Established in 1998, Halunen Law, an Employment Law Firm in Minneapolis, is a powerful advocate for the rights of employees, whistleblowers, and consumers. The firm’s vision, determination, and dedication has led it to national recognition and respect. Today, Halunen Law is a team of attorneys that brings justice for its clients and meaningful social change in boardrooms, lunchrooms, and locker rooms all across the country.

Following is the conversation that Manage HR magazine had with attorneys at the firm.

Please elaborate on the difference that Halunen Law creates in the Employment and Whistleblower space.

From the initial conversation to the conclusion of your case, we’ll lead the way to the justice you deserve, whether you have experienced discrimination or retaliation, or whether you are a whistleblower. We provide expert, personal guidance, explain your options, and help you navigate the legal process. We know it can be daunting but rest assured we’ll go to extraordinary lengths to ensure you receive the best possible outcome. Halunen Law seeks to set things right and tirelessly pursues justice and reasonable retribution. Our extensive legal expertise, years of amassed experience, and commitment to our clients set us apart as one of the best employment and whistleblower law firms.

At Halunen Law, we are committed to providing our clients with a proven process that will keep them informed, make sure they understand the process and get the best results. We cannot guarantee the result, but we can guarantee our commitment to the following:

• We engage with and maintain a high profile in the legal community

• We ensure a good match between your goals and what we can do

• We develop the strongest case possible

• We deliver zealous representation

• We achieve resolution

What are the market pain points of your clients that have manifested as opportunities for your solution and approach?

Unexpected or unwanted career transitions can, at the same time, bring anxiety and opportunity. While we often handle executive severance situations, the principles often apply to any employee facing a wrongful termination.

If you’re an executive or other high-ranking employee who finds yourself asked or forced to leave your current position, it’s important to make smart, informed decisions about how to do so. This includes careful consideration of any proposed severance package from your soon-to-be-former employer.

There’s much more to a severance package than how many weeks or months of pay you’ll get, as important as that is. A severance agreement is not only about what your employer gives you but also what the organization expects in return. If you’re not careful or fail to consult an executive and professional severance attorney before signing on the dotted line, you could lose out on benefits, forfeit rights, or limit future career opportunities.

No business wants the uncertainty, disruption, and potential financial or reputational damage that are by-products of employment litigation. Employer misconduct claims cost American businesses $20.2 billion in 2021, according to a Vault Platform study. That’s why companies attempt to insulate themselves against claims of harassment, discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and wrongful termination.

Many executives and employees, however, may not be aware that they have potential employment-related claims. When a company makes an employment decision for legally prohibited reasons, there’s usually a pretense. That pretense may not be readily apparent. That’s why it’s critical to consult an employment attorney before signing a severance agreement or after you have been unexpectedly terminated. Even the possibility that an employee may have a claim can up the ante for the employer and lead to a more equitable deal.

Similarly, a company may use a severance agreement as a way to limit an employee’s competitive activities after they leave. Executives, in particular, must tread with caution if presented with such provisions. Noncompetition and nonsolicitation clauses in a severance agreement are valuable promises to the employer but can severely restrict the executive’s ability to pursue new opportunities if they’re too broad and restrictive.

Departing employees may not have the nicest things to say about their companies or colleagues. Even without a lawsuit or claim, word of a company’s allegedly toxic or problematic work environment or practices can spread quickly among employees and job candidates. Companies are often happy to offer more severance in exchange for a non-disparagement provision that can protect both sides from the impact of negative comments.

How do your national employment law attorneys understand that employers may claim they have a legitimate reason for the actions they took against employees? Please elaborate.

While we understand that employers may state what appears to be a legitimate reason for what they have done, employees can often demonstrate the reason is not true and a pretext for something else. In the employment law context, pretext means a reason for an action that is false or not credible. It is essentially something that covers up an employer’s true actions or motives. Most people implicitly understand what pretext is, and many of us have experienced it in our lives at some point — whether in our jobs, in our personal lives or in some other context.

An employer might have said that it fired you because of an economic downturn. But it will be up to you to show that this simply isn’t true, and the real reason was, say, your complaint about the illegal conditions of employment. Pretext can also be shown based on factors such as statistics, differential treatment, witness statements showing bias or falsity, or pointing out that the stated reason makes no sense. Statistics can show that your employer has a tendency to treat certain employees in a certain way (for example, no female employees are in management positions), while people similarly situated can show that the employer’s stated reason is simply not true.

From the initial conversation to the conclusion of your case, we’ll lead the way to the justice you deserve

The message for employers in this is to be certain that reasons given for adverse actions against employees are credible, true, and supported by the evidence.

Please shed light on the years of trial experience and work that Halunen Law has to protect the rights of your clients.

Halunen Law resolves most cases prior to trial. But our opponents know that we will go to trial if that is what it will take to resolve a case. For example, after a week-long trial, a jury found that Globe University had fired Halunen client Heidi Weber because she had reported to Globe executives that the school was violating consumer fraud laws by misleading students about its programs. The jury awarded Weber damages of approximately $400,000. Besides the trial award to Weber, Globe was liable for other costs including attorneys’ fees, and interest, resulting in a judgment in excess of $1 million.

How did you keep track of the right ingredients that you wanted to have to build the relevant solutions portfolio? How do you make sure that your offerings help organizations to understand real-world requirements and fulfill them?

Halunen Law was built on a rock-solid foundation of core values posted on everyone’s desk: we mutually strive to be strategic, collaborative, passionate, and results-driven. As part of the team, our attorneys and staff are expected to live by those values. We select cases we believe in and come to work excited about the next new challenge. Our success would not be possible without the shared values that motivate and energize our extraordinary team.

A 100 percent contingency firm, Halunen Law, is anything but risk averse. The firm’s formula of careful selection, meticulous case development, and dogged representation yields winning results. We have a pretty amazing track record—resolving between 90 and 95 percent of employment cases we handle. Our tenacious, dedicated, experienced team consistently demonstrates what’s possible when fierce advocacy and courageous clients work together to hold others accountable for their illegal actions in the workplace.

Finally, we have emphasized our employment and whistleblower practice in this article, but the firm also provides the same expertise and passion in mounting class actions on behalf of wronged consumers.