Avoiding a Lawsuit: Managing Your Human Capital through Proper HR SOPs Fortis Law Partners’ Christine Lamb reviews HR pitfalls at MJBizCon NEXT

DENVER (May 31, 2019) — Employment lawsuits are increasing in the cannabis industry. Companies can face costly legal action from employees over everything from wage and hour issues to discrimination and sexual harassment, with the latter taking on added significance in the age of #MeToo. What can companies do to ensure a safe and productive working environment for their employees while protecting themselves from employment lawsuits?

Christine Lamb, who heads Fortis’ employment law practice, will provide the lowdown on policies and procedures to protect companies from employment lawsuits at MJBizCon NEXT on Friday, June 14, at 11AM. In her session, Lamb will provide insight on creating and implementing policies to prevent complaints related to harassment, wages and hours, leaves of absence and more; drafting an employee handbook; and creating an employee agreement to prevent theft of intellectual property and trade secrets.

“Expert advice on employment policy is much needed in the quickly growing cannabis industry,” Lamb notes. “Amid the chaotic world of startups working in a brand-new industry, the importance of instituting proper human resources protocols often gets overlooked, putting companies at risk of potentially costly and time-consuming litigation right from the start.”

The rise of the #MeToo movement is a welcome trend but has caused a marked increase in allegations of sexual harassment, increasing risks for companies that don't take proper measures to train employees and protect themselves. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that sexual harassment complaints have risen by 12% and that these complaints are resulting in higher dollar settlements. Training programs are available, including from the EEOC itself, but they are often booked months in advance, leaving entrepreneurs forced to look elsewhere for advice as they get their companies off the ground.

At her MJBizCon NEXT session, Lamb will offer advice on how to institute strong, clear policies and employee training, and how to go beyond minimum legal requirements by instilling a healthy company culture. Such measures protect not only the company, but also its valued employees. She will also take questions from the audience and address common scenarios.

With nearly three decades of experience representing a wide variety of employers ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies, Lamb regularly counsels companies on personnel policies and manuals, employment agreements, executive compensation, non-compete and trade secret agreements, harassment investigations, hiring, firing, discipline, leaves of absence and disability accommodations. She has defended hundreds of employment lawsuits in both state and federal courts in Colorado and throughout the Rocky Mountain region. She also frequently represents clients before the EEOC.

MJBizCon NEXT is a leading cannabusiness conference bringing together thousands of industry innovators disrupting the cannabis space and hundreds of exhibitors representing all facets of the cannabis industry to share ideas and display cutting-edge technologies. Attendance can lead to new opportunities, partnerships, investments, and jobs in the cannabis industry. MJBizCon NEXT is being held in New Orleans June 12-14.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Shawna McGregor at shawna@themaverickpr.com or 917-971-7852.

About Fortis Law Partners

Fortis Law Partners offers broad expertise to help clients achieve effective legal solutions, from the simplest matters to the most challenging business problems. Whether a successful outcome means winning at trial, dismissing a lawsuit, negotiating a settlement, closing a transaction, or just getting thoughtful legal advice, Fortis lawyers get results. Our business-minded problem-solving approach, coupled with a persistent dedication to client service, enables us to create unmatched value. Practices include Commercial Litigation, Corporate / Securities / M&A; Employment Law; Tax; Compliance Programs and Internal Investigations; and Real Estate & Development. For more information, visit FortisLawPartners.com. Continue the conversation on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Fortis Law Partners Recognized with Super Lawyer Status

DENVER (May 2, 2019) — Fortis Law Partners, a leading Denver-based law firm, is pleased to announce that co-founders Julie Herzog and Christine Lamb have been selected as Super Lawyers for 2019. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding attorneys from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Only 5 percent of nominees are selected as a Super Lawyer.

