Author Archive

The Employment Relationship: A Weighty Matter. #EmploymentLaw

Recently the United States was surpassed by Mexico as the most obese nation. Of course this doesn’t change the fact that many people in the United States are overweight. While reasonable minds may disagree as to the severity of the issue or what to do about it, from my perspective as an Arizona employment attorney, at least we can all agree that the law should not allow a person’s weight to affect his or her ability to make a living. Or should it?

Tara Costa, a former contestant on the popular reality television show “Biggest Loser,” reportedly lost 155 pounds during her time on the show. Now her weight is at issue in a different context, with a company suing Ms. Costa, alleging that she breached a contract by putting on too much weight.

According to news reports out recently, a lawsuit filed by the company FC Online Marketing, Inc. alleges that, following Ms. Costa’s success on “Biggest Loser,” FC Online hired Ms. Costa as a spokesperson. However, after Ms. Costa regained 45 pounds (as the company alleges), she was unfit to be a spokesperson and was in breach of her contract.

Whether Ms. Costa actually gained weight and whether that resulted in a breach of contract will depend on the evidence and on the terms of her contract. While not all of the details of this case are available, it does raise some interesting questions. For example, is it legal for a person to be fired for being overweight?

In Arizona, state law provides that the employment relationship “is severable at the pleasure of either the employee or employer” unless there is a written contract which would limit a person’s right to terminate the employment relationship. (Arizona Revised Statutes § 23-1501). Where there is no written contract, generally a person can quit or be fired at any time. However, there are important exceptions to this rule.

For example, the law does not allow anyone to be terminated based on the person’s race or sex. Likewise, a person with a legally-recognized disability cannot be terminated for having the disability where an employer’s reasonable accommodation will allow the person to perform the required job duties. A disability may be a hearing or speech impairment, AIDS, diabetes, or a number of other things. However, what qualifies as a disability is not always clear and often depends on the court hearing the case. On the question of whether obesity is a disability for purposes of employment discrimination has been handled different by various courts in different jurisdictions. At the very least, an employer takes a risk by terminating an employee because of a weight issue. A person facing termination because of being overweight is well-advised to meet with an attorney to discuss his legal options.

We frequently advise both employees and employers regarding the termination of an employment relationship. If you have any questions about what your rights are as an employee or as an employer, you will likely benefit by meeting with a qualified employment law attorney to discuss your specific situation.

Not All Litigation is A Slam Dunk Case #LawsuitAttorney

The Cleveland Cavaliers surprised the basketball world by choosing Anthony Bennett as the first selection in the NBA draft. Nerlens Noel, whom many predicted would be the first pick, was not chosen until the sixth pick in the draft. Even Noel apparently expected to go higher in the draft, and reportedly said of the teams who did not select him earlier that he would “make them pay.” Noel’s disappointment may stem from his relying too much on what others—e.g., reporters, agents, even friends and family—told him would happen on draft day.

Similar to Noel’s experience, parties involved in litigation often expect to obtain a resounding judgment in their case. These expectations are not always well-founded and may be based on the opinions of others, including legal counsel. There is more one story of an attorney’s unfulfilled promise of victory. Things do not always go as hoped in life and in litigation. There is always risk involved in litigation, and, continuing with the basketball theme, there is rarely a “slam-dunk” case.

At Rowley Chapman & Barney, we will not make you promises that we cannot keep, and we will not guarantee any results in your litigation. What we will do, is give you an honest and informed opinion on the merits of your case and promise to do put forth our “A game” in working to obtain the relief you seek. If you have a questions about a lawsuit or litigation case call us at (480) 833-1113 and we will determine the merits of your case together.

You Lost a Lawsuit And There Is A Final Judgment Against You Or Is It? #Judgments

It is not uncommon for a person to receive notice that a default judgment has been entered against them in a lawsuit, even though the person may have not ever known of the existence of the lawsuit. Although this may happen for a number of reasons, the first thing a person in this situation should do is contact an experienced lawsuit or litigation attorney to determine whether the default judgment can be set aside. The law provides for the setting aside of a default judgment under certain circumstances. For example, if a person can show he was never served with the lawsuit or that his failure to respond to the lawsuit was the result of “excusable neglect” then the court may set aside the judgment and allow the litigation to start over.

There are other things a court will consider in determining whether to set aside a default judgment, and an experienced lawsuit or litigation attorney can help you understand what those things are and whether they apply in your case. If you have any qustions about judgments call us at (480) 833-1113 and we will advise you about your best course of action.

Attorney Profile: Nathaniel Wadsworth, Lawsuit and Litigation Attorney

A Poor Economy Is No Excuse For Not Paying Employees #EmploymentLaw

Many news reports these days suggest that the economy is still not good but is getting better. Of course there are still many businesses and families facing hard times. However, the poor economy should be no excuse for an employer to not pay its employees. As an Arizona employment law attorney, I have met with many people who perform the work they were hired to do and then do not receive the promised payment.

In some situations, an employee will work for weeks or even months without pay in the hope that the employer will pay in the end. An employer’s failure to pay its employees is unacceptable. Arizona law provides generally that when an employer fails to pay its employee the wages due, “the employee may recover in a civil action against an employer or former employer an amount that is treble [three times] the amount of the unpaid wages.” A.R.S. § 23-355. This law should be incentive for an employer to honor its agreement to pay its employees. You should meet with an experienced employment law attorney if you need help recovering money owed by your employer.

Attorney Profile: Nathaniel Wadsworth, Employment Law Attorney

Business Owners – Are Your Non-Compete Agreements Up-To-Date? #EmploymentLaw

With the start of a new year, many people begin thinking of resolutions related to personal fitness and weight control. “This year I will lose X number of pounds,” is a common goal. However, many may testify that it is easier to never to gain extra weight in the first place.

