Practice Areas

Employment Law

The attorneys of Butler Royals, PLC are recognized regionally and nationally among their peers for their knowledge of labor and employment law and for their superior skill in these areas. The Firm has a selective practice representing employees in all matters related to employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, unpaid overtime, the Family and Medical Leave Act, retaliatory discharge, wrongful termination, enforcement and defense of covenants not to compete, and employee benefits claims under ERISA. We also negotiate executive compensation and severance packages for clients who are entering or leaving employment. Numerous employers have also sought our insights and counsel. Butler Royals has associated with other firms to litigate national class claims and has served as local counsel on matters brought in federal court.

Our single plaintiff representations receive the same care and attention as our numerous multi-plaintiff and class/representative actions. Our attorneys are proficient in all aspects of employment law, including the constantly evolving field of sexual harassment and retaliation, where court decisions reinterpreting the law are issued on a frequent basis. We lecture to lawyers throughout the state and country on a variety of developing areas of employment law. We have also been honored to address the Virginia Judiciary on employment-related topics.

Rights of Employees:

  • Butler Royals, PLC has represented groups of employees in class and representative actions for unpaid overtime, and in age, sex and race discrimination claims. The increased leverage enjoyed by a group of litigants challenging a systemic employer action focuses the spotlight on the employer’s practices, and away from defenses that employers often raise in individual actions. In employment-based litigation, there truly is strength in numbers. When an employer’s abusive and illegal actions have so ruined morale that those actions are the constant topic of water cooler conversation, a momentum develops that equalizes the bargaining power between even the largest of corporations and their employees. Employees who initiate a challenge that develops into a large class or multi-plaintiff claim will see that such litigation can make a difference in how corporations act toward their employees.
  • Often, serious personal injury claims occur in the workplace. Sexual assault, assault and battery, and defamation of character are but a few of the types of claims that the attorneys of Butler Royals, PLC have successfully litigated for our clients. Understanding the unique power an employer has over an employee – including the economic and personal power a supervisor often has over a subordinate – allows our firm to present a full picture of the financial, emotional and reputational damage done in these situations. Experts well-versed in assessing these injuries assist us in reviewing and presenting appropriate claims for the wrongs committed against the employee.
  • Many people are unaware they are entitled to overtime compensation. The law looks to the duties that an employee performs – not to his or her title or the fact that she or he may be misclassified by the employer as “exempt” or paid on a salary basis. We have assisted many employees in recovering unpaid overtime compensation their employers have denied them by improperly labeling them “exempt” from overtime payments. Such claims are among the strongest an employee may assert against an employer because the applicable rules and regulations are highly specific. In light of the definitive regulations governing employer conduct, it is surprising how often employers violate them.
  • Congress enacted the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) because of pervasive discrimination against older workers in the workplace. In many work situations, stereotypes and generalizations drive promotion and discharge decisions. This often occurs in the context of reductions-in-force (RIFs). There is no law against a company making a business decision to lay off workers or reduce force; however, when an employer uses age as a negative factor in deciding who to retain, and reduces the number of qualified older workers while keeping younger employees, it violates the ADEA. We have been involved in many individual and class-based claims advancing the rights of older workers. Harris Butler and Rebecca Royals have served as co-counsel with the American Association of Retired Persons, and often speaks on age discrimination litigation topics.
  • Sexual harassment in the workplace was a regular occurrence before Congress outlawed it by passing Title VII to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In reality, sexual harassment cases are not so much about sex as they are about power – the power of an employer or supervisor to abuse a subordinate employee. Supervisors sometimes take actions in the workplace that they could never get away with in public or at a social function. In the employment setting, unscrupulous supervisors rely on the fact that their victims are captive in the workplace and dependent on their salaries and benefits. We understand the dynamics of such situations and are sensitive in our work with victims of workplace harassment, advancing the relevant facts and claims without further subjecting the victim to insensitivity or abuse.