Recognized as a Super Lawyer every year since 2014, Herzog is a Top Rated Mergers & Acquisitions Attorney and heads the firm’s corporate/securities practice. Herzog handles a wide variety of corporate, securities and merger and acquisition transactions work, including entity and fund formations, debt and equity financing’s, management buyouts, real estate development, joint ventures and strategic alliances. She takes great pride in her reputation of providing sound and practical business counsel to numerous corporations and industry professionals. Her clients include Fortune 100 corporations, and she has handled business transactions valued beyond $4 billion for major investment banks and public companies. While always exuding professionalism and efficiency, Herzog also has a friendly, down-to-earth demeanor that her clients have come to appreciate. She practiced corporate and securities law for major international firms in Chicago, Denver and Hong Kong for many years and has successfully founded, run and sold her own retail business, giving her a level of experience and practicality matched by few others in her field.

“I’m honored to selected by my peers to be a Super Lawyer for the sixth year in a row,” Herzog said. “My experience as a business owner has provided insights into the many opportunities and challenges business owners face during the life-cycle of a company.”

Lamb has been selected as a Super Lawyer annually since 2015. She heads Fortis’ Labor & Employment law practice and focuses her practice on advising employers on human resources and personnel issues and defending companies in employment lawsuits. Lamb has over 25 years’ experience representing a wide variety of employers ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies. She regularly counsels companies on personnel policies and manuals, employment agreements, executive compensation, non-compete and trade secret agreements, harassment investigations, hiring, firing, discipline, leaves of absence and disability accommodations. She has defended hundreds of employment lawsuits in both state and federal courts in Colorado and throughout the Rocky Mountain region. She also frequently represents clients before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the United States Department of Labor (DOL). Before founding Fortis Law Partners, Lamb practiced employment law at large law firms in Chicago and Denver. She enjoys getting to know her clients’ businesses goals and company culture in order to provide more meaningful and comprehensive advice on personnel issues.

“I want to thank Super Lawyers for recognizing me again this year,” Lamb said. “Employment law is ever evolving, and it is a privilege to provide counsel to my clients to help them navigate the sometimes-choppy waters.”

Fortis Law Partners’ attorneys have been regularly recognized as Super Lawyers. Other Fortis Super Lawyer honorees include Henry Baskerville, Partner (Super Lawyer Rising Star: 2012-2015, 2017-2018), and Andrew Comer, Associate (Super Lawyer Rising Star: 2018).

Super Lawyers, part of Thomson Reuters, selects attorneys using a patented multi-phased selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. The objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel. Since Super Lawyers is intended to be used as an aid in selecting a lawyer, we limit the lawyer ratings to those who can be hired and retained by the public. Only 5 percent of nominees are selected as a Super Lawyer, with only 2.5 percent of nominees recognized as Rising Stars.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Shawna McGregor at shawna@themaverickpr.com or 917-971-7852.

About Fortis Law Partners

Fortis Law Partners offers broad expertise to help clients achieve effective legal solutions, from the simplest matters to the most challenging business problems. Whether a successful outcome means winning at trial, dismissing a lawsuit, negotiating a settlement, closing a transaction, or just getting thoughtful legal advice, Fortis lawyers get results. Our business-minded problem-solving approach, coupled with a persistent dedication to client service, enables us to create unmatched value. Practices include Commercial Litigation, Corporate / Securities / M&A; Employment Law; Tax; Compliance Programs and Internal Investigations; and Real Estate & Development. For more information, visit FortisLawPartners.com. Continue the conversation on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Fortis Welcomes New Paralegal Nicole Vanhooser

Nicole Vanhooser has been working in the field of law as a paralegal for over 8 years serving as both a legal assistant and as a paralegal. Nicole has served multiple industries but specializes in areas concerning labor and employment law, commercial litigation, and corporate law.

Fortis Law Partners is pleased to welcome Nicole Vanhooser to our administrative support team.  She will be working with our dedicated staff of attorneys in the firm to continue to provide great service to our clients and attorneys.

Please click here to review Nicole’s full bio and contact information.

We are delighted to add such amazing talent on our team!

