Employment & Labor Litigation

Employment & Labor Litigation

Karen Kruse Law offers seasoned representation in single‑employee charges and lawsuits, as well as in multiple‑plaintiff lawsuits and class or collective actions. Based in Seattle, the firm's employment litigation practice extends to federal and state courts located throughout the State of Washington, from Seattle to Spokane, Vancouver to Bellingham, and venues in between. Washington State employment attorney Karen Kruse also has been granted temporary admissions (pro hac vice) to represent clients in federal court lawsuits in states such as Oregon, Alaska and Montana.

Representative Litigation Matters

Federal, state and local regulation of workplaces has greatly expanded during recent decades. Karen has lived through much of this expansion during her professional career, and she continues to closely follow developments under the sometimes‑overlapping and sometimes‑inconsistent federal, Washington State and local laws. Whether your workplace law dispute is in the very earliest stages (such as a threatened claim) or has progressed to full‑blown litigation, Karen Kruse Law can help you through the litigation or dispute resolution process.

Representative workplace disputes that Karen has handled include these subject areas:

Wage and Hour Law Issues

Karen has substantial experience litigating issues under minimum wage, overtime, wage payment, and meal and rest period laws. These include: issues of "employee" and "employer" status, overtime eligibility or exemptions, employee tips or employer service charges, deductions from wages, meal and rest break compliance, and questions whether certain time is compensable.

Karen has handled single‑plaintiff, multiple‑plaintiff and class actions involving alleged wage‑hour violations, as well as enforcement investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), and the Seattle Office of Labor Standards.

Employment Discrimination or Harassment Allegations

During Karen's career, the laws against discrimination have broadened to embrace new protected classes and to recognize sexual harassment as a cause of action. Karen has seen the positive impact of these laws on American workplaces, as well as the enormous increase in employee concerns, charges and litigation over such issues. Karen has handled individual and class action cases involving: allegations of discrimination in hiring, layoff, discharge, or other employment terms and conditions; legal issues of "disparate treatment," "disparate impact," or unlawful harassment; and claims of failure to accommodate applicants' or employees' religious practices. Karen also has defended against discrimination charges in the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC), and the Seattle Office of Civil Rights (SOCR).

Claims Under Disability Accommodation and Leave Laws

Disability accommodation and leave laws have rapidly developed during recent decades, creating an often‑confusing array of employer obligations and employee rights. Karen has defended employers in state or federal courts and in administrative agencies against claims of disability disparate treatment, failure to accommodate employee disabilities, and disability‑based retaliation or interference with protected leave rights. These matters have involved laws such as the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), the FMLA, the Washington Family Leave Act, and local laws requiring paid sick leave.

Retaliation Claims

Most statutes that regulate workplaces also separately prohibit retaliation. Retaliation remedies typically are in addition to substantive remedies for violating the statute (such as by committing employment discrimination or failing to pay overtime). Moreover, retaliation claims typically do not require showing that the employer actually violated the underlying statute. A plaintiff might be able to state a viable retaliation claim simply by showing a good faith, but mistaken, belief that the employer violated the law — coupled with close timing between when the plaintiff raised this concern and when an adverse employment action occurred. Because retaliation claims commonly appear in charges and lawsuits alleging other legal violations, Karen has frequently litigated whether retaliation occurred.

Wrongful Termination Matters

Washington State permits employees to sue for wrongful termination in violation of public policy in several situations, including when:

  1. Employees are fired for refusing to commit an illegal act;
  2. Employees are fired for performing a public duty or obligation, such as serving on jury duty;
  3. Employees are fired for exercising a legal right or privilege, such as filing a workers' compensation claim; or
  4. Employees are fired in retaliation for reporting employer misconduct, i.e., whistleblowing.

Karen has defended multiple cases where plaintiffs sought to hold their former employers liable for Washington's tort of wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

Workplace Torts

When suing for other reasons, employees often include tort claims seeking to hold the employer liable for alleged violations like negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress; defamation; "false lights" invasion of privacy; negligent hiring, retention or supervision; and even assault and battery. Karen is experienced in analyzing and defending against such claims.

Employment Contract Disputes, Including Non‑competition, Non‑solicitation or Confidentiality Agreements

Karen has represented employers accused of breaching either an employment contract or a "promise of specific treatment in specific situations" (a claim available in Washington State). She also has assisted employers in their time‑sensitive efforts to enforce their former employees' "restrictive covenant" agreements, such as non‑competition, non‑solicitation or confidentiality agreements. This has included obtaining injunctive relief to bar the former employee from unfair competition, as well as winning money damages to make the employer whole for the employee's violation.

Complex Workplace Law Claims

Bringing any size of employment claim to a successful conclusion is a rewarding professional experience. However, Karen is particularly proud of her successes in some of the larger cases she has handled, including:

  • Defeating certification of wage‑hour class action against a regional restaurant employer.
  • Successfully moving for partial dismissal on the merits, and then to strike class action allegations, in a meal and rest break proposed class action against a manufacturer.
  • Defeating other proposed class or collective actions through procedural motions.
  • Successfully defending against multiple current employees’ claims of discrimination and wrongful termination, winning full pre‑trial dismissals and an award of monetary sanctions.
  • Establishing a constitutional law challenge to a public port tariff that had imposed a union labor requirement on a client’s fishing vessel customers.

For More Information

Karen Kruse Law defends employers with Washington employees in disputes involving federal, Washington State and Washington localities' workplace laws. However, KKL does not handle workers' compensation matters. The firm selectively does consider accepting other types of matters on behalf of employees.

For more information, please contact KKL.