Employment Law and Employee Benefits Law

As part of its 360° approach, S+U counsels small to mid-sized employers regarding all aspects of the employment relationship from interviewing and hiring employees, retaining those employees through the use of employment agreements and different employee benefit plans, programs and arrangements, managing the employment relationship using well-crafted and innovative policies and procedures, and if the need arises, guiding employers through the voluntary or involuntary separation of employees to make sure that the employers’ decisions and actions comply with the myriad of requirements under federal and state laws including Americans with Disability Act (ADA), Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Internal Revenue Code.

Employment Law

Employment Law CounselingWorker Classification Issues and AuditsEmployment and Independent Contractor Agreements
S+U counsels employers on the best practices with respect to searching for, interviewing and hiring the best employees best suited for their needs. STU routinely assists its clients in recruiting or retaining the best employees by reviewing and drafting iron-clad employer-friendly employment agreements and change-in-control agreements aimed at protecting the employers’ interests at all times.

We also advise employers on how to minimize the risk of discrimination and harassment issues in the workplace by developing strong employment policies and procedures, drafting employee handbooks and providing training to HR staff on how to comply with the requirements of various federal and state employment laws including the ADA and the ADEA.

Finally, when employment relationships must be terminated, S+U routinely advises employers in navigating through the intricacies of involuntary separations from employment. Whether such separation involves the termination of an individual employee for whom an entire separation package needs to be developed or in the form of a reduction-in-force that applies to a large group of employees, S+U will guide the employer through the separation process to ensure all federal and state law requirements are satisfied and while reducing the administrative burdens on the employer.

S+U helps companies determine when independent contractors are the better option to address the companies’ needs by providing specialized set of skills. In those instances, we are experienced in preparing independent contractor agreements that preserve the individuals’ status as independent contractors and secure the individuals’ services for the employers.
We also advise employers regarding worker classification issues to ensure that they have properly classified their workers as employees or as independent contractors and consistently treat them as classified.

Where workers have been misclassified, we work with the company and the applicable federal and state government agencies to resolve the federal and state tax and labor issues that arise in the context of worker misclassification. We also assist the company in implementing administrative procedures to prevent the future occurrence of such issues.

Finally, S+U performs internal audits of companies’ records, policies and procedures to determine if they have properly classified their workers, retained the proper documents to support each worker’s classification and established the proper procedures to make sure each worker is treated in accordance with his/her classification. Where compliance failures are identified, we work with clients to resolve the compliance issues and establish the proper processes and procedures before government agencies conduct their own audits.

S+U routinely works with employers in reviewing and drafting  employment agreements and change-in-control agreements aimed at retaining the best employees  while ensuring that the employers’ interests are protected at all times.

In cases where the talent is an independent contractor, we have experience in reviewing and drafting independent contractor agreements that preserve the individuals’ status as independent contractors and secure the individuals’ services for the employers.

Employee Benefits Law

Retirement and Welfare BenefitsPlan Fiduciary EducationExecutive and Equity Compensation Plans and ProgramsDivision of Retirement Benefits Following Divorces
Retirement plans form the foundation of most employers’ benefit programs and plans offered to their employees.
S+U works with employers to carefully develop the plan with the features that work best for their employees’ needs and the employers’ needs (be it a profit sharing plan, a 401(k) plan, a defined benefit pension plan, a cash balance plan, a 403(b) plan or a 457(b) plan).

We also work with plan sponsors and plan administrators to address the issues that arise with the day-to-day administration of the plans and work with the relevant third-party administrators to ensure the plans’ compliance with the statutory requirements under the Internal Revenue Code and ERISA.

Finally, when (not if) employers find their plans dealing with compliance issues under the federal tax code or ERISA, S+U has a vast base of experience in working with the IRS and the U.S. Department of Labor to resolve compliance issues that are discovered by the employers or the government agency during an audit.

As sponsors and administrators of different employee benefit plans and programs, employers have a number of fiduciary responsibilities under ERISA and/or state trust laws with which they must comply.

Additionally, other individuals involved in the administration of these plans including third-party administrators, investment managers, claims administrators and insurance companies have fiduciary duties to which they are bound.

We constantly work with employers to educate them on their fiduciary duties under the plans which, among other things, require them to prepare the necessary documentation that addresses each party’s fiduciary obligations including investment policies, committee charters, administrative services-only contracts and investment management agreements. We also guide employers on how to delegate some of their fiduciary duties to the appropriate third parties (such as investment managers) while maintaining their obligations to oversee the actions of these third parties.

S+U regularly works with employers in preparing and reviewing employment agreements, change-in-control agreements, severance agreements and nonqualified deferred compensation plans to ensure employers satisfy the requirements of the IRC section 409A while they provide additional benefits to its executives without adverse tax consequences.

As a small business, S+U is particularly sensitive to the challenges that small and mid-size companies and nonprofit organizations face in competing with large companies for the best talent in the marketplace.
As such, S+U is uniquely positioned to guide employers in establishing the right blend of nonqualified deferred compensation plans and other compensation arrangements that will allow these employers to compete effectively for top talent.

In addition to focusing on attracting and retaining top talent for its executive ranks, employers are realizing the need to compete effectively for the best talent for its rank-and-file employees.

As a result, employers need benefit programs that build upon the foundation provided by qualified retirement plans to provide additional benefits and incentives to its employees.

S+U works with its clients to develop and implement employee stock purchase plans (ESPPs), employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) stock option plans, bonus plans and other incentive compensation plans that reward their employees and provide additional incentives for employees to have a vested interest in their employers’ future successes.

S+U works with family law attorneys whose clients who are going through divorces to draft the necessary court orders that would permit individuals to divide their retirement benefits with their ex-spouses. The IRS and U.S. Department of Labor (the two federal agencies that govern retirement plans) have very strict and technical rules on how retirement benefits may be divided.

Therefore, it is imperative for individuals to seek out experts who understand the complex rules that govern the proper division of retirement plan benefits. S+U’s extensive experience in the area of employee benefit plans means that lawyers frequently call upon us to assist them with the drafting and reviewing of court orders addressing their clients’ attempts to divide their retirement plan benefits.

Find out more about S+U’s Employment Law and Employee Benefits Law team

Nwa’ndo Ume-Nwagbo