Fortis Welcomes New Associate Robert LaManna

Fortis Law Partners expands the depth and breadth of its practice by welcoming Robert LaManna to our team.  He will be working along with our other lawyers in the firm to continue to provide top legal representation to our clients.

Robert advises founders and companies on business transactions, including mergers, acquisitions, buyouts, private equity and venture capital investing.  Robert has advised on several multi-billion transactions in the technology, healthcare and energy industries.

Please click here to review Robert’s full bio and contact information.

We are thrilled to have such amazing talent on our team!

Fortis 2nd Quarter 2018 Newsletter

 Fortis News and Tips About GDPR

July 24, 2018

Notable Achievements

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2018 Mergers & Acquisitions - Law Firm of the Year - USA

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2018 Corporate Law Firm of the Year in Colorado

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2018 Excellence in Securities Law Services - Colorado, USA

Events

BUSINESS LAW INSTITUTE SEPTEMBER 12-13, 2018

Ritz-Carlton Denver
Julie Herzog will present "Negotiating Your Next M&A Deal." Julie will be advising other attorneys on how to get the most for their clients in critical transactions. More information is available here:
https://www.fortislawpartners.com/events/ 

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HELPING THE HOMELESS
The Fortis attorneys and staff work hard to contribute to their Colorado community. Every last Tuesday of the month, the Fortis team makes and delivers dozens of meals and other supplies to the homeless in downtown Denver.  Here’s a picture of the Fortis team making the delivery in June:

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Press

Henry Baskerville was interviewed extensively by Westword about his representation of a client that is prominent in the CBD industry:   http://www.westword.com/news/cbd-lawsuit-in-colorado-claims-counterclaims-and-a-woman-named-swindler-10326759

Successful Client Results

Litigation Successes

  • The Fortis litigation team of Cara Thornton, Henry Baskerville and Christine Lamb won an impressive victory on behalf of our property owner client following a week-long bench trial in Adams County.  The dispute involved an unauthorized sublease of commercial warehouse space to a marijuana extraction laboratory.  The Court not only found in favor of our client on claims of negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment, but also found in favor of our client on its counterclaim against the Plaintiff for intentionally interfering with the lease and its cross-claim against the tenant for breaching the lease.
  • Congratulations to Christine Lamb for her recent victory at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Following oral argument, the 9th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an employee’s lawsuit claiming FMLA discrimination.  The Court found that our client terminated the employee due to his poor customer service immediately prior to his leave of absence, and not in retaliation for taking FMLA leave.

Transactional Successes

  • Fortis represented Digital Fusion in its acquisition by an international e-commerce company. “I'm so grateful that Fortis came into our life to guide us through the process of selling my company.  As a first-time Founder and CEO, I didn't appreciate what it takes to get a deal done.  From the ebb and flow of the deal cycle, details, and personalities, Fortis handled it with professionalism and effectiveness.  Julie Herzog and the Fortis team are on my go-to recommendation list to CEOs who want to buy or sell, as well as our commercial legal needs.”-Joel Morrow, CEO, Digital Fusion

 

  • Fortis has assisted MycoTechnology, a leading food technology company, in negotiating and closing multiple licensing and other commercial transactions generating significant revenues for the Company. “Fay is the best – She makes my life easier” -  Alan Hahn, CEO, MycoTechnology

 

    • We represented a technology company in the $25.5 Million sale of one of its subsidiaries to a strategic buyer.
    • We represented Outward Hound in its acquisition by J.W. Childs Associates.  More information about the transaction is available here.
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    • We represented a lender in a $2.1M debt financing for a Colorado hemp company.
    • We represented a Colorado agriculture company in a $2.3M equity financing and the formation and financing of subsidiaries.

    Legal News

    GDPR and other regulatory changes: Are your data practices compliant?

    Last quarter, a number of our clients sought our advice on how to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”). In some cases, our guidance resulted in clients modifying their website terms and conditions, privacy policies, and data collection and handling processes.  GDPR was enacted by the European Union and went into effect on June 25 of this year.  Among other things, GDPR imposes new requirements for collecting and handling data, anonymizing user information, notifying users of data breaches, and allowing users to view and delete their personal data. This law applies to more than just companies in the European Union—companies outside the EU that collect or process data from EU citizens are subject to the requirements as well. 

