Employment & Labor

Our Employment and Labor Group focuses exclusively on representation of management in all aspects of the employer/employee relationship. We advise clients on significant employment decisions and help resolve day-to-day problems with employees in a practical and economically rational manner. In employment matters, we find that an ounce of prevention (counseling during the decision-making process) is worth a pound of cure (litigating employment issues).

Practice Focus

Employment Contract Disputes

We assist clients in negotiating, drafting, interpreting and, if necessary, litigating disputes arising out of employment contracts. The increasing prevalence of employee ownership rights, such as stock option agreements, means that the stakes in employment contract litigation are higher than ever before. Our attorneys have significant experience in litigating these matters, which gives our clients an edge.

Wage and Hour

In California, wage and hour laws are different, and the difference operates to the detriment of employers. When disputes arise over compensation issues, most commonly involving claims for overtime compensation by salaried employees, our attorneys have the real world experience, personal contacts and in-depth technical knowledge of California’s wage and hour laws necessary to assist our clients in navigating this treacherous area.

Wrongful Termination

The phrase “wrongful termination” is an umbrella covering a variety of situations and legal theories, all of which are united by a single common element: an employee who believes his or her employment was illegally terminated. Whether the employee pursues discrimination, public policy or contract theories, our attorneys have experience and knowledge in litigating these issues that allows us to provide valuable counsel to our clients about how to avoid disputes and, when necessary, the resources to prevail in litigation.

Discrimination

In California, more people are protected by employment discrimination laws than anywhere else in the country. Our Employment and Labor Group has extensive experience representing management in discrimination disputes, whether in negotiating directly with employees, practicing before administrative agencies such as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or litigating in the state and federal courts.

ERISA

ERISA is a federal body of law that governs all employer-provided retirement, health and welfare benefit plans. It is a highly regulated and ever-changing area of the law. Mullen & Henzell L.L.P. can assist with all aspects of plan design, drafting, and implementation. We also assist employers fix “broken” benefit plans through use of IRS and Department of Labor voluntary compliance programs including the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS), the Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (VFCP) and the Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program (DFVCP). These programs significantly reduce the costs a plan sponsor would experience were an operational or other plan error discovered on audit. Part of the firm’s health and welfare benefit plan practice includes helping health benefit providers, insurance brokers, and third party administrators comply with HIPAA privacy, security and breach disclosure laws, and California state-law equivalents, both proactively and in response to a breach or security incident.

Affordable Care Act

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the most significant piece of federal legislation enacted in the past 50 years. It individually impacts most US citizens and also overhauls the rules governing employers who provide group health coverage to their employees. Of particular importance to Mullen & Henzell’s clients are the ACA’s “employer shared responsibility” (pay or play) rules and the firm regularly counsels large employers (50+ employees) on plan designs that reduce the potential impact of pay or play penalty taxes. Mullen & Henzell L.L.P. also serves as outside ERISA counsel to health and welfare insurance brokers, Professional Employer Organizations and third party administrators, helping them making sense of and implement this complex law. Our services in this area are tailored to each client’s needs but can include in-house staff training, webinars and seminars presented to end-user clients, and written updates and FAQs on key health reform issues.

The firm regularly posts legal updates and analysis on the Affordable Care Act and related California legislation at www.eforerisa.com, with a particular emphasis on how the law impacts employers that sponsor insured or self-funded group health plans.

Executive Compensation

Mullen & Henzell L.L.P. regularly counsels clients on designing and implementing non-qualified executive deferred compensation arrangements, whether self-standing or as part of executive employment or separation agreements, with a particular emphasis on drafting within the several exemptions from compliance with Internal Revenue Code Section 409A and related regulations. Mullen & Henzell L.L.P. is proud of its many years serving charitable organizations in Santa Barbara and Southern California and has developed particular expertise working with the specialized deferred compensation rules that apply to tax-exempt organizations.

Harassment

Employment harassment cases present some of the most potentially explosive issues in the law. Because the concept of “harassment” is so nebulous, employers are often uncertain as to how to deal with harassment claims or situations in which there is arguably an element of illegal harassment. We have extensive experience advising clients on how to avoid harassment lawsuits and, when necessary, litigating such lawsuits to a successful conclusion.

Union Campaigns and Negotiations

When employers face the prospect of a union campaign or negotiating with a union, getting experienced help makes all the difference. Our attorneys have been involved in nearly 100 traditional labor cases, ranging from small-employer union campaigns to multi-state corporate campaigns and negotiations. Our hands-on experience litigating before the National Labor Relations Board and dealing with local and international unions allows us to provide our clients an advantage in the campaign and negotiation process.

Mediation/Arbitration

In recent years, there has been a push towards using “alternative dispute resolution” to dispose of employment-related conflicts without resorting to litigation. Whether it is through voluntary agreements reached in mediation or through third-party decision making in the context of privately administered arbitration, our attorneys have the experience to maximize our clients’ advantage.

