Job claims: Attorney counsels clients on key workplace issues

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney James Reid has handled some interesting — and perhaps offbeat — challenges in the often-thorny field of employment law. These include a case involving a termination for ugly orthopedic shoes; an alleged harassment involving an African American employee not having dark enough skin; and a civil claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress — in addition to a worker’s compensation claim — because a boss told an employee his performance was insufficient.

“The challenging part is that the cost to take any of these claims to trial usually exceeds the amount of compensation the plaintiffs are seeking to settle these matters,” Reid notes.

An attorney at Maddin, Hauser, Wartell, Roth & Heller in Southfield, Reid works with employers in training HR personnel, and developing and improving employment policies, contracts, handbooks, agreements, non-competes, non-disclosure agreements, and unconditional releases and separation agreements.

“I enjoy counseling and advising clients how to analyze issues and make smart business decisions,” he says. “Most people don’t identify all of the issues regarding employment law, so if you identify the issues and study the details of the case you can actually make a significant change to people’s lives and businesses.”

With technology changing the employment landscape, Reid is seeing a lot of new policy trends surrounding electronic devices — such as policies banning employees from secretly recording office conversations; policies limiting the ability for non-exempt employees to access work materials outside of the office, so employers are not liable to pay them for checking e-mail outside of the office; and policies requiring passwords on all personal electronic devices that may have the ability to access work information.

Companies should make certain each employee has a personnel file that identifies their positive and negative attributes, Reid notes.

“If their work is thoroughly documented, and this information is transmitted with employee movement, most liability should be reduced,” he says.

Reid found law to be a natural progression from the game of chess, which he started playing at the age of 3 with arrows on the back of the pieces to show move options.

“The law expanded my ability to think strategically, think tactically and plan ahead to defend the next move of the opponent,” he says.

He earned his undergrad degree, cum laude, in political science-prelaw from Michigan State University. 

“I always believed being involved in public affairs was both a privilege and a responsibility — if we don’t get involved, others may shape our future,” he says. “Every citizen deserves protection under the constitution, so public life and the law are intimately connected.”

He received his J.D., cum laude, from Wayne State University Law School, where he was an associate editor of the Wayne Law Review. A member of the Oakland County Bar Association, he is involved with several organizations, including the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and his article on Managing Unemployment Tax Liability will be published in the next edition of the Michigan SHRM Conference Magazine. He recently led a webinar on HR laws and best practices, such as how to reduce liability; strategies for enforcing appropriate written handbook policies; and new policy trends, such as social media and iPad communications; and has also conducted a podcast on unions and the fast food industry.

Reid and his wife, Demetra, also a Wayne Law grad, met while working as public defenders in Ann Arbor where Reid was working during law school. 

“She went to work in-house at a large company where she focused on many employment issues that helped me become more interested in employment law,” he says.

The two have been married 5 years and have a 3-year-old daughter, Katerina; with a son, James V, due in August.

Rated approximately 1,700 on chess.com, Reid occasionally plays at the local chess club at the Canton Library. He also coaches basketball and takes part in other volunteer work at the Greek Orthodox Church in Ann Arbor.

His new toy is a 2011 Trek Six Series road bike, on which he clocks more than 100 miles a week in the early hours before work or on the weekends.

“It’s fun to keep track of my rides on an application called strava.com, so I’m able to track improvements and compare myself to others that ride the same segments,” he says.

Reid also is a champion paddleball player, a sport he has played competitively since the age of 7, winning several national junior titles (age 12 and under). He stopped playing to focus on tennis at Saline High School, where he played No. 2 singles, then picked up paddleball again while at Wayne Law, and has placed second in the National Doubles and Singles
tournaments Division C.  In 2012, he took second place in the National Doubles Tournament Division C.

“I partnered with a guy I never met before from Las Vegas,” he says. “I didn’t have time to travel to California for the national tournament this year but intend to play next year.”
 

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