opportunity and well-being for South Dakotans by ensuring fair and safe workplaces, providing workforce development services, and facilitating business growth. The department plays a crucial role in maintaining a balanced and productive work environment for both employees and employers. Here are some of the key responsibilities and functions of the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation:

• Workforce Development
• Unemployment Insurance
• Workplace Safety
• Wage and Hour Compliance
• Human Rights and Fair Employment
• Apprenticeships and Training Programs
• Business Services
• Economic Development
• Licensing and Regulation
• Dispute Resolution
• Data Collection and Analysis

What is the South Dakota Human Relations Act?

The South Dakota Human Relations Act (SDHRA) is a state law that prohibits discrimination in various areas, including employment, housing, and public accommodations. The SDHRA is designed to ensure that individuals are treated fairly and without discrimination based on certain protected characteristics. The Act provides legal protection against discrimination in South Dakota and establishes mechanisms for addressing complaints and enforcing the law.

Key points about the South Dakota Human Relations Act include:

Protected Characteristics: The Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, sex, ancestry, disability, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by law.

Employment Discrimination: The SDHRA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or job applicants based on the protected characteristics mentioned above. This includes hiring, firing, promotion, compensation, terms of employment, and more.

Housing Discrimination: The Act also prohibits housing discrimination based on the protected characteristics. Landlords, property managers, and housing providers are prohibited from discriminatory practices in renting or selling housing.

Public Accommodations: The SDHRA ensures that individuals have equal access to public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, and other places of public use without facing discrimination.

Enforcement: The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation's Division of Human Rights is responsible for enforcing the South Dakota Human Relations Act. Individuals who believe they have been discriminated against can file complaints with this division.

What is workers' compensation, and how does it work in South Dakota?

Workers' Compensation is a system designed to provide benefits to employees who are injured or become ill due to their job-related activities. It serves as a form of insurance that covers medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and lost wages for employees who experience work-related injuries or illnesses. The goal of Workers' Compensation is to ensure that employees are protected and financially supported when they are unable to work due to job-related injuries or illnesses.

In South Dakota, the Workers' Compensation system operates as follows:

Coverage and Eligibility: Most employers in South Dakota are required to carry Workers' Compensation insurance, with a few exceptions. Generally, all employees are covered under this system, including full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary workers.

Report the Injury or Illness: If an employee is injured or becomes ill due to work-related activities, they should report the incident to their employer as soon as possible. This is an important step to initiate the Workers' Compensation process.

Medical Treatment: The injured employee is entitled to receive necessary medical treatment for their work-related injury or illness. The employer's Workers' Compensation insurance should cover these medical expenses.

Temporary Disability Benefits: If the employee is unable to work while recovering from the injury or illness, they may be eligible for temporary disability benefits. These benefits typically cover a portion of the employee's lost wages during the recovery period.

Permanent Disability Benefits: If the injury or illness results in a permanent impairment that affects the employee's ability to work, they may be eligible for permanent disability benefits. The severity of the disability will determine the amount of compensation.

Vocational Rehabilitation: In cases where an employee's injury or illness prevents them from returning to their previous job, Workers' Compensation may cover vocational rehabilitation to help the employee acquire new skills or find alternative employment.

Death Benefits: If a work-related injury or illness leads to the death of an employee, their dependents may be eligible for death benefits, which can include compensation for funeral expenses and ongoing financial support.

Filing a Claim: To receive Workers' Compensation benefits, the injured employee needs to file a claim with the state's Workers' Compensation agency. This involves submitting relevant documentation and medical records to support the claim.

Dispute Resolution: If there are disputes regarding the claim, such as disagreements over the extent of the injury or the eligibility for benefits, there are mechanisms in place for resolving these issues. This might involve mediation or formal hearings.

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