SAPPHIRE LEGAL - Protecting Your Rights in Employment
Employment Law, Unemployment Benefits,
Construction Law, & Real Estate Law
Discrimination is a legal claim under both state and federal employment law. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on race, age, gender, religion, ethnic background, sexual preference, and disability. If you are treated differently for other reasons, you do not have a legal claim for discrimination. If your employer has discriminated against you and you are a member of one of the protected classes identified above, reach out to us for help.
Retaliation claims involve adverse employment action taken against an employee as a result of exercising a protected right in employment such as reporting violations of the law, participating in union activities, or testifying as a witness. Retaliation can be as obvious as a demotion or as slight as a change in work schedule. Many people confuse the common meaning of retaliation with the legal definition. If you are retaliated against for reasons not associated with your protected rights in employment, you do not have a legal claim. If you have been retaliated against in response to your protected activity, give us a call.
A hostile work environment and harassment are essentially the same. A hostile work environment involves unwelcome behavior that can be imputed to the employer (i.e. by a supervisor) based on an employee's membership in a protected class (see protected classes under discrimination), which changes the terms and conditions of employment. Many people confuse the common meaning of hostile work environment with the legal definition. There is no legal claim for hostile work environment if a supervisor treats you with hostility for reasons other than your membership in a protected class. If your work environment is hostile, you are likely miserable and need things to change.
Sexual harassment is sex (gender) discrimination. Sexual harassment can occur in one of two ways: quid pro quo (this for that), meaning that a supervisor has held a benefit or consequence over an employee's head in exchange for sexual favors, or a hostile work environment, meaning that the sexual harassment can be directed at a coworker but creates a hostile work environment for everyone (see hostile work environment for more information). Even though an employee may engage in certain behavior in compliance with the harasser's threats, he or she may still have a claim for sexual harassment. Sexual harassment includes directly making a pass at an employee and/or jokes or photographs of a sexual nature being shared at work. You should not keep quiet about sexual harassment but should seek our employment lawyer's legal advice before you file a complaint!
Wrongful termination is a form of retaliation and occurs when an employer fires an employee for unlawful reasons that violate federal or state anti-discrimination employment laws, public policy, or an employment contract. Washington is an at-will employment state, which means that an employer may fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all as long as they are not doing so based on an employee's membership in a protected class. Many people confuse the ordinary meaning of wrongful termination with the legal definition. Illegal wrongful termination involves violations of law, policy, or a contract, whereas a wrongful termination in the ordinary sense could simply mean the firing was not for a good reason. If you have been wrongfully terminated at work, we can help you recover damages.
We have extensive experience negotiating severance packages for employees who are being terminated and for employees who want to resign. We have successfully and smoothly handled complex executive departures, leading to amicable terms and smooth transitions. Clients who want to leave without creating conflict and without damaging their reputation benefit from our approach and representation.
We have also represented numerous Amazon employees in severance negotiations. We help Amazon employees facing Pivot make a decision and then provide advice and representation related to the decision they make. If an employee has been terminated but has not signed a release of claims, we can also help them after-the-fact. We offer advice and strategy regarding how to handle Focus plans, performance evaluations, coaching and 1:1s, Improve Plans, appeal panels, RSUs and stock vests, extending employment, transferring, requesting ADA accommodations, taking medical and other leave, dealing with Human Resources, and negotiating severance pay. In a few cases, we have convinced Amazon to remove our client from Pivot entirely. For the small percentage of cases that do not result in settlement, we will file a lawsuit.
Although Microsoft employees are not subject to Pivot, there are signs that an employee is being pushed out to watch for, which usually result in being offered a Voluntary Separation Agreement, notice of position being eliminated, or termination without a severance offer being made. We advise Microsoft employees in any of these situations and can help with efforts to remain employed or to negotiate severance.
We also represent Microsoft employees in workplace investigations and will file a lawsuit, if necessary.
We will work hard to get the best outcome for you. The list below contains terms and conditions we may be able to negotiate on your behalf:
- increased severance pay
- mutual non-disparagement
- positive or neutral employment
- extended employment
- garden leave (paid leave)
- property transfers
- reimbursement for COBRA health care premiums
- extension of employee benefits
-release from obligations in employment contract
-waiver of claims by employer
- agreement not to dispute
- letter of recommendation
- assistance finding a new job
-allowing stocks to vest prior to termination
- allowing employee to send a "goodbye" email
-agreement regarding message to be conveyed regarding departure
- not being placed on no rehire list
- removal from Pivot or PIP
- reasonable accommodation
- training and education
- time to find a new position
- retirement annuity
- early retirement
If you are being targeted or terminated, have been offered severance pay, want to keep your job, or plan to resign and want severance pay, we can provide advice and/or representation to help you reach your goals.
