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Texas Lawyer: Learn From DOL’s Audits in the Oil Patch

August 7, 2014

Wookboots not Wingtips

Texas Lawyer has signed up Alan Bush and Lee Winkelman as freelance contributors. Their latest article, “Learn From the DOL’s Audits in the Oil Patch,” appeared in Out of Order section on June 9, 2014.

Here’s what Alan and Lee had to say about the lessons that companies in all industries can learn from the DOL’s dive into the oil patch:

There’s a new player in the oil patch: the U.S. Department of Labor. Although few folks are taking a hard look at this development, everyone should. Even in-house counsel who work outside the energy industry can learn from the industry’s new experience with the DOL.

 

Back in December 2012, the DOL’s wage-and-hour enforcement arm issued a mostly unnoticed press release about the latest “multiyear enforcement initiative.” It targets companies that handle pieces of the fracking process in the Marcellus Shale. Then, the DOL audits started.

 

The past 18 months have taught some hard lessons. Decades-old pay structures have come under DOL fire. Counsel have learned how to respond to an audit. And the first-strike lawsuit against the DOL has earned a place in defense counsel’s toolbox. Let’s take a peek at each of these items in turn…

Read the full article for more. In it, Alan and Lee lay out some practical thoughts on:

  • Hot-button pay practices that can draw unwanted DOL attention;
  • How to work with the DOL during an audit; and
  • Preemptive lawsuits to challenge an overly-aggressive DOL enforcement position on the company’s terms.

For quite some time, Alan has been talking for in-house counsel and other business leaders about the energy industry’s recent brush with the DOL. He has spoken for HR Southwest, the Energy Law Symposium produced by the Texas A&M Law Review and The Woodlands Chamber’s Annual Employment Law Update.

Alan has even spent a day on an oil rig, then written for Texas Lawyer about what it teaches lawyers. That article can be found here.

CPE by the Sea: Upcoming Speaking Gig

May 28, 2014

galveston conv ctr

CPE by the Sea | Texas CPA Society

Forward HR Intelligence: Get There First

June 12 – 13, 2014


Alan Bush and Lee Winkelman will talk at the Galveston Island Convention Center about “Forward HR Intelligence”:

An employer can think like the other side.  Expose how plaintiff’s lawyers, government enforcers or competitors can exploit weak spots in HR systems created recently by courts and regulators.  Then fix it. We’ll talk it out – all the way from whistleblower claim ambush, to non-compete agreements, to the juiciest overtime lawsuit trends.  Hear it straight from an ex-plaintiff’s lawyer, turned 100% company man.

When: June 12 at 2:20 – 4p

Where: Galveston Island Convention Center

 

Forum Selection Clauses and BBQ: Texas Lawyer

March 18, 2014

Make Forum Selections like BBQ image

Alan Bush is a routine a freelance contributor for Texas Lawyer. His latest article, “Make Forum Selection Like Barbeque,” appeared in the March 17, 2014 issue. Lee Winkelman, of counsel with the firm, jumped aboard as co-author.

Thanks to a recent SCOTUS decision, companies now have a strong hand to pick where employee disputes will be litigated. Forum selection clauses in employment agreements and arbitration policies have real teeth.

Here’s what Alan and Lee had to say about it:

Everybody wants their pick of forum to settle disputes.  Why else would lawyers go toe-to-toe about it at the courthouse?  But duking it out with an unhappy current or former employee is kind of like having a meal.  The cooking always tastes better at home.  Barbeque and lawsuits: They’re both better in your own backyard.

Disputes with an employee-turned-plaintiff are no exception.  Last December in Atlantic Marine Construction Co. v. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a better hand to companies seeking to enforce a forum selection clause if an employee comes after them in court.

In-house counsel now have a choice.  Break out a streamlined employment dispute resolution process, like arbitration or jury waivers, with a forum selection provision?  Or tread the path to the employee’s chosen courthouse to pick a jury?

Read the full article for more.  In it, Alan and Lee lay out some practical thoughts on:

  • Employment agreements, like a jury waiver or non-compete, that contain a forum selection clause;
  • Arbitration policies that mandate a set forum; and
  • When forum selection clauses are worth the effort.

Previously, Alan and Morgan have written about using streamlined dispute resolution methods – like arbitration policies and jury waivers – to control defense costs.  That Texas Lawyer article can be found here.

