New Mexico presents some unique circumstances in the field of employment law. The number of lawsuits filed against employers under state and federal anti-discrimination statutes is on the rise. Employers who do business with Native American tribes may find themselves subject to the jurisdiction of tribal courts and required to comply with tribal employment laws. Our proximity to Mexico, as well as the number of international companies doing business in New Mexico, has created a demand for knowledgeable immigration law practitioners.
Clients will find that our employment and labor lawyers believe effective representation requires a clear understanding of a client's business objectives as well as knowledge of federal and New Mexico employment and labor laws. This understanding allows our lawyers to apply efficiently our depth of knowledge and experience to our clients' employment-related challenges.
Representation and Advice
We represent private and public sector clients in a wide variety of employment law litigation in federal and state courts and administrative bodies, as well as in proceedings before the courts of the Navajo Nation. Such cases include employment discrimination claims under federal statutes like Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as claims arising under the New Mexico Human Rights Act, workers' compensation laws, breaches of employment contract, and collateral torts such as retaliatory discharge.
We routinely advise clients on compliance with state, federal and tribal law, and assist our clients in dealing with employee issues as they arise, in the hope that disputes and litigation may be avoided if possible. Our lawyers have conducted extensive training for our clients in anti-discrimination and harassment, and on compliance with wage and hour laws. We also assist in preparing employee handbooks and in drafting employment policies that comply with federal, state and tribal law. We also counsel our clients through administrative audits, investigations and informal inquiries.
We work closely with our colleagues in other practice areas such as immigration law, environmental law, mining law, intellectual property, employee benefits and ERISA in order to provide our clients with comprehensive service in employment-related matters.
We understand that litigation can be costly, not only because of legal fees and expenses, but in terms of time and effort required from our clients' managers and other employees. Avoiding problems that may lead to litigation is a priority for us in representing our employer clients. The firm regularly conducts training for our clients on various aspects of employment law to help ensure that the employers' policies and workplace practices comply with applicable law. For example, our employment lawyers assisted BHP Navajo Coal Company and San Juan Coal Company in conducting comprehensive training to augment the clients' anti-sexual harassment policies. This training involved approximately fifty two-hour sessions over a two-week period. Our lawyers assisted in preparing training materials and designing training sessions for both management level and hourly employees.
The firm also is preparing a comprehensive training program for supervisors employed by BHP Navajo Coal Company and San Juan Coal Company in issues relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and other laws involving injuries or medical issues relating to employees.
Additionally, we have assisted the City of Farmington, New Mexico, with training in the areas of sexual harassment prevention, diversity and cultural sensitivity. We prepared the training materials working in concert with the City's Human Resources professionals and presented the program to the City's Electrical Department workers.
Finally, our lawyers often conduct seminars for other lawyers or human resources professionals as continuing legal education, as well as in other educational and professional settings.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
We understand the value of assisting clients to resolve disputes when possible to avoid the inherent risks and expense of litigation. Our lawyers routinely represent clients in all types of alternative dispute resolution forums, including arbitrations, mediations, settlement conferences and negotiations.
Representative Litigation Matters
Sometimes litigation becomes unavoidable. Modrall Sperling's employment lawyers have broad experience in litigating disputes in federal, state and tribal courts. A few representative matters are:
- Garcia v. Albuquerque Public Schools: The firm obtained summary judgment in favor of the employer on a matter involving a former employee's claims of Title VII discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment discrimination.
- Andrea Felts-Pargas, et al. v. Albuquerque Public Schools: Three female administrators filed an employment action against Albuquerque Public Schools alleging gender discrimination following their transfers to different administrative positions in the district, which occurred as part of a District-wide reorganization of administrators. The female administrators alleged that the reorganization disproportionately disadvantaged female administrators generally and the three plaintiffs specifically. Plaintiffs alleged damages associated with lost wages and lost retirement income. The Court granted summary judgment in APS' favor, finding that the Plaintiffs had failed to show that their reassignment was related to gender. The Court found that one Plaintiff was moved because her job was eliminated (the campus was closed) and that the other two were reassigned due to performance issues.
- Ethridge v. Brooks and Albuquerque Public Schools: An administrator filed breach of contract, equal protection, gender discrimination and retaliation claims against Albuquerque Public Schools, alleging that the superintendent had disparaged her in various email communications, which were leaked to the press and widely reported on in local papers. Modrall Sperling filed a qualified immunity motion on behalf of the individual defendant, and won. The Court's opinion makes it clear that many of the claims filed against APS (as opposed to the individual defendant) fail, and Plaintiff agreed to voluntarily dismiss the remaining claims.
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. San Juan Coal Company: The firm obtained summary judgment in favor of its client in a sex discrimination case in which the plaintiff alleged her employer discriminated against her and other women by failing to provide training opportunities which would have enabled her to advance within the company.
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Fisher Sand & Gravel: Summary judgment in favor of the employer on employee claims of race discrimination, defamation and negligence in administration of drug tests.
- Simmons v. Walgreen Co.: The court granted the employer's motions to dismiss and for summary judgment as to plaintiff's claims for age and disability discrimination, and numerous state law tort claims, including wrongful termination, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
- Jones v. BHP Billiton: In a proceeding under the Navajo Preference in Employment Act, the Navajo Labor Commission upheld the employer's decision to terminate the employee for violation of various company policies, rejecting the employee's claim that the decision was motivated by bias against his practice of his Native religious beliefs.
- England v. Albuquerque Public Schools: The court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment as to plaintiff's claims for failure to provide a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and retaliation under the New Mexico Human Rights Act.