Labor & Employment
Our breadth of experience enables us to better
serve our clients in all areas. We understand the interplay of
individual employee rights and collective bargaining, the effects
that different employment policies may have upon workers'
compensation cases, and a variety of other such interrelationships
that can make the difference between smooth sailing and rocky seas.
We apply an aggressive yet reasoned approach to labor relations,
ever mindful of the needs, goals and pocketbooks of our clients.
Efficient resolution consistent with our clients' objectives is the
hallmark of our representation.
Collective Bargaining Representation:
Today's union-management relations require a defter touch and
deeper understanding than those of prior generations. With
conditions of economic hardship and fiscal restraint, the challenge
to bring home an agreement without breaching labor peace is greater
than ever. Add to this a growing list of employee rights and
grievances and stepped-up governmental regulation, and the task can
seem practically insurmountable.
Our employment lawyers have negotiated scores of agreements for
clients in a wide range of businesses. We provide hard bargaining
when required along with practiced persuasion and an understanding
of our clients' goals. Our lawyers have achieved unprecedented
agreements on topics such as compensation concessions, health care
benefits and production efficiencies.
We have represented such divergent employers as a county non-profit
organization operating on behalf of mentally retarded persons, one
of the nation's largest steelmakers, school districts, several
local municipalities, a local business college, a printing company,
the largest American manufacturer of ferroalloys, a local women's
college, and a railroad engine repair business in negotiations with
unions such as the United Steelworkers of America, the United
Autoworkers, the SEIU, the Teamsters, the PSEA and the IUE.
In our collective bargaining representation we
- Negotiated contracts that achieved unprecedented cost savings
on behalf of one of the nation's largest steelmakers during the
turbulent period of its genesis as a 100% employee-owned
- Successfully negotiated union concessions in today's most
troublesome area of collective bargaining: health care
- Eliminated labor contract impediments which jeopardized the
attainment of key business objectives.
- Helped distressed communities maintain essential services
throughout tough economic times.
We believe that effective representation at the bargaining table
demands a thorough and practical understanding of all areas of
labor and employment law. The extensive practice base of our
employment lawyers enables them to negotiate knowing all of the
effects an agreement may have, as well as a true understanding of
the overall employment considerations which are vital to our
Some of the results which we have achieved for our labor
clients are described below.
- After a client purchased another company, labor concessions at
a key plant were badly needed. We negotiated for and got the
concessions even though the company could not deliver on its threat
to move the plant's production to other facilities.
- The nation's largest investment banking firm needed labor
counsel after acquiring a large stake in a multi-billion dollar
corporation mired in bankruptcy. It turned to us. Despite the
availability to the client of high profile players like a former
Vice President of the United States, our lawyers led the client's
bargaining effort and provided the insight necessary to advance the
client's interests in negotiations with the company's union.
- When a client wished to purchase another multi-billion dollar
company, provisions in its labor contract could have gutted the
company of key members of its workforce by permitting them to
transfer back to the seller. Our attorneys negotiated terms which
resulted in the orderly transfer of assets and operations with a
steady supply of skilled employees.
- A facility in West Virginia had been closed for nearly two
years. Our lawyers negotiated the labor agreement and sales
agreement provisions that enabled our client to purchase the
facility, avoid costly plant shutdown provisions and return 180
employees to work.
- A foreign steel company with plants in three different
countries wanted to purchase the shut down assets of one of the
country's largest bar and rod manufacturers. Needing the best
negotiators to deal with the Steelworkers, the company called upon
our employment lawyers to lead negotiations.
- When a municipal client suffered through such economic hard
times that it became designated as a distressed community, our
lawyers succeeded in negotiating arrangements to maintain adequate
services such as police and fire protection.
- When a client was forced to file for bankruptcy due to
unbearable increases in its employee health care costs, our
employment lawyers achieved union concessions that allowed the
company to continue in business.
Public Sector Representation:
Our employment lawyers have represented municipalities in varying
capacities. Specifically, the Firm's lawyers have negotiated labor
agreements involving firefighters, police and municipal workers.
Additionally, the Firm's lawyers have represented municipalities in
labor grievances, arbitrations, contract mediation and interest
arbitration. Representation has included the City of Clairton and
the Boroughs of Glassport and Middletown.
