The Law Office of Faith Herndon is one of the few firms in the Triangle with a employment law practice devoted primarily to representation of employees. The firm handles a range of employment matters and works with clients of all backgrounds, from senior executives of major corporations to assembly workers, waitresses and construction workers. The firm also works with a select group of small business owners to advise them in compliance issues.
Sexual harassment remains a problem in a wide variety of work environments and has never been confined to traditionally all-male worksites; indeed, sexual harassment often involves predatory behavior by a company owner or executive, or a co-worker whose behavior is tolerated by management. Retaliation against the victim is an extremely common problem. Sexual harassment claims can fall under state or federal law, and some of the legal claims can have statutes of limitations as short as six months. If you feel you are being sexually harassed or retaliated against, you should immediately contact a lawyer for advice.
Faith Herndon has made specialized throughout her career in handling sexual harassment cases. The firm is known for its expertise in this area and excels in its ability to help sexual harassment victims understand how to use the legal system to protect themselves. Cases handled by the firm include:
- Ingram et al. v. State of North Carolina and Public Defender Brown. Litigation against several departments within North Carolina government and the Public Defender for Durham County, based on sexual harassment of multiple female employees. Claims were settled successfully the day before trial, and the Public Defender lost his license to practice law.
- Representation of a Lumberton textile worker who was sexually harassed by her manager and eventually had an emotional collapse and stopped working. We sued her employer and the manager and uncovered evidence of widespread sex and race discrimination throughout the company. This case was eventually settled for a significant figure just prior to trial.
Wrongful Discharge – Whistleblower, REDA, Title VII and Other Retaliatory Terminations
While North Carolina is unfortunately an at-will employment state, the law recognizes important limits on when employers can legally fire employees. If an employee is fired for reporting or complaining that the employer is violating the law, or for refusing to go along with a violation, the employee may have a wrongful discharge claim. Some employees are specifically protected from retaliation under state or federal statutes (the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment and Discrimination Act (REDA) or the federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964). Similarly, some complaints about illegal behavior may be protected under federal or state “whistleblower” laws. The firm regularly handles all aspects of these cases, from investigation to negotiation and litigation. Because of her experience handling workers compensation claims, Ms. Herndon is particularly skilled at handling REDA claims for workers compensation retaliation. Recent representative cases include claims on behalf of multiple employees of a large medical clinic who were terminated in retaliation for reporting OSHA and other state agencies violations, and representation of a Wilmington nuclear power employee terminated after reporting nuclear safety violations.
Employment and Severance Agreements, Non-Competes and Other Restrictive Covenants, and Business Torts
The firm regularly works with executives, physicians and other professionals in negotiating employment agreements with major area employers to ensure that the resulting terms are fair and do not contain hidden but harmful terms. The firm also advises clients with respect to agreements containing restrictive covenants such as non-competes and is experienced in negotiating releases of restrictive covenants. We review and if possible renegotiate severance agreements, are often able to obtain more favorable monetary terms for employees, and ensure that harmful terms are removed. Finally, the firm is familiar with the application of laws such as the N.C. Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act to employees in certain situations and actively looks for ways to protect employee clients using more novel legal approaches. As a representative case, the firm represented a senior vice president at a major national software company who was terminated without severance in the midst of major company changes. We performed a detailed investigation, asserted claims for severance pay and discrimination, engaged in extensive negotiations and were able to obtain a confidential settlement in the mid-six figures without litigation.
Health-Related Employment Issues – Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, Disability Insurance and Social Security
Employees whose health problems interfere with their ability to work often face confusing choices: Can they continue to work? Are they entitled to some kind of modification of their job to stay at work, and what rights do they have if they seek modification? What can they do if they believe they’re being discriminated against because of a health problem? And at a certain point, are they better off seeking disability benefits? Helping clients with these kinds of problems requires the ability to understand and the explain the ways different laws affect the employee, and also an understanding of the underlying medical issues. Because of Ms. Herndon’s lengthy experience handling medical and disability issues in workers compensation and social security disability cases, the firm is uniquely able to advise clients on these very personal and complex decisions. The firm regularly represents clients in issues relating to entitlement to reasonable accommodations under the ADA and entitlement to Family and Medical Leave under the FMLA, including negotiating a return to work. The firm also handles litigation arising from ADA and FMLA violations. In the event the individual has decided to seek disability, the firm is experienced in assisting with short and long term disability claims and appeals, and with social security disability claims and appeals. Representative cases include:
- Tarrant v. Freeway Foods. In this disability discrimination and workers compensation retaliation case, the firm prevailed before the North Carolina Court of Appeals and helped establish rules for evaluating proof of discriminatory intent.
- Wells v NC Department of Corrections. A corrections officer was terminated after the State refused to accommodate his disability. Ms. Herndon won his disability discrimination case and then successfully defended the judge’s decision on appeal, helping establish standards for accommodations due disabled workers.
The firm is experienced in handling legal matters on behalf of State employees under the State Personnel Act, including discrimination, termination without cause, and reduction in force entitlement claims. State employees who wish to appeal adverse employment decisions should be aware of the very short periods in which they are required to pursue the internal appeal process, and should consult an attorney as soon as possible. The firm has handled cases from the administrative law judge level through appeals to the Court of Appeals. Representative cases include successful representation of the executive director of a State agency who was terminated without cause. The firm prevailed before the Administrative Law Judge and on appeal, and after the legislature passed a law making the client’s position exempt from the State Personnel Act, the firm prevailed in a second claim that he was entitled to valuable RIF benefits as an employee removed from an exempt position.
Wage and Hour
North Carolina has very effective laws requiring payment of wages, including bonuses. The firm has represented a range of employees with wage claims, ranging from an employee of a local company that had closed operations (we were able to obtain approximately 2/3 of what was owed to her, despite the fact that the company had gone out of business), to more complicated cases involving disputes over sales commissions or incentive plans where hundreds of thousands of dollars have been at stake.