Our practice is built on old-school values
The attorneys of Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing joined GrayRobinson in April 2019.
At Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing, we largely limit our practice to management-side labor and employment law. We are dedicated to providing high-quality legal services in a cost-effective manner to the owners and managers of businesses and to governmental entities. In labor and employment law matters, we assist our clients in managing their employees, help our clients deal with labor organizations, handle business-related disputes involving employee theft of data/documents and non-competition agreement violations, and represent our clients before courts and agencies that regulate any aspect of the employment relationship. We believe in helping our clients prevent legal problems by having sound personnel policies and practices, including effective training programs for their managers. When our clients are faced with litigation, we defend their interests vigorously and efficiently with the goal of extricating them from the court system at the earliest opportunity, with the best possible result and the lowest cost.
Because of the nature of our experience and our success in handling complex discrimination and regulatory matters, our firm also handles housing and other discrimination defense matters. The firm also has a strong practice in education law matters, and we actively support our K-12 and postsecondary school clients in their compliance with federal and state laws and regulations governing student education.
Our practice is built on our belief in hard work, quality, loyalty and attention to detail. From Fortune 500 companies to local governments to sole proprietors, our clients count on us to provide them with clear answers, to help them make good decisions and to provide the strongest possible defense of their interests. Ideally, our firm prefers to establish a relationship with an employer prior to the time any union organizational drive or other labor or civil rights problem arises. In this setting, the firm can assist top management in arriving at practices that forestall expensive and time-consuming matters. We can negotiate releases with discharged employees with an eye toward avoiding future claims. However, we understand that many employers may not recognize the need for an ongoing relationship with employment counsel until that first claim, so we are ready to step in at a moment’s notice to deal with immediate issues on an emergency basis. Because our practice is limited to labor and employment law and related matters, we are trusted by many attorneys in other areas of the profession to represent their clients on an as-needed basis when those clients face problems requiring the expertise offered by our firm.
Areas of Practice
The firm is equipped to provide legal advice on all matters affecting the relationship between an employer and its employees. Our firm’s practice is aimed at assisting management in retaining as much freedom as the law permits in a variety of areas, including:
Defense of Employment Discrimination Charges/Suits
The firm represents employers charged with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, the Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and various other civil rights statutes and ordinances. The representation includes dealing directly with agents of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR), and the United States Department of Labor. In any matter not resolved at the administrative level, the firm handles the litigation and trial of the case before the state Circuit Courts and the federal District Courts, including appellate review.
The firm defends employers against a broad range of employment torts, including negligent hiring and/or retention, wrongful discharge, defamation, fraudulent or negligent misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, whistleblower retaliation, workers’ compensation retaliation, malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Union Avoidance Efforts and Defense
Under both federal laws applicable to private companies and state laws applicable to governmental entities, an employer has the right to resist a union’s attempt to achieve representation status so the employer may conduct affairs in a more productive and wholesome environment than the traditional adversarial relationship between “management” and “labor.” The right to resist, however, has severe restrictions and, at times, devastating penalties for violators of the rules regulating employer conduct. Our firm assists employers in complying with those rules while effectively delivering the message to employees that alternatives to the system of unionization are superior for both the employees and the employer.
Collective Bargaining, Contract Administration and Labor Arbitration
For an employer whose employees are already organized into bargaining units, our firm directly negotiates contracts on behalf of the employer. Alternatively, the firm will provide more limited assistance in drafting or reviewing provisions for collective bargaining contracts for employers who have a labor negotiator on their staff. Our firm also represents private sector employers in dealing with strikes, picketing, and other interruptions in production caused by labor organizations. In the public sector, the firm represents governmental units through the impasse resolution process. Further, the firm counsels employers on their rights and obligations under contracts with a union. This area includes handling grievance cases through various steps, including the trial of an arbitration case before a labor arbitrator.
Wage and Hour Compliance and Defense
The firm assists employers in structuring pay systems that comply with the variety of federal and state wage and hour laws that govern the employment relationship. The firm also serves as the attorney for employers under investigation by the United States Department of Labor and defends employers against suits involving the wage and hour laws including collective actions brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act and/or Florida wage laws.
Family and Medical Leave
The firm is available to provide advice regarding employers’ rights and obligations under the Family and Medical Leave Act, along with the interplay between the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Florida’s workers’ compensation statute.
Employment-Related Business Litigation/Trade Secrets/Covenants-Not-to-Compete or Solicit
Our firm represents employers in a wide variety of employee/employer-related disputes arising from the course of operating a business, such as disputes over contracts, commissions, severance agreements, and covenants-not-to-compete and non-solicitation agreements. We also represent employers in pro- actively pursuing claims against former employees involving theft of employer information or data. Finally, we are available to represent employers faced with unemployment compensation claims.
Drug Testing and Employee Screening
The firm is available to help employers establish and implement employee drug testing and screening policies and procedures. Additionally, the firm can provide assistance to employers subject to the federal Drug Free Workplace Act and the state and federal Department of Transportation drug testing regulations, or those employers who want to comply with the Florida workers’ compensation drug-free workplace statute.
Occupational Safety and Health
The firm provides counseling and representation to employers charged with failing to follow the Safety and Health Standards set out by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1972 and Florida laws dealing with worker safety.
Human Resource and Personnel Policy Development
The firm’s members have broad experience in training a company’s supervisory staff (whose acts may legally bind the company) to be sensitive to the legal requirements surrounding the employment relationship. In addition, the firm is capable of providing a full range of management and supervisory development programs designed to improve an employer’s overall effectiveness and to reduce intervention by external agencies in the decision-making process. These services can encompass advice and consultation on a wide range of issues such as developing and implementing personnel programs, policies, and procedures in areas including recruiting, performance evaluation and salary administration. The firm’s efforts in this area also include the drafting or editing of employment handbooks or management personnel policies and procedure manuals.
Class Action Defense
The firm has broad experience in defending Rule 23 class actions involving disparate impact equal employment opportunity claims as well as the defense of collective actions brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Florida wage laws.
Several of the firm’s members have substantial experience in defending educational institutions at both the K-12 and postsecondary level. Among the areas on which we advise are student disciplinary hearings, K-12 compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), postsecondary institution compliance with Section 504, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Fair Housing Act, student rights issues, and faculty tenure and employment disputes. The firm also defends educational institutions in investigations from the Office of Civil Rights under Titles VI and IX of the Civil Rights Act, and advises clients on legal obligations under laws such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.
The firm provides counseling and representation to employers charged with failing to follow the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) set out by the Department of Labor. ERISA encompasses the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).