Employers today face a growing list of discrimination claims: race,
color, age, sex, disability, religion, national origin and veteran
status. Recent legislation in this area, including the Civil Rights
Act of 1991 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, make
it significantly easier for employees or applicants to bring
lawsuits alleging that they were victims of unlawful
discrimination. The new statutes also make it harder for employers
to defend themselves against such claims and increase employers'
Recently, sexual harassment cases also have commanded much
attention in the media. As a result, employees who believe that
they have been subjected to improper conduct of a sexual nature
have more readily filed actions against their supervisors and/or
To help our clients beat back this barrage of claims, our lawyers
work closely with human resource personnel to ensure that sound
anti-discrimination policies are in place, and that supervisors and
managers are following and implementing those policies. If a charge
is filed, we aggressively defend it from the outset. We have
successfully defended over 95% of all discrimination charges in
administrative proceedings, before they can go to trial, thereby
saving clients the expense of judicial adjudication. Through our
vigorous defense of these claims and daily advice on employment
matters, our clients have avoided costly litigation. We
consistently deliver the winning edge for employers combating the
ever-increasing flow of employment related lawsuits.
- Our employment lawyers obtained summary judgment on behalf of a
national client facing an age discrimination suit in federal court,
saving the client the expense of a jury trial and the risk of an
adverse verdict. We achieved this result in spite of the federal
judiciary's increasing reluctance to grant preliminary judgments in
this area of law.
- When a major steel company was faced with a race discrimination
class action lawsuit, one of our lawyers negotiated a favorable
consent decree resolving the case. Our lawyers have also
successfully defended this client in over 90% of the enforcement
actions brought under the consent decree by the union and
- Our lawyers aggressively defended a pension discrimination suit
and obtained a summary judgment in favor of the employer, saving
the client the expense and potential exposure of a trial.
- An employee who had been disciplined for failing to perform her
duties and thereby causing production losses, filed a race
discrimination charge with the West Virginia Human Relations
Commission. Our lawyers aggressively challenged the charge,
coordinated the investigation, and obtained a no cause finding
which withstood appeal.
- An employee was disciplined for insubordination and threatening
his supervisor. We successfully opposed his national origin
discrimination charge, obtaining a no cause ruling by the
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
- A female asbestos remover brought a sexual harassment claim
against her male supervisor and employer. Despite the existence of
inflammatory evidence against our client, our lawyers negotiated a
settlement for an amount that was far less than the cost of trial
would have been.
- An employee returned to work after open heart surgery. She then
demanded that the client permit her to attend rehabilitation
sessions at her convenience rather than a mutually agreeable time
and place. After being discharged, she filed a handicap
discrimination claim which we defended, achieving a finding of no
cause and avoiding any further proceedings.
Employment At Will:
The time-honored rule of employment at will, which permits
managerial flexibility in termination decisions, continues to be
attacked. Many jurisdictions have carved out such major exceptions
to the employment at will doctrine that it essentially no longer
exists. In Pennsylvania, although the rule retains its vitality,
plaintiffs' attorneys continuously attempt to chip away at it with
wrongful discharge actions. The doctrine endures daily assault by
lawsuits which portray employment-related actions as violative of
public policy, and which demand excessive relief, frequently even
Furthermore, discharged at will employees increasingly sue for any
of a host of claims which have recently gained in popularity. From
claims for fraudulent misrepresentation, defamation, intentional
infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy, to
interference with contractual relations, false imprisonment, and
assault and battery lawsuits, former employees are finding more and
more ways to extract money from their prior employers.
Our lawyers have successfully obtained dismissal of wrongful
discharge actions in the early stages of litigation, thereby saving
our clients the costs of discovery and trial. We also have achieved
highly favorable settlements in the early stages of wrongful
discharge actions, thereby saving our clients the costs of defense
and possible adverse verdicts. In addition, we work closely with
our clients to develop employee handbooks, discipline policies,
efficient screening and recruitment methods, and detailed
recordkeeping and documentation procedures so as to minimize the
threat of litigation.
- A client with over 4,000 employees was sued in several wrongful
discharge lawsuits. A flood of such claims could have created a
litigation nightmare. Our lawyers stopped the flow by removing the
cases to federal court and achieving their dismissal before the
cases could even get off the ground.