In legal matters, it is also easier to avoid legal difficulties than to have to fight a lawsuit after the fact. One example of this is in a company’s employment practices. Many companies have out-of-date non-compete agreements with their employees which may not be enforceable in court. An employer may discover only when it is too late that its non-compete agreement does not provide the protection intended. Non-compete agreements must be narrowly-tailored and limited in time and geographic scope, or a court will not enforce them. If you have not had your employment policies and non-compete agreements reviewed recently, you may save your business a lot of risk and trouble by having them reviewed and revised by an experienced employment and business law attorney. Call me today at (480) 833-1113 to make an appointment to have your non-compete agreements reviewed before you need to enforce them.

Attorney Profile: Nathaniel Wadsworth, Business & Corporate Attorney

When A Business Has A Change In Leadership #BusinessLawyer

Pope Benedict XVI announced recently that he will be resigning his position as the leader of the Catholic Church. While a Pope’s resignation is not common, it is common for leaders of businesses to resign their positions, either because of age, a sale of the business, a forced resignation by others with an interest in the business, or any number of other reasons. When these situations arise, it is imperative that the business follow the legal and corporate requirements for the changes to be effective and enforceable. If you need help in these or other corporate matters, you will be well-served by seeking the assistance of an experienced business law attorney. Call us at (480) 833-1113 and one of our experienced business lawyers will help you with whatever transition you are facing.

Attorney Profile: Nathaniel Wadsworth, Business & Corporate Attorney

Destroying Evidence Will Not (Necessarily) Suppress the Truth #LitigationLawyer

Tampering with HarddiskEvery day it seems we learn in the news of another scandal involving a government official or other famous person. From an affair and threatening emails leading to the resignation of David Petraeus to the suspension of football players for restaurant fights or drug use, we frequently become privy to matters these public figures no doubt assumed would remain private. Despite efforts to hide it, the truth finds a way of coming out.

This principle is seen in litigation as well. Sometimes a person involved in a lawsuit believes he can get away with deleting disparaging emails or other condemning evidence. Certainly there are occasions when people successfully suppress the truth (at least for a time). However, subpoenas to third parties, sophisticated technology and other investigative tools frequently lead to the discovery of the true facts of a case. Furthermore, the courts are empowered to punish people for purposefully destroying evidence, which dissuades some from efforts to hide the truth. Regardless of whether a person is a famous or not, he may find that he cannot keep the truth hidden.

If you find yourself in need of legal advice with regard to how to handle evidence you know about, call me at (480) 833-1113 and we discuss your situation.

Attorney Profile: Nathaniel Wadsworth, Contract & Litigation Law (Civil & Commercial)

You Breached a Contract, So What? #ContractLaw

Broken ContractRecently I met with a woman who was party to a contract with another person. The woman was extremely frustrated because the other party to the contract breached the contract. I read the contract and listened to the woman describe what happened. There was no doubt that a breach occurred. However, it was equally as clear that this woman did not sustain any harm, or damages, because of the breach. She did not lose any money or time or other opportunities.

I explained to her that, generally, for a person to win a lawsuit for breach of contract, the law requires that a breach occur and that damages result. Where there are no damages, there is usually no relief to be sought. So while breaching a contract may be wrong, it is not always enough to subject a person to a lawsuit.

If you have questions about a contract you have entered into with another party or what to do if someone has broken a contract with you, call me today at (480) 833-1113.

Attorney Profile: Nathaniel Wadsworth, Contract & Litigation Law (Civil & Commercial)

Your Name in Contract Law – Very Important!

Contract Law - Signing Your NameShakespeare reminds us that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. However, this metaphor only goes so far. A contract signed in any other name is not necessarily enforceable in the same way.

Some business owners, for example, have made the mistake of signing their personal name to a contract without making any indication in the document that they are signing on behalf of their company. If a problem arises, the other party to the contract then may attempt to hold the individual owner liable on the contract instead of or in addition to the business. Much litigation can be spared if people are careful in the way they sign their contracts.

Call us at 480-833-1113 and our experienced contract and litigation attorneys will make sure your name is protected!

Attorney Profile: Nathaniel Wadsworth, Contract & Litigation Attorney

Contract & Litigation Law: Collecting on a Judgment

Nathaniel Wadsworth - Contract & Litigation Attorney

Nathaniel Wadsworth
Contract & Litigation Attorney

It was widely reported recently that Apple, the maker of the iPhone, won a lawsuit against its competitor, Samsung, in the amount of more than $1 billion. It is commonly misunderstood that after a party wins a lawsuit, it will automatically receive the money awarded. Often times, however collecting the money from a judgment is even more challenging than winning the lawsuit.

Although there are several ways to collect money on a judgment, in Arizona the most common ways to collect include the garnishment of wages and bank accounts. In garnishing the wages of a person who owes money on a judgment (the judgment debtor), the person collecting the judgment (the judgment creditor) is generally entitled to receive 25% of the judgment debtor’s paycheck until the judgment is paid in full. In garnishing a bank account, the judgment creditor is able to seize nearly all of the money in the judgment debtor’s bank account up to the amount of the judgment.

Although it may sound simple, these processes of garnishing money are not always easy. For example, a judgment creditor does not always know where a judgment debtor works or keeps a bank account to garnish their money. Garnishments are also subject to various legal objections that the judgment debtor might make. Thus, a judgment creditor often discovers that collecting on a judgment is more difficult than winning a lawsuit.

If you have a judgment which you have been unable to collect, an experienced contract and litigation attorney can help you collect on that judgment. Call me today at (480) 833-1113, I have the knowledge and expertise you need to get you back what you are owed!

Attorney Profile: Nathaniel Wadsworth, Contract & Litigation Attorney