  • Victims of discrimination are often concerned that if they complain or challenge an employer’s illegal actions they will be further harmed, demoted or even fired for mentioning the illegality. The laws that prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual harassment, disability, age, religious beliefs, benefits or leave entitlements, and failure to pay overtime, also forbid retaliation for opposing illegal practices. Retaliation claims are among the most straightforward of claims. It is not unusual for some adverse job consequence to occur shortly after an employee complains or opposes a discriminatory practice. The law is clear that such retaliation is illegal. As recently as 2011, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed the law that protects persons from any retaliation by an employer that would discourage a reasonable employee from filing certain types of claims.
  • CEOs, Senior VPs, Division Managers, HR personnel and other senior management are also “employees.” We regularly represent senior managers when they find themselves at odds with the corporate entity. Companies involved in reductions-in-force often target older, more senior management personnel for termination because such employees may be more expensive to retain, or because they have the experience and capacity to identify an employer’s wrongs and object to them. Whether due to an RIF, a purported “cause” termination, or less tangible retaliatory actions by the employer, the terminated executive often has legal rights that the employer asks him or her to release when he or she receives a “severance package.” We have the expertise to identify these rights and to ensure that the employee receives just compensation for their release.
  • Even the most highly-regarded female executives may face pregnancy and gender discrimination in promotion or in compensation upon returning from maternity leave. Companies will sometimes jump through hoops to try to justify their failure to promote qualified female candidates. When female employees notice that there are few female managers, yet the time-in-position or pay grades of those female employees far exceed those of promoted male counterparts, something is wrong. We have represented classes and individuals in recovering compensation to which they were entitled and in requiring employers to treat female employees the same as their male peers.
  • Race and cultural bias discrimination is not just a problem of the past. While it may occur in more subtle forms in today’s workplace, it still exists. We see it in failures to promote, selective treatment, harassment – even occasional name-calling. It is illegal. Sadly, when such behaviors or actions are challenged, the victims are often attacked as playing the “race card.” We recognize that our clients who stand up for their right to equality often do so at great sacrifice. In both public and private employment cases, our commitment is to stand by our clients and to help them protect their rights under the laws and under the United States and Virginia Constitutions.
  • Virginia law on non-competition agreements is among the most favorable in the country for employees. Virginia law requires the balancing of an employer’s legitimate interests in protecting its trade secrets and the like against public policy and an employee’s right to earn a living. Physicians and technology sales and service personnel are often faced with onerous non-competition clauses in their employment agreements. Of course, it is best to negotiate acceptable terms (including terms providing for a fair and balanced treatment of what will occur at separation) at the outset of employment. Often, however, such negotiation does not take place. Our firm has successfully opposed overly broad non-competition and non-solicitation clauses in a variety of situations. We have also assisted employers in preparing and enforcing non-competition agreements that appropriately balance all legally-recognized interests.
  • When a company or individual tortiously interferes with a person’s employment, or conspires to harm them, what relief is available? Virginia has strong common law protection against those who interfere with (or conspire to interfere with) an individual’s employment or contractual expectations. Sometimes, such interference involves defamation. Sometimes, it involves the breach of a contractual obligation. We have represented individuals injured by the leaking of defamatory or confidential information to newspapers for publication; individuals “black-balled” through adverse references; and physicians trying to practice medicine in a community despite the wrongful interference of a former employer. Virginia’s “business tort” laws have meaningful application to individuals’ rights when one or more persons work together to harm an individual or his or her financial interests.

The old adage is true: “If you prepare a case to try, it will settle – if you prepare a case to settle, it will try.” While most cases do settle, our cases are all prepared for trial.

Local Counsel
Many of our clients are located in other states and depend on our understanding of the federal and state courts in Virginia. We provide local counsel to numerous companies across the country, including many well respected law firms. To pursue litigation in the Rocket Docket, it is required that an attorney admitted to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia be a participant. There are procedures and deadlines that must be adhered to and these requirements vary by division and judge. Our attorneys know the guidelines set forth by the local courts and are able to provide cost effective local counsel.

Intellectual Property
Intellectual property law allows the owner of a copyright, trademark, trade secret or patent to have certain exclusive rights. Cases involving infringement of these rights are complex and require the expertise of an intellectual property attorney. The attorneys of Butler Royals PLC have represented plaintiffs and defendants in various intellectual property cases. Our attorneys also handle non-competition agreements, confidentiality agreements and unfair competition claims.

BUTLER ROYALS, PLC 140 Virginia Street Suite 302Richmond, VA 23219804 • 648 • 4848