Litigation

Despite the best efforts by management, some employment disputes end up in court. When that happens, Mullen & Henzell’s Employment and Labor Group has the experience, knowledge and resources to win cases for our clients, while keeping in mind the economic realities attendant to the litigation process. We listen to our clients and find solutions that make sense from both an economic and moral perspective.

Client Profiles

Our firm offers extensive experience and depth in representing large and small retailers in every type of employee-employer dispute. These disputes include, for example, unfair labor practices, labor arbitrations and union avoidance as well as state and federal charges of discrimination, state and federal wage and hour violations and OSHA violations. We counsel clients who have local, regional, national and international operations and stores regarding all facets of employment law involving issues such as privacy and surveillance, drug and alcohol testing, credit and background checks, payroll and garnishment issues, Department of Transportation regulations, and reductions in force and plant/store closings.

>Having access to our top legal and professional service expertise is essential to your business’s long-term health and is important to help your business grow as rapidly and efficiently as possible. With our attorneys on your side, you can deal effectively with legal, estate, tax, employment and financial issues that might otherwise require years of study to master.

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When personnel issues arise in the hospitality and restaurant industry, our labor and employment attorneys are experienced to handle everything from employment contracts to wage and hour litigation issues. We assist and advise clients in designing, implementing, administering and terminating all types of employment agreements. We represent businesses involved in employment-related litigation, including unemployment compensation, civil rights/discrimination and wrongful termination, before all federal and state courts and administrative agencies. We also assist and advise clients in connection with employee benefits issues.

We provide our technology and emerging growth companies with the specialized services that are uniquely important to them, such as: entity formation; equity compensation arrangements, including qualified and nonqualified stock option plans; securities and creative financing mechanisms to raise needed capital; technology licensing agreements; and business contracts. Our litigation department has experience including suits for breach of contract, fraud and unlawful business practices. This area also encompasses disputes involving partnerships, corporations and other business entities.

We offer legal advice regarding general corporate matters such as corporate reorganization, capital financing, employee benefits, tax, and antitrust issues. Our labor and employment attorneys are experienced to handle everything from employment contracts to wage and hour litigation issues. We assist and advise clients in designing, implementing, administering and terminating all types of employment agreements.

Our Firm provides legal services to a wide range of Charitable Organizations including hospitals, educational institutions, social service organizations, religious organizations, cultural institutions, and private and public foundations. We are active in the nonprofit community as members of many local boards.

Our Business & Real Estate Group can establish and maintain the tax-exempt status of public charities and private foundations establish the deductibility of charitable contributions, advice on board governance issues, develop policies and corporate compliance programs.

Our Estate & Family Wealth Planning Group can create and assist in the integration of charitable giving plans.

Our Employment and Labor Group provides top quality client service to charities and other nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations in the areas of nonprofit law. We counsel clients with respect to various aspects of nonprofit law, best practices, and strategies to facilitate greater board participation and effectiveness in leading the organization, and protections against liability for nonprofit leaders.

Our firm has had close and long standing working relationships with farmers, ranchers and vintners in providing them with the business, real estate, litigation, wealth planning and employment legal services that are necessary in today’s agricultural business environment.

Our Business & Real Estate Group can provide legal expertise in:

Our Civil Litigation Group has extensive experience in:

Our Employment and Labor Group can provide legal representation and counseling in areas of:

Our Estate & Family Wealth Planning Group is uniquely suited to address the complex challenges of the family business. With one of the most experienced groups on the Central Coast in providing complex tax, valuation and succession planning as well as:

We provide services that will allow employers to better understand the legal issues that may impact the employment relationship while maximizing their goals and long-range plans.

Our attorneys have served as general counsel to many of California’s special districts and municipalities, including cities, water and sanitation districts, metropolitan districts, business improvement districts, and others for over 50 years. Our firm provides services regarding the formation and ongoing representation of these entities in the areas of municipal law, finance, water law, environmental law, litigation, and other related areas. We handle all areas of development, permitting, planning, zoning, condemnation, eminent domain and environmental matters; and matters on behalf of both private property owners and public agency clients. Our firm regularly makes appearances on behalf of its clients before a wide range of administrative bodies, including the Board of Supervisors, City Councils, Planning Commissions and LAFCO.

We provide services that will allow employers to better understand the legal issues that may impact the employment relationship while maximizing their goals and long-range plans.

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Our Real Estate practice group is organized and focused according to relevant business sectors to more effectively serve our clients’ business needs, including: Development and construction Retail Investment real estate Finance Corporate real estate services.Our Litigation group has extensive experience in the representation of contractors, design professionals and landowners in connection with construction disputes.