    Similarly, California recently passed the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, which will go into effect on January 1, 2020.  This law provides new restrictions on larger handlers of data and affords new rights to consumers who provide data to operators of websites and other platforms.  For more information on these changes, please see the general resources below.  If you are concerned about the compliance of your data management practices, the attorneys at Fortis are happy to help.

    https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2018/05/24/613983268/a-cheat-sheet-on-europe-s-sweeping-privacy-law

    https://hbr.org/2018/07/what-you-need-to-know-about-californias-new-data-privacy-law

    ALERT! Website ADA Compliance

     

    ALERT!!

    IS YOUR WEBSITE ADA COMPLIANT?

    Approximately 7 million Americans are visually impaired, meaning that your potential customers and clients may be unable to access or effectively use your website if the website is not compatible with certain assistive technologies such as screen readers or voice recognition software. 

    Moreover, if your website is not accessible to visually impaired users, you may be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and are susceptible to lawsuits brought by plaintiffs’ firms that are exploiting the ambiguous nature of ADA regulations on website accessibility, and filing hundreds of lawsuits against private businesses.

    Title III of the ADA requires that businesses make reasonable accommodations to those with recognized disabilities, and applies to any business that is considered a “public accommodation.” A non-exhaustive list concerning which businesses are considered “public accommodations” may be found here, but the general rule is that any business that regularly serves the public is considered a public accommodation.

    Since the beginning of 2015, more than 240 businesses have faced federal lawsuits claiming their websites were inaccessible to visually impaired users, in violation of the ADA. These lawsuits often result in quick settlements for between $10,000 and $75,000, and include agreements that the businesses would update their websites to ensure accessibility. An investment of time and money now may be far less expensive for your business than the litigation which, at this point, seems not to be a matter of if it will happen, but when.

    Fortis Law Partners has expertise in helping clients make their websites compliant with the ADA.  Please contact Liz Hartsel if you have been served with a demand letter, or if you have any questions about ADA compliance.[1]  

    [1] In addition, you should review the currently accepted (but not mandated) guidance document for making web content more accessible, which is available here.

    Fortis Welcomes Four New Attorneys

    Fortis Law Partners expands the depth and breadth of its practice by welcoming four new attorneys to our team.  They will be working along with our other lawyers in the firm to continue to provide top legal representation to our clients.

    Cara Thornton, Partner

    Cara is a seasoned litigator with more than 15 years of experience representing both individual and corporate clients in complex commercial litigation cases including real estate disputes, intellectual property and trademark disputes, business disputes and business torts, and an array of other contract-related disputes. She has tried bench and jury trials throughout Colorado, and has appellate experience with both the Colorado Court of Appeals and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Please click here to review Cara’s full bio and contact information.

    Andrew Comer, Associate

    Andrew advises founders and companies on the formation, financing, and operation of their businesses.  He also advises on mergers and acquisitions, other commercial transactions, and the development and licensing of intellectual property, particularly in the technology space.  Andrew has worked extensively with executives and boards of directors on corporate governance, risk management, and strategic planning.

    Please click here to review Andrew’s full bio and contact information.

     Lenora (Leni) Plimpton, Associate

    Leni specializes in employment and labor law.  She handles defense-side employment litigation, including ADA claims, Title VII discrimination, FMLA, wage and hour disputes, EEOC charges, unemployment appeals, and more. She also provides employment advice and counseling and handles commercial litigation and appellate matters.  She is licensed in both Colorado and Utah.

    Please click here to review Leni’s full bio and contact information.

    Elizabeth (Liz) Hartsel, Of Counsel

    Liz represents individuals and public and private companies in commercial litigation, employment and securities matters.  She has also served as an adjunct professor at Champlain College teaching White Collar Crime and Business Law courses.

    Please click here to review Liz’s full bio and contact information.

