CLE Sneak Peek: Changing Currents in Employment Law 2014

By District of Columbia Bar

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R. Scott Oswald, faculty member and chairperson for our upcoming CLE "Changing Currents in Employment Law 2014: Recent Trends and Developments," takes a few moments to give us a sneak peak into the class. Mr. Oswald has litigated nearly fifty trials to verdict and recovered more than $90 million in judgments and settlements in employment and whistleblower actions.  He is an accomplished trial lawyer in whistleblower protection, qui tam, wrongful discharge, employment discrimination, FMLA, USERRA, non-compete, and wage and overtime actions in federal and state courts. 

Mr. Oswald is one of ten panelists that will be discussing the latest trends in Employment Law. 

Q. Can you give me a brief overview of the “Changing Currents in Employment Law” series?

A. Changing Currents in Employment Law is a CLE hosted by the DC Bar that has existed for almost a decade now. Every year, we assemble some of the Washington area’s leading employment law practitioners from both the management and employee bar who offer an overview of the most important trends affecting employees, employers, and their counsel.  We typically have around ten panelists who provide, what in essence is really a “race across the rooftops” of recent court decisions and legislation that affect the way that we practice law.

Q. What can attendees expect to learn by attending this panel?

A. While we do focus on the law and substantive changes over the last year, I think one of the most important benefits to attending this CLE is the practical tips that our panelists provide. As I mentioned, we have highly accomplished practitioners serving as panelists who are prepared to share the wealth of experience that they have developed from years – and even decades – inside and outside of the courtroom. Sure, we want attendees to walk away from the panel with a clearer understanding of changes to the law, but, of equal importance, we want them to leave feeling more confident when they are in the courtroom, dealing with opposing counsel, or even just advising their clients.

To give just a brief run down, the panels this year include:

  • From Causation to Coverage: The Effects of Burrage and Lawson on Whistleblower Claims in 2014 and Beyond (Dan Westman and R. Scott Oswald)
  • “Short Term” Disabilities and Reasonable Accommodations under the ADAAA (Elizabeth Torphy-Donzella and Avi Kumin)
  • Non-Competition Enforcement and Invalidation: Tools to Fight For Your Client’s Right to [Restrict] Work (Carla Brown and Kara Ariail
  • Avoiding Litigation Without Giving up the Farm:  Settlement Strategies, Negotiations, and Concerns in the 21st Century (Carter DeLorme, Andy Dansicker, and Lewis Saret)
  • A Company’s Duty to Investigate and the Implications Thereof (Danny Onorato and Dave Schertler) 

Q. Can you give me an example of the type of practical tips that an attendee will take with him or her from this year’s panel?

A. I think that one of this year’s panels illustrates exactly the point I’m trying to make. As I mentioned, we have Carter DeLorme from Jones Day and Andy Dansicker from the Law Office of Andrew M. Dansicker serving on a panel entitled “Avoiding Litigation Without Giving up the Farm:  Settlement Strategies, Negotiations, and Concerns in the 21st Century.” In this panel, Carter and Andy will discuss the types of provisions that they try to include in settlement agreements in order to protect their corporate and employee clients.

They also discuss the mechanics for negotiating these agreements with opposing counsel. We have also asked Lewis Saret to weigh in on the tax implications of settlement agreements. This is something that employment attorneys are constantly asked by their clients. I don’t know that I have ever settled a case without my client asking me about the tax consequences of the settlement.

Q. This sounds like something that may be designed more for the experienced employment law practitioner.  Does the attendee need to have an intimate knowledge of employment laws in order to get the most out of the panel?

A. Not at all.  And I think this point is one of the biggest benefits of Changing Currents.  There is information that will be relevant to everyone – from counsel with years of experience in litigating employment matters to the generalist who may only touch on employment issues once or twice a year. 

As far as the latter group is concerned, we have practitioners on one panel – Dave Schertler and Danny Onorato – discussing what goes on behind the scenes when a company receives a report of unlawful activity from an employee. We also have Kara Ariail and Carla Brown discussing strategies for dealing with non-compete issues. These issues really transcend what is typically thought of as “employment law” and I think that a general understanding is important to any practitioner.

Q. Well what can more experienced practitioners get out of attending?

A. Though we certainly keep the less experienced attorneys in mind, Changing Currents is really ideal for those practitioners who spend their careers focusing on the employment law arena. Panelists go into great detail about the intricacies and nuances of the various statutes under which we all operate. 

For example, I am serving on a panel with Dan Westman from Morrison Foerster where we will discuss recent changes to various whistleblower statutes, including Sarbanes-Oxley, and how recent Supreme Court precedent will affect the way that courts deal with causation under the False Claims Act’s anti-retaliation provisions. 

Though we will provide a high-level overview of each statute, the discussion will appeal to practitioners who want a more nuanced understanding of how to proceed with whistleblower claims.  Likewise, Elizabth Torphy-Donzella and Avi Kumin will provide similar treatment to the Americans with Disabilities Act and its recent amendments. Understanding the intricacies of the ADAAA is fundamental to any practitioner working in this field.

That all being said, experienced employment attorneys and novice alike all need CLE credit!

Q. Can you tell me a little bit more about you and your practice?

A. I began practicing law in 1997.  I have brought more than forty jury trials to verdict and litigated in countless more.  My firm – The Employment Law Group – is dedicated to representing employees who claim wrongdoing by their employers under whistleblower and civil rights laws. 

Q. If you could leave readers with one message about Changing Currents, what would it be?

A. Employment litigation is rarely black and white. It requires a detailed understanding of the law as well as diligent and, often times, creative advocacy by attorneys.  I think that Changing Currents and, more importantly, our excellent panelists do a phenomenal job of both providing a review of substantive law and identifying tips and “best practices” for counsel.  I am confident that there is something for everyone who will attend.

Learn more about the DC Bar CLE Program