We will also review your severance agreement to ensure your rights are not being violated and provide suggestions for your protection.
Many employers tell employees their severance agreement is not negotiable. Please do not let that stop you from contacting us. We have negotiated many "non-negotiable" severance agreements.
Employees who are disabled may be eligible for a reasonable accommodation at work under state and federal law. Our employment lawyer helps employees submit reasonable accommodation requests to their employer and engage in the interactive process to ensure they have the tools necessary to perform the essential functions of their job. Many employers try to improperly use reasonable accommodation requests and engage in retaliation against employees. We can help avoid common tricks and will take action to ensure you have the accommodations you need and are not retaliated against.
Employees may take medical leave for their own health condition or to care for a family member for up to twelve weeks under state and federal law. When an employee returns from leave, the employer must place the employee in the same or a similar position with similar pay. Washington now provides paid family medical leave for eligible employees as well. If an employee is not eligible for paid family leave, he/she may still be eligible for unpaid leave. Employment laws prohibit employers from interfering with an employee's protected medical leave. Retaliation is also prohibited. If you need help requesting medical leave, returning to work, and/or are being retaliated against for taking medical leave, please reach out to us for help.
Employee benefit packages often include life, health, and disability insurance (short-term and/or long-term), stock grants, pensions, profit-sharing, retirement accounts, and other benefits.
We help employees complete claim paperwork and submit claims and supporting documentation in an effort to obtain approval of their claims for benefits. We also help employees reach stock vesting dates and take leaves of absence.
If an employee is denied a benefit, we will file an administrative appeal and/or litigation on the employee's behalf. Typically, such claims are governed by ERISA, which is a complicated statute that applies to employee benefit plans. Because ERISA is complex and confusing, we do not recommend that individuals pursue ERISA claims on their own (pro se).
We also address matters involving overpayment of pensions and disabilty insurance benefits.
If you need help obtaining your benefits, please contact us for help.
Although Washington has adopted a law voiding non-compete agreements for employees who make less than $100,000 per year, some employers still require employees to sign a non-compete as a condition of employment. If an employee goes to work for a competitor, they are often threatened with a lawsuit and their former employer also tries to disrupt the new employment relationship. In our employment law practice, we help employees fight non-competition agreements. We also provide advice regarding whether a non-compete agreement will be upheld and/or whether the new job violates the non-compete.
Some employers require employees to agree not to solicit customers or employees for a certain period of time after their employment terminates. Legal claims can be brought against employees who violate such provisions. We defend employees who have been accused of violating non-solicitation agreements.
Employees are often required to sign non-disclosure or trade secret agreements regarding the use and disclosure of an employer's proprietary and protected information. In addition, Washington has adopted the Uniform Trade Secret Act, which prohibits the same. If an employer discovers an employee is using or disclosing confidential proprietary information, it may file a lawsuit against the employee and the person or entity to whom the information was provided. In our employment law practice, we defend employees facing their employer's allegations of misappropriating trade secrets.
Microsoft does not have a Pivot Program, but it does rate its employees. When insufficient results and no rewards are given, Microsoft employees see the writing on the wall. Sometimes, Microsoft offers Voluntary Separation Agreements. Other times it does not. Whether you want us to review an agreement, negotiate severance, or simply evaluate whether you have a claim, we are here to help you through it.
Microsoft employees often face termination of employment suddenly and unexpectedly. They may be offered a voluntary separation agreement or told they should look for another job.
Many employees feel they have been unfairly targeted for termination, should have been offered severance pay, and/or have legal claims against Microsoft for discrimination, retaliation, hostile work environment, and/or wrongful termination.
We help Microsoft employees by coaching them through their issues at work, negotiating severance, and/or litigating legal claims.
Some employees see it coming while others are completely blindsided. Neither wants to receive a Pivot. They are given five days to decide whether to leave Amazon with approximately three months' severance pay or try to improve at Amazon for thirty days to see if they pass an improve plan (if they do, they save their job. If they don't, they will receive about a third of the severance amount offered for leaving.) There are so many things to consider: stock units with vest dates, the no rehire policy, and what many clients perceive as failure.