    We are thrilled to have such amazing talent on our team!

     

    Preparing for the SEC’s New Disclosure Requirements on CEO/Employee Pay Ratios

    Preparing for the SEC’s New Disclosure Requirements on CEO/Employee Pay Ratios 

    January 24, 2017

    The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently released five Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations Questions and Answers (Q&As) providing additional guidance about the required disclosure of the ratio of public companies’ Chief Executive Officers’ total annual compensation to the median total compensation of all employees.

    Background

    In August 2015, the SEC adopted rules implementing requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act amending the executive compensation disclosure regulations under Item 402 of Regulation S-K. The rules require public companies to disclose the ratio of total annual compensation of the Chief Executive Officer (or Principal Executive Officer, as stated in the rules) to the median total compensation of all employees. The rules state that companies can determine the median employee compensation as determined either in the same manner as the CEO’s total annual compensation in the Summary Compensation Table, in another “consistently applied compensation measure” (CACM), by statistical sampling, by reasonable estimates, or by other reasonable methods.

    While the rules do not designate a specific preferred CACM to determine the median employee, the rules do state that the CACM must reflect the facts and circumstances of the registrant’s workforce. The rules also state that the population from which the median employee is identified must include all full-time, part-time, temporary, seasonal, and foreign employees. The final rules implementing the disclosure requirements are effective for fiscal years beginning on or after January 1, 2017 (Generally, the 2018 Proxy Season).

    The Median Employee

    Three of the recently released Q&As focus on identification of the median employee through the use of a CACM. Two such Q&As addressed how a registrant would select a CACM. The SEC’s guidance confirmed that an appropriate CACM would be based upon a registrant’s facts and circumstances and specifically noted that total cash compensation may not be appropriate if the registrant also broadly provides equity compensation and that Social Security taxes withheld would be a CACM but only if all employees earned less than the Social Security Wage base. The SEC further clarified that the use of hourly or annual rates of pay without consideration of hours worked would not be a CACM.

    In the third Q&A related to the selection of a CACM, the SEC explained that when applying a CACM to identify the median employee, a registrant does not have to use the period that includes the date on which the employee population is determined, so long as there has not been a change in the employee population or compensation arrangements that would result in a significant change in the pay distribution of the workforce such that the period utilized would no longer accurately reflect the registrants facts and circumstances. A CACM may also entail using compensation over a period other than a full annual period.

    The Employee Population

    The remaining Q&As address whether certain categories of employees should be included in the population from which the median employee is determined. For furloughed employees, the SEC guidance states that a registrant must determine whether a furloughed person is an employee based on the registrant’s facts and circumstances because companies define furloughed employees differently. If a furloughed worker is an employee on the date the employee population is determined, such worker’s compensation should be determined using the same methodology as a non-furloughed employee.

    For independent contractors, such workers are not considered employees if an independent third party determines their compensation. The SEC’s guidance provides that registrants should consider the composition of their workforce and overall employment and compensation practices in making determinations regarding employee/contractor status. The guidance related to independent contractors also provides the insights that (i) registrants are not considered to determine compensation if the registrant only specifies minimum compensation levels for services provided by unaffiliated third party contractors and (ii) the individual contractor may be the “unaffiliated third party” who determines his or her own compensation.

    Takeaway

    The five Q&As recently released by the SEC provide additional guidance for companies preparing disclosures to comply with the rules, which are effective for compensation disclosures for fiscal years beginning January 1, 2017.

    Fortis Law Partners LLC is a boutique Denver law firm that represents middle-market public companies on SEC compliance matters, in addition to being a full service corporate, commercial, tax, real estate, litigation, and employment law firm. Please contact us to schedule an introductory meeting to review your company’s disclosures to ensure compliance with this updated guidance or any other securities issues.

    For more information or to discuss specific scenarios, please contact:

    Julie Herzog, Partner
    https://www.fortislawpartners.com/julie-herzog/
    jherzog@fortislawpartners.com
    303-295-9707