- We have repeatedly assisted our clients in termination
practices and have negotiated voluntary resignation and release
agreements which have precluded any possible future employment
- Our client discharged an employee who was on workers'
compensation. He sued for wrongful discharge and damages of
$250,000. After minimal discovery, our lawyers negotiated a
settlement for $7,000, well below the cost of defending the case at
Occupational Safety and Health Cases:
Safety concerns often result in some of the most contentious and
emotionally charged disputes that exist between management and
labor. Physical emergencies require immediate assessment and expert
consultation. In addition, employee OSHA safety charges must be
handled carefully and conclusively, to avoid precedents that can
create future liabilities.
- When an explosion killed one of our client's employees, our
lawyers were present at the scene within the hour. As a result of
our prompt investigation and preparation, OSHA limited its focus to
the issues pertaining to the explosion, recognized the contributory
fault of the employee, and issued a reduced citation.
- OSHA shut down the construction job of our client due to
alleged violation of ditch safety standards. Our lawyers convinced
OSHA to permit resumption of the job after only two hours, and to
cut the fine in half.
- Employees challenging a new company production procedure filed
charges with the state Occupational Safety and Health Agency. We
resolved the charges and maintained the procedure without
- Matters before the National Labor Relations Board:
- The National Labor Relations Board enforces the rights and
obligations of parties pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act
and related federal statutes. Our lawyers have handled every
variety of NLRB petition, from election certification petitions to
unfair labor practice charges.
- A union which did not represent our client's employees began
picketing the client's business, disrupting product deliveries and
pick-ups. We successfully challenged the picketing before the NLRB
-- the day after our petition was filed, the picketers were gone
- Due to staffing changes, a client fired an active union
supporter at the worst possible time: in the middle of a union
organizing campaign. Our lawyers obtained a complete dismissal of
the resulting unfair labor practice charge.
We have represented our clients in literally hundreds of grievance
arbitrations, many of which resulted in decisions which saved vital
business practices being challenged by the union.
- When the union attempted to reclassify an entire group of
employees to create higher wages for them, our lawyers thwarted the
challenge and held the line on wage rates. In the face of a union
grievance challenging company manning practices, we preserved the
ability of our client to continue to make fundamental production
and manning decisions, even where they resulted in lost work for
- Our lawyers won 15 consecutive grievances for one client in the
difficult area of crew size reductions and job combinations -- and
- We successfully defended both our client, which had spun off
from a multi-billion dollar corporation, as well as the predecessor
company, in pension benefit claims filed by a former employee.
- Through an arbitration victory, our lawyers preserved the
ability of our client to change its longstanding absenteeism policy
from one based upon unexcused absences to a strict occurrence-based
- Our client sold a subsidiary and paid severance benefits to
only a fraction of its union workforce. We defended the grievance
filed by those former employees who did not receive severance
benefits, obtaining a dismissal by the arbitrator. We have won
numerous arbitration decisions upholding discharges in the area of
substance abuse, in cases ranging from selling drugs on and off
company property, to possession and use of drugs on company
Wage and Hour Cases:
Our lawyers have been involved in many wage and hour investigations
on both the state and federal level, including those where issues
of compensation for commissioned employees have been at issue. We
have also counseled public contractors who are subject to the
intricacies of the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act and the
Davis-Bacon Act and have guided private employers to ensure
compliance with state and federal wage laws. We understand these
questions and can help resolve disputes.
- We successfully defended an engineering company in a suit where
a claim of unpaid overtime compensation was litigated by a past
employee. We obtained a complete defense verdict.
- Our lawyers have successfully counseled a public utility
through an eighteen month wage and hour investigation that resulted
in no claim from the Department of Labor.
- We successfully defended a national diversified financial
services company in a wage and hour investigation. We were able to
eliminate the majority of the claims and expeditiously resolve the
Structuring Employee Stock Ownership Plans:
Our benefits lawyers provide assistance in all facets of benefits
plan design. We guide each client through all the necessary steps,
then go the extra mile to ensure that their plan meets all of their
business needs. Beginning with a careful analysis of a client's
objectives, our lawyers develop and refine a plan that is suited
for the client's particular circumstances. We finish the job by
providing documentation and advice for proper.
Administration, Analysis and
Our expertise goes on to help our clients well after adoption of a
plan. We provide customized advice for plan administration,
developing specific strategies to avoid operational deficiencies.
