Representing Executives in Employment Matters
Many executives at every stage of their employment relationship trust Schaefer Halleen to provide them with “state of the art” legal advice, and, more importantly, to aggressively advocate for them when difficult issues arise. As a result, the Firm has developed a deep expertise in effectively navigating through the legal issues often faced by executives. This includes ensuring that initial contracts are clear and provide security in the event difficult issues arise, to advising executives when they either raise complaints or are asked to participate in workplace investigations, and advocating for them when difficult employment issues arise and they seek to make a transition to their next professional opportunity with ample severance pay.
Successfully representing executives requires an intimate knowledge of the variables in executive compensation packages, including equity awards, “key” employee benefits and perks, the rights and obligations which come with deferred compensation, and the essential terms which should come with any executive “exit” package or severance package. Our exit package or severance package reviews are therefore efficient, and ensure that our clients get reasonable value in transition pay given the circumstances of the separation and their level at the organization, and that any restrictive covenants are eliminated or minimized.
Schaefer Halleen attorneys have this expertise, and have effectively represented many executives in the following areas:
Many of these executives and managers have employment contracts, usually for a specified term. It is critically important for these contracts to be very clear, for both sides, on:
- Overall expectations
- How performance is to be measured and evaluated
- When and how a potential termination event can occur
- What benefits are to be provided in this unfortunate circumstance
- What- if any- post-termination restrictive covenants can be enforced
Schaefer Halleen has unparalleled experience in all of these areas, knows the “state of the art” and other generally accepted language for these items, and can thus negotiate very effectively for our clients in the contract formation period. Clarity at the outset of these relationships protects executives and managers, and reduces the risk that difficult disputes will arise during the employment relationship.
Furthermore, there may come a time during the contract term where our clients want to have an “exit strategy” for making a transition to their next professional opportunity, while maximizing the benefits to which they may be entitled under the contract terms and given events at work which have led them to seek a separation and not “burning bridges” when making this anticipated change. Schaefer Halleen attorneys can analyze complex facts and contract terms and shape just such a strategy for our clients. Moreover, our reputation with large employers and the defense bar often leads to prompt and productive settlement discussions in these difficult situations.
Client: Director-level and above at Target Corporation
Problem: Over the course of the past ten years, we have represented over 100 Target executives at the Director level or above, including over 40 officer-level executives, in handling difficult employment issues.
Our Approach: We have a detailed and intimate knowledge of the policies and practices in place at Target, including the “Income Continuation Plan,” which is available to VOP-level and above employees terminated without cause.
The Solution: Armed with this knowledge and deep experience, we can fashion an “exit strategy” which assists our client in maximizing benefits in making a transition, often securing significant enhancement to ICP terms, or securing waiver of post-employment restrictive covenants.
Client: Numerous C-level Executives at large, mid-sized and small employers
Problem: Serious issues often arise in these employment relationships which result in the need for an “exit strategy.”
Our Approach: Leaders at this level, including dozens of CEO-level clients, are in a unique and often very powerful position when difficult employment issues arise. The resolution of these issues in potential litigation is a very daunting prospect for the company, and as a result, the leverage this creates when real legal rights are at issue is enormous. Moreover, in small, privately held corporations, minority shareholder and shareholder oppression rights are often implicated, increasing the resulting leverage in early negotiations.
The Solution: We have been able to craft solutions protecting our client’s rights, and allowing them to make transitions to other professional opportunities with ample transition benefits, and their career future intact.
Federal and State Laws Affecting Executives
There are numerous federal and state laws which have an exclusive or significant impact on executives, including Sarbanes Oxley, IRS regulation 409, and whistleblower laws at the federal and state levels often have a direct impact on executive employment. Non-Compete and non-solicitation obligations are also often present, and we know the current state of the law in enforcing these obligations, and when facts create issues for enforcement, which can be productively deployed in negotiations. Finally, discrimination laws and protections apply with equal force to executive employment relationships, and can have a significant impact when raised, given the sensitivity of these positions. Familiarity with these laws is critical when disputes arise, or in avoiding these disputes developing into litigation and securing maximum benefits for our clients.
Stock Options and Related Benefits
Executive compensation packages usually involve significant equity components which can be enforced as contractual rights, and can also create other statutory and common law rights when vesting is adversely affected through a termination or adverse action. Our experience, and well-known track record in prosecuting such claims, often leads to very favorable early settlement resolutions for our clients.
Our Services for Executives
- Advice in reviewing and editing initial employment contract offers and negotiating with the employer on behalf of our client to secure most favorable and detailed terms possible;
- Fashioning an appropriate and achievable “exit strategy” which maximizes benefits available under the contract when seeking to separate during employment;
- Evaluating and prosecuting breach of contract, tort, or statutory claims while seeking a favorable early resolution for our client throughout this process;
- Advising our clients “behind the scenes” when difficult issues arise, often when complaints arise or are made by our clients, and an investigation ensues.
To discuss your case with a knowledgeable lawyer, please call 612-294-2600.
What Our Clients Say
Schaefer Halleen was the obvious choice when I was seeking experienced employment counsel to stand up on my behalf when it was clear that I was no longer “aligned” with the direction the senior executive leadership of the company was taking, and needed an exit strategy. Larry Schaefer’s aggressive and exhaustive advocacy, and incredible experience working with the in-house and outside counsel representing the company, allowed me to not only get out of this dysfunctional and damaging work ...
Many executive level contacts referred me to Larry Schafer at Schaefer Halleen after I had been terminated and offered a very standard “exit package” for a leader at my level, in exchange for a release of all legal claims. Thank God for this referral, as Larry presented my potential legal claims, and the factual support for them, in great detail, and made very clear he, and the Firm, were willing to prosecute these claims into litigation, if necessary. This ultimately resulted in mediati...
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