Amazon hires the best and brightest, and most have never been fired before. They find themselves debating whether their manager is targeting them and truly wants them out or if this is an opportunity to prove their worth. They are also upset and may wonder if they have a claim for wrongful termination. It is a difficult decision and there is no right or wrong answer.
For employees at any stage of the Pivot process, and even those who suspect they are being targeted but have not yet been given a Pivot, we evaluate the facts of their case and provide legal advice so they can make the best decision for their future.
We also provide tips to protect employees who are being targeted, help develop strategies to prolong employment, and help employees prepare appeal submissions if they fail the improve plan. If an employee has potential legal claims justifying an increase in severance pay, we will represent the employee in severance negotiations and if the legal claim is strong and a severance agreement is not reached, we will represent Amazon employees in litigation.
When your career is on the line, you need someone with experience and proven success representing you. We have represented hundreds of Amazon employees, which has given us great insight for establishing a plan to maximize results.
We have successfully removed clients from Pivot, negotiated severance pay, helped clients reach their vest date, extended employment for immigration and other reasons, successfully coached clients through improve plans, and have prepared successful appeal submissions. We also pursue claims against Amazon in court.
We coach employees on an as-needed, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis regarding how to handle situations in the workplace. Our services range from coaching employees through a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), to handling a difficult manager, to communicating better, to obtaining a promotion.
Given our extensive experience handling employment disputes and seeing the mistakes both employees and employers make and where things start to go wrong, we have unique and reliable insight into how employees should handle themselves in the workplace.
If you need guidance and coaching regarding how to document what is occuring at work, how to communicate or raise issues that are occurring without being retaliated against later, or want to ensure that you are not misstepping and are on a successful career path, we will analyze your specific situation and customize a strategy to help you meet your goals.
We find that many employees need a sounding board regarding what to do about a work issue but cannot (and should not) discuss the issue with coworkers out of fear their employer will be told. They feel there is no one else who understands or can relate and therefore, make decisions on their own without knowing if their actions are apprropriate or not. Because we have experience working with employees in a wide array of industries and deal with problems that arise during employment on a regular basis, we have the experience, knowledge, and insight to effectively coach employees through any issue that arises in employment.
If you need help determining what you should do regarding a problem at work or simply need advice regarding best practices for a successful career path, give us a call. We will help identify goals and a strategy you can implement at work that is customized specifically for you.
Individuals who are facing the same issue often request legal representation, advice, coaching, and training as a group. As long as there is not a conflict of interest and all members agree to joint representation, we provide representation, advice, coaching, and training to members of a group who have a common interest. Examples of group representation include HOA members, employees of a company who have similar problems, and supervisors within a company who need guidance regarding consistent enforcement of company policies. Our representation of a group focuses on the common interests of members of the group rather than individual needs.
The legal services we provide to groups includes, but is not limited to, writing letters on behalf of the group, representation at meetings, general legal advice, developing policies and procedures, drafting agreements, and providing legal guidacne and advice at or for meetings. We also provide training, education, and speak at conferences, meetings, and other gatherings regarding legal issues.
Fees for group representation, advice, and training are much less than if we represented each member individually. We also discount our fees to groups if the need for our services will continue on a regular basis.
Contact us to learn more about what we can do for your group.
We provide legal services to small and medium size employers to ensure compliance with local, state, and federal employment laws. We write customized employee handbooks, company policies, and provide training sessions regarding workplace discrimination, retaliation, hostile work environment, bullying, sexual harassment, and how to handle requests for medical leave and reasonable accommodation.
We also provide human resources consulting services that range from being available to provide advice and guidance to HR personnel to acting as Human Resources for companies that are not large enough to have an HR department.
We perform unbiased and independent workplace investigations for employers related to employee complaints and/or concerns regarding an employee. We also mediate workplace disputes and provide guidance and advice to supervisors regarding how to handle specific situations that arise with employees.
We also provide services regarding communicating with employees ranging from advice regarding a specific employee, supervisor, department, or team to effective company-wide communications and announcements.
If you are a small or medium size employer that has human resources or legal needs, we can help. We provide customized options for our fees based on employers' needs and provide significant discounts to employers who need our assistance on an on-going basis.
Give us a call to see how we can help your business comply with employment laws, address employee concerns, and improve company morale.
Our attorney, Kristi Pimpleton, has authored articles and presentations, and has been a presenter, speaker, panelist and host for ceremonies, banquets, meetings, conferences, seminars, and other gatherings. She writes and speaks about topics relevant to employment law, human resources, unemployment, construction, and real estate law. Her articles and speeches are customized to address specific subjects within the law and may provide personal opinion or be entirely factual or analytical in nature depending on the audience and purpose. Tone is also dependent on specific needs and purpose.
