Givens discusses employment law, unemployment benefits

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Colorado Springs attorney Greg Givens has practiced law for 16 years and moved to Colorado Springs in 2010. A California native and Darmouth College graduate, Givens represents employees and employers in areas such as wrongful termination, discrimination, wage and hour and unemployment insurance appeals.

This week Givens spoke with the Business Journal on the perks of having his own firm and on different components of employment law.

To view the full article, read the Friday, Sept. 23, edition of the CSBJ.

What’s been a difference practicing in Colorado opposed to California?

Being able to get so connected into the community. When you’re in a city of millions of people, you get lost in the shuffle and there are hundreds of thousands of lawyers.

Colorado Springs a great place to start your own law practice — opposed to Denver — because you’re able to make connections quicker and can get to know not only attorneys, but also judges.

Why are you passionate about employment law?

Employment law strikes a nerve with people. If someone gets fired, that’s personal. If they’re fired after 10 years on the job and didn’t do anything wrong or all of a sudden their wages are decreased, they don’t get paid overtime or are sexually harassed — that’s personal.

I think part of being a good lawyer is knowing which cases to take and which cases not to take.

I also think empathy and compassion goes a long way in the practice of law, which often times lawyers lose sight of. People will come in the office, sit in the chair across from me and admit, ‘I don’t have a case. I just want to talk.’ But they feel listened to and feel like someone is validating what they’ve experienced.

What’s a changing trend in employment law?

There are fewer race discrimination cases as there were in the ’80s and ’90s.

But still an area of concern is disability discrimination, particularly when it comes to accommodation. The workforce is getting older and with age, people are going to have serious medical conditions that are going to require accommodation.

Are Colorado employees entitled to unemployment benefits even if they’re fired?

Here’s the general rule: If you are laid off, you’re generally entitled to unemployment benefits. People conflate receiving unemployment benefits with the belief they can challenge their termination in a civil proceeding. Those are two separate things.

Just because you receive unemployment benefits doesn’t mean you have been discriminated against or that you’re termination was “wrongful” under the civil law. All it means is that under the unemployment statute, you as a discharged and laid-off employee, were not responsible for your termination, entitling you to receive unemployment benefits.

In Colorado, the general rule is you get unemployment benefits if you’re fired, however, there are a lot of exceptions to the rule; the exceptions sometimes swallow the rule.

An exception would be if you’re fired for insubordination or violation of company policy — and that’s why I handle those types of claims. In California, there was no need for attorneys to handle such claims because it’s almost strict liability. If you’re fired you almost always get unemployment benefits.

I’ve handled numerous employment appeal hearings on behalf of employees and employers because employers will challenge employees’ right to benefits.

It’s very fact-specific, especially if someone is not laid off.

I understand when employers’ fight legitimate claims, like if someone stole from the company or someone came to work on drugs, was sabotaging the business or clearly underperforming.

In the close cases though, my advice to clients is — let it go. It’s going to be minimal; the benefits are a small price to pay. Treat your employees well and they will reward you. You have to choose your battles.

What is your next goal?

To expand my presence in the city. I want to bump up my internet presence, such as my website and LinkedIn, and maybe get to the point where I need to have attorneys working for me. Not necessarily as associates but contract attorneys.

Employment law is a great area of law because it’s ever-changing. That’s what is cool. You take on a new case and think, ‘Ok, let me change the landscape about how to prove age discrimination or what constitutes retaliation.’