Use These Tips to Cut Defense Costs: Texas Lawyer

February 12, 2014

Images for TX Lawyer_001

Alan Bush is a routine a freelance contributor for Texas Lawyer.  His latest article, “Use These Tips to Cut Defense Costs,” appeared in the January 20, 2014 issue.  Morgan Culbreth, an associate attorney with the firm, jumped aboard as co-author.

A reasonable hourly rate, of course, matters to controlling a defense spend.  But it goes a lot further.  Here’s what Alan and Morgan had to say about it:

“No.”  At the bargaining table, that’s the most powerful word in the English language.  Although in-house counsel may desperately want to say “no” to a high settlement demand from an employee-turned-plaintiff, defense costs can force a company to settle for nuisance value.  Getting a handle on these costs can empower a company to do the right thing.

A solid dispute resolution system – whether it’s an arbitration policy fortified with some key provisions or a plain old jury waiver – is key to taming even the most ferocious defense costs.  Enforcing a lean mentality among litigators is the final step in crafting a company’s winning strategy…

Read the full article for more.  In it, Alan and Morgan lay out some practical thoughts on:

  • Streamlined arbitration procedures;
  • Arbitration class waivers which might make class and collective actions obsolete;
  • Jury waivers to secure a bench trial;
  • Lean HR defense principles.

Energy Law Symposium

January 21, 2014

mic

Alan Bush often speaks at seminars for business leaders—such as line executives, finance executives, human resource professionals, CPA’s and lawyers.  You can hear Alan at:

Energy Law Symposium | Texas A&M Law Review

Overtime Lessons from the Oil Patch

March 20 – 21, 2014

The Department of Labor and plaintiff’s lawyers have recently hit the oil field.  They’re hunting for overtime violations.  The E&P industry grapples with workers who pull long hours in remote locations.  The industry’s creative solutions with independent contractors and day rates – some successful, some not – are instructive for everyone.  We’ll then talk out what to do before and after the DOL comes knocking.

When: March 20 at 11a

Where: Texas A&M School of Law

RSVP: http://www.tamulawreview.org/1stPages/6th_energy

Employment Law Update: The Woodlands Area Chamber

October 23, 2013

Alan Bush often speaks at seminars for business leaders—such as line executives, finance executives, human resource professionals, CPA’s and lawyers.  You can hear Alan at:

Employment Law Update | The Woodlands Area Chamber

November 1, 2013

Alan will present at the update twice.  His first presentation is a talk, followed by him moderating a panel discussion.

Overtime and Non-Compete Lessons from the Oil Patch

The Department of Labor and plaintiff’s lawyers have recently hit the oil field.  They’re on the hunt for overtime pay violations in an industry with workers who pull long hours in remote locations.  At the same time, the war for experienced oil field and energy service talent is heating up with non-compete agreements and the new Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act.  Even outside the energy industry, employers can learn from it.  The industry’s creative solutions – some successful, some not – are instructive for everyone.

Tales from the Dark Side

Let’s step out of the courtroom and into the business world.  A panel of seasoned in-house counsel and HR professionals will discuss how to handle tricky employee issues.

Alan moderates a panel of:

  • Stephanie John │ Newfield Exploration – Legal Counsel and Compliance Officer
  • Stephen Eubank │ Anadarko Petroleum Corp. – Senior Counsel
  • Leah Yeglin, SPHR and GPHR │ Spectrum Geo – HR Manager
  • Chris Rasberry, GPHR │ HFG Wealth Management – COO

When: 8:30a – 4p

Where: Marriott – The Woodlands Waterway

RSVP: 2013 ELU Reservation form

Work Boots, Not Wing Tips: Lawyer’s Lessons from the Oil Rig

October 23, 2013

Texas Lawyer has signed up Alan Bush as a freelance contributor.  His latest article, “Work Boots, Not Wing Tips: Lawyer’s Lessons from the Oil Rig,” appeared in the Out of Order: In House Texas section on October 14. 

Here’s what Alan had to say about spending a day out on an oil rig:

A day on an oil rig does a lawyer a world of good, even on a hot July day in the Brazos Valley.  I knew it from the second my boots hit the gravel.  This wasn’t cushy CLE, but I knew I’d learn a lot.  Life in the oil patch isn’t easy — neither is lawyering in the courtroom or the boardroom.  But spending time with folks on that rig left me with some lasting lessons…

Read the full article for more.  In it, Alan lays out what some oil patch lessons mean for law practice:

  • Get out on the rig floor.
  • Get your hands dirty.
  • Feed a hungry client.
  • Understand who is the rock star.
  • Do it yourself.
  • Cover your home front.
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