Nothing has the potential to derail your operations, tarnish your reputation and tank the goodwill you’ve built up with your employees, customers, and community faster than a salacious and headline-grabbing employment-related lawsuit.
The MWH Approach
We understand many employment litigation matters are emotionally charged, which may tempt you do whatever you need to make the situation go away as quickly as possible, even if it’s not in your best interests. That’s why we immediately get to work investigating the matter. We give you an early case assessment that clearly outlines the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Afterward, we regularly communicate with you to develop a case strategy to achieve the best possible outcome. We listen to your goals and are creative in our approach to meet your needs in the most cost-effective way.
Clients appreciate our “work ahead” method which allows us to deliver work product on time or in advance of court deadlines. In addition, the way we staff our projects ensures you have the best mix of attorneys and staff to address the issue at hand. You will promptly receive the answers you seek and the accountability you deserve from your legal team.
Having represented hundreds of employers over the years, we have learned that developing a rapport with front line employees is critical not only to assessing the strengths and weaknesses of an employer’s defense but also in presenting the case at trial. ~ Emery Harlan, Equity Partner
Diversity of Experience and Perspectives
MWH clients appreciate the diversity of experience and perspectives our Employment Litigation attorneys bring to their matters. Clients count on the experience and proactive approach of MWH attorneys to manage everything from day-to-day employee-related issues to single-plaintiff and class action litigation.
I partner with my colleagues and staff throughout the firm to ensure we’re evaluating the claim from all possible perspectives. ~ Julie Bittner, Equity Partner
Our clients also benefit from the diverse perspectives brought by our Employment Litigation team. Equity Partner Julie Bittner says the female perspective she brings to workplace investigations and case handling is especially helpful when handling claims of sex discrimination and sex harassment. When the matter involves claims of race, national origin, age or disability discrimination or harassment, Julie notes, “I partner with my colleagues and staff throughout the firm to ensure we’re evaluating the claim from all possible perspectives.”
Employment Litigation Services
To proactively assist you with avoiding liability, we offer training on federal and state employment laws with an emphasis on inclusion and diversity. We also draft and review defensible employment policies and procedures and employee agreements, arbitration clauses, NDAs, noncompetes, executive compensation and other agreements.
In those instances when litigation is unavoidable, we provide you with a robust defense. We are equally versed in single plaintiff and class action litigation. Our litigation experience spans the gamut of employment law including claims under Title VII, the ADA, ADEA, FMLA, FSLA, WARN Act, and related state and local anti-discrimination and wrongful termination laws. Clients regularly rely on MWH to defend them against claims of wage and hour violations, defamation, interference, noncompete, trade secret, fiduciary duty, and whistleblower retaliation.
Experience Highlight: Wrongful Termination Allegations Against Local Employer
In 2003, a local employer hired a DOT driver. During his employment, he was a dues-paying member of a local union and his employment was governed in part by a collective bargaining agreement between the employer and the union.
The driver had a history of back problems he believed he suffered while on the job; and had applied for workers’ compensation and FMLA leave related to his back problems in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2014 and 2015.
On November 30, 2015, the driver was ordered to report to an occupational health center for a random drug screening test under the joint agreement between the union and the employer. When the driver arrived at the testing facility, before the test was initiated, he realized that he had left his identification in his vehicle and went to the parking lot to retrieve it. After he returned, he provided an inadequate amount of urine for testing and was told he had three hours to provide a sufficient sample. The driver waited for an hour in the reception area, went out to his car and came back in.
The staff at the collection center called the employer’s safety director, and informed him that the driver had gone out to the parking lot. After reviewing the DOT regulations and the union’s agreement with the employer, it was determined that the driver’s actions — leaving the building — constituted a refusal to test. The driver was told to return to work, and HR informed him that he was being suspended, pending the results of the company’s investigation. Ultimately, the driver was terminated on December 4, 2015.
In 2016, the driver sued the employer, alleging retaliation for exercising his rights under workers’ compensation laws and for taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). He also sued on behalf of his two minor children for “loss of parental consortium.” In 2017, the driver filed a second lawsuit against the employer, alleging a hybrid claim under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act and accusing the employer of violations under Iowa’s drug testing statute. The suits were consolidated in July 2017.
Thereafter, MWH filed a Motion to Dismiss the wrongful discharge claim based upon Iowa Code Section 730.5, which the court granted. MWH also filed a partial Motion for Summary Judgment on the hybrid section 301 claim under the LMRA, which the court granted. In February 2018, MWH filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on the remaining claims of retaliatory discharge and loss of parental consortium. The court granted the Motion on Plaintiff’s claims of retaliation in violation of his rights under the workers’ compensation statute and loss of consortium and denied the Motion on Plaintiff’s claim for retaliation in violation of the FMLA. Trial loomed ahead. However, MWH strongly believed that the court had made a mistake and promptly filed a Motion for Reconsideration. The court agreed, stating, “Upon reconsideration, the Court holds that denial of summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claim for FMLA retaliation was in error. Defendants’ Motion for Reconsideration is granted.” The trial, set to begin a mere 20 days later, was cancelled.
But that was not the end of the story. Two years later, in 2020, the driver attempted to go over the employer again, this time claiming the employer had engaged in libel when responding to the driver’s prospective future employers about his drug testing history. MWH filed another Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that federal law preempted the plaintiff’s claim and that defendants were entitled to summary judgment based on the doctrine of issue preclusion. The court agreed with both arguments and granted summary judgment and dismissed the case.
Over the four-year period, MWH fought each and every legal battle along the way, prevailed and ultimately won the war. The client was exceptionally pleased with the result and the legal prowess it took to achieve victory.
Midwestern Values and Our Approach to Client Service
The MWH approach to your legal needs is grounded in the Midwestern values of our client service principles:
- Treat others as you want to be treated
- Motivate yourself and others to exceed expectations
- Communicate frequently, with honesty and candor
- Deliver on your promises
- Focus on adding value
- Provide an honest day’s work for a fair fee
Learn more about MWH, our professionals, and our experience on our practice areas page.