We examine and provide counsel on entitlement issues, law and plan
interpretation, procedural questions, complex tax issues,
distribution rights, prohibited transaction analysis and fiduciary
Modification of Plans
Our benefits lawyers are prepared to provide the answers to
questions about options for freezing, termination, merger or
spinoff of plans. We regularly represent clients in these difficult
matters, performing comprehensive due diligence analysis, and
coordinating with other professionals to provide a complete and
Multidisciplinary Analysis and
The capabilities of our pension and benefits lawyers are greatly
enhanced by the support of the Firm's other practice areas.
Employee benefits issues do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, they
typically are a key piece of a bigger picture--a court case, a
merger, a bankruptcy, a tax controversy, a labor case. Our benefits
lawyers regularly draw upon the Firm's substantial resources in
these areas. For example, the day before the scheduled closing on
the sale of one of the nation's largest steelmakers, salaried
employees filed suit seeking an injunction to block the sale based
upon alleged pension law violations. Our benefits, litigation and
corporate lawyers joined forces to defeat the challenge. The
result: the court denied the employees' demand for preliminary
relief, and within hours the deal was done, effectively terminating
the lawsuit. The ability to recognize and act upon such
interrelationships enables Keevican Weiss Bauerle & Hirsch LLC
to provide the multidisciplinary approach to our employee benefits
practice which is so vital in today's complex business world.
Employee Benefits and Pension Cases:
- A Fortune 500 company wanted to spin off its specialty steel
manufacturing subsidiary. When disagreement over employee benefits
issues led to union rejection of the proposed labor agreement, our
lawyers devised the profit sharing plan that gained union
acceptance, resurrected the transaction and accomplished our
- The Internal Revenue Service brought an action against a plan
sponsor for failure to timely amend their employee benefit plan.
The IRS claimed that our client owed $400,000. We had discussions
with the IRS and based on a novel approach developed by our
lawyers, we were able to negotiate a settlement of the entire
matter for only $8,000.
- Our pension lawyers were brought in as special counsel in a
bankruptcy proceeding involving two unionized plants in Connecticut
and Vermont. They successfully negotiated a reduced fringe benefit
package with the two unions while also negotiating a standstill
agreement with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation that
permitted both facilities to be sold out of bankruptcy.
- A national bank asked us to review and structure a proposed
multimillion dollar loan to a large manufacturing company. Even
though the company had the ability to cash collateralize the loan,
our benefits lawyers identified a high risk of superpriority PBGC
liens that threatened to impair the bank's collateral. We thereby
saved the Bank from making a loan that likely would have gone
- Another national bank was asked by a large customer to make
available a $7 million credit facility to an insolvent pension plan
to which the company contributed. Our benefits lawyers analyzed the
unique legal issues that threatened to prevent the bank from making
the loan. They then structured a facility that met ERISA
requirements and satisfied the bank's and its customer's
- A small but highly visible tool and die maker faced an impasse
in collective bargaining over installation of a defined benefit
plan for a group of employees whose average age was 57. Our pension
lawyers negotiated the retention of the company's existing defined
contribution profit sharing plan, thereby maintaining the company
as the only employer in its segment of this highly unionized
industry not to have a defined benefit plan.
- Our lawyers have successfully defended both the purchaser of a
major facility of a Fortune 100 corporation, as well as the pension
fund involved, in the pension claims arising since the sale of the
- When one of the nation's largest auto manufacturers wanted to
spin off its integrated steel manufacturing subsidiary, the tangled
web of intra-company employee benefits questions threatened to
stymie the whole transaction. Our benefits lawyers were able to
sort through the complex issues, assess the costs and risks
involved for our client, and structure a deal that satisfied not
only the transacting parties but also the unionized workforce that
could have vetoed the deal.
- Our client wanted to purchase the assets of another company
without incurring shutdown costs under the applicable labor
agreement. Our lawyers structured a purchase of selected assets
that achieved the business objective while insulating our client
from any shutdown liabilities.
- Our lawyers designed the acquisition strategy that was used to
purchase a Fortune 500 manufacturing company. Using the overfunded
pension plan for equity, our lawyers' program resulted in the
successful purchase of a company that has since paid down its
acquisition debt and returned to public ownership.