In addition to educational and informational topics, Kristi has also authored and presented motivational articles and speeches that range in topic from opening her legal practice to pursuing her college and law degrees as a young single mother, to being young and finding herself in an abusive relationship, to losing her step dad in a drunk driving accident, to the illness that almost took her life. Her speeches on these subjects are focused on self-reflection, self-improvement, being optimistic, refusing to be a "victim," eliminating negativity, focusing and spending time on the positive, overcoming obstacles, and perserverance.
Depending on the purpose, group, nature, location and other details regarding these engagements, fees for these services may be free of charge or may be charged on an hourly or flat fee basis.
We help clients obtain approval of unemployment benefits and/or obtain relief from overpayment determinations. We have been very successful at reversing determinations made by the Employment Security Department, including, but not limited to denial of benefits based on findings regarding:
We have also been successful at reversing overpayment determinations and obtaining waivers for overpayments.
We provide the following representation related to unemployment benefits:
We provide assistance and guidance in the adjudicative process. We help clients answer questionnaires and provide information to the Employment Security Department. We also provide advice regarding qualifying for benefits, help verify identity, and remove barriers to the processing and approval of claims.
Appeal to OAH
We file appeals and represent clients at appeal hearings related to determinations denying unemployment benefits, defend against appeals filed by employers, and defend clients against overpayment determinations. We prepare clients and other witnesses to provide testimony, examine and cross-examine witnesses, submit relevant documents and briefs, strategize, and make legal arguments at the appeal hearing, which is conducted by the Office of Administrative Hearings. We have a high rate of success overturning ESD's determinations.
Petition for Review to Commissioner of ESD
A Petition for Review to the Commissioner of ESD is the second level of appeal in an unemployment case. We prepare and file Petitions for Review to appeal the Initial Order issued by the Office of Administrative Hearings. We also defend against employers' Petitions for Review. Petitions for Review to the Commissioner do not allow a new hearing. Instead, they rely on the evidence and record established during the first level of appeal. We ensure the Commissioner's Office has all relevant documents and prepare a detailed legal brief explaining our client's position and persuasive legal argument for this level of appeal.
Petition for Review to Superior Court or Court of Appeals
The third level of appeal is a Petition for Review filed with the Superior Court (which may be transferred to the Court of Appeals if our client desires). We file Petitions for Review to Superior Court when our client wants to appeal the Commissioner's Decision. The Petition for Review to Superior Court will be decided based on legal briefing and the underlying appeal record. We ensure the Court has all information needed to rule in our client's favor on appeal. We also provide detailed legal briefing and argument to persuade the Court to do so.
Unemployment claims filed during the pandemic are complicated and confusing.We have helped dozens of clients navigate through the system to be approved for benefits or to relieve them of large overpayment obligations.
We have obtained relief from having to pay back as much as $50,000 for several clients. We have also helped clients get approved and obtain backpayments worth over $30,000. We can help you too.
We provide a wide array of legal services in construction law. We draft and negotiate contracts, subcontracts, and notices, negotiate change orders, file liens, seek removal of liens, file lien foreclosure actions, and bring and defend bid protest actions.
We deal with termination of contractors, breach of contract, construction defect claims, payment disputes, delays, and default on behalf of both owners and contractors. We interpret contract language, administer contracts, and ensure our clients are in compliance with contract terms, laws, and safety policies.
We negotiate settlement agreements, provide representation at mediation, and also arbitrate and litigate construction disputes.
We represent residential and commercial owners and contractors related to remodels and new construction and ranging in value from $5000 to millions.
There are many nuances to construction law that require experience and knowledge in order for legal claims to be successful. Give us a call to learn more about how we can help you.
We represent homeowners and commercial property owners. We will negotiate and draft Real Estate Purchase and Sale Agreements, Boundary Line Adjustments, and Easements. We will also litigate breach of contract actions, boundary line disputes, adverse possession actions, trespass claims, eminent domain cases, and handle neighbor disputes. We have experience in timber trespass cases, boundary line disputes, spite fences, access easements and use of property disputes, view issues, waste/nuisance, cloud on title, escrow money, and misrepresentation issues.
If you have a legal need related to real property, it is imperative that you resolve the issue before it becomes a big problem. Call us today.
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