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Jason M. Knott

Email | 202.778.1813

Jason Knott, a partner in Zuckerman Spaeder’s Washington office, represents individuals and companies in civil litigation, white-collar criminal matters, and government investigations. Some of his favorite cases have been “Suits by Suits.”

Full bio

  • What Makes a Work Environment “Hostile”?

    | Jason M. Knott

    Federal employment law protects against a number of different types of discrimination, including treating employees differently because of age, gender, or race. 

    More and more often, employees bring discrimination claims based on harassment, rather than (or in addition to) claims based on employer decisions that appear to be discriminatory. 

    However, an employee can only bring a harassment claim under federal law if the employer has engaged in "discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult" that was "sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment." See Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17 (1993).

  • California Court Refuses to Shelve Barnes & Noble Manager’s Termination Claim

    | Jason M. Knott

    An employee without an employment contract is typically deemed to be an at-will employee. In an at-will employment relationship, the employer has the right to terminate the employee for any reason permitted by law, with or without cause.

    Moreover, when employers write their employee handbooks, they frequently adopt strong language describing this at-will employment structure and warning employees of this termination right. But sometimes even this handbook language isn’t enough to protect an employer from a claim that an employee is exempt from termination without good cause.

    That’s exactly what happened to Barnes & Noble in Oakes v. Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, LLC, a recent decision from the California Court of Appeal.

  • Can Employers Discriminate Against Employees Based on Sexual Orientation? No, According to this Key Court

    | Jason M. Knott

    Federal law—specifically, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on a number of protected characteristics, including sex, race, national origin, and religion.

    One major open question, however, is whether Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation. For example, if a job candidate is openly gay, can the employee refuse to hire that person because of his sexual orientation without violating federal law?

    The Supreme Court has never spoken on the issue.

  • Ex-General Counsel Dodged Privilege Claims Before $14.5 Million Verdict (pt 2)

    | Jason M. Knott

    In our last post, we detailed how Sanford Wadler, the former general counsel of Bio-Rad Laboratories, won a $14.5 million verdict against Bio-Rad.

    Before Wadler could get to a jury, however, he had to surmount a significant hurdle: Bio-Rad asked the judge to exclude any testimony based on information Wadler learned in his role as in-house counsel. Bio-Rad relied on an attorney’s ethical duty to protect client confidences unless the client is threatening criminal activity that could lead to death or serious bodily harm.

  • How Did This Ex-General Counsel Win $14.5 Million From His Former Employer? (pt 1)

    | Jason M. Knott

    Companies entrust their in-house attorneys with sensitive and confidential information in order to obtain legal advice on important matters. Thus, when an in-house attorney turns on his or her employer, the repercussions can be significant.

    In a recent case involving just this situation, a jury awarded Sanford Wadler, the former general counsel for Bio-Rad Laboratories, an $8 million verdict for wrongful termination. The jury found that Wadler raised concerns about violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) at Bio-Rad, and that the company violated the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and California public policy when it terminated him after he raised those concerns.

  • Beware the Deadlock: Delaware Courts Step in on Corporate Dysfunction

    | Jason M. Knott

    The board of directors controls a corporation, but individual directors don’t always agree on the future direction of the company. Sometimes, boards can split into factions. A company’s CEO may align himself with one side and oppose the other.

    In rarer circumstances, these disagreements can develop into corporate gridlock. This happens when the warring factions on a board are equally divided.

    What can a court do to fix this situation?

  • Headed for Overtime? Trump Administration Will Decide Fate of New Time-and-a-Half Rule

    | Jason M. Knott

    If you're an employee and you work more than 40 hours a week, you typically have the right to receive time-and-a-half overtime pay for those extra hours.

    But there's a significant exception to this rule: it does not apply to white-collar workers, such as executives. As summarized on the Department of Labor's website, to be considered a white-collar worker and thus exempt from the overtime requirement, you have to be paid a salary and not by the hour; you have to make more than $455 per week; and you have to work in a certain kind of job, such as a managerial or professional role.

  • A Closer Look at the New Lawsuit By Baylor Football Coach Art Briles

    | Jason M. Knott

    It’s been a tough few months for Baylor football and its former coach Art Briles. Baylor fired Briles in May of this year, after an outside law firm investigated the school’s response to alleged sexual assaults by football players and other students.
     
    In early December, Briles fought back, filing a lawsuit against four of the University’s regents.
     
    The first question that may occur to you is why this lawsuit isn’t against Baylor for wrongful termination. But as Briles’s complaint explains, he already filed that lawsuit; Baylor settled the case quickly on confidential terms.

  • Suits by Suits Named to Blawg 100

    | Andrew N. Goldfarb and Jason M. Knott

    Well, we made it!

    In the 10th annual Blawg 100, ABA Journal named Suits by Suits among “the 100 most compelling” blogs in the legal market. We’re thrilled to be recognized and listed alongside some great writers, blogs, and firms.

    From ABA Journal:

    Every year since 2007, we ABA Journal staffers have assembled a list of our 100 favorite legal blogs for the December issue. Here, you can scroll down to peruse our selections from every past year as well as this one. Some blogs listed over the years are still thriving after a decade or more, while others went dark long ago. And of course, many excellent blogs are absent from later lists only because they’ve been retired to our Blawg 100 Hall of Fame….

    Suits by Suits

    NEW: Lawyer-bloggers from Zuckerman Spaeder cover disputes between companies and their executives—often in the context of criminal investigations into possible corporate wrongdoing. Can a “suit” be fired for taking the Fifth or otherwise not cooperating with an investigation? If your client is accused of misappropriating trade secrets and his or her computer is seized, what recourse is there? If former company directors or officers face legal claims, can they demand the company advance legal fees?

    Thanks to our readers for your support. We hope you find Suits by Suits informative and insightful, and we’re looking forward to another year of writing and posting in 2017.

    Check out the complete Blawg 100 list.

  • “Change of Control” Case Isn’t Governed By ERISA, Court Rules

    | Jason M. Knott

    When an employee brings a lawsuit involving a plan adopted by their employer, one question is whether ERISA—the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974—applies.

    ERISA is a federal law that requires a number of disclosures and safeguards for employee benefit plans. ERISA governs both employee welfare benefit plans (such as insurance or sickness plans) and pension benefit plans (such as retirement plans).

    But it doesn’t apply to every plan adopted by an employer, as the recent decision in Hall v. Lsref4 Lighthouse Corporate Acquisitions, LLC, 6:16-CV-06461 EAW (W.D.N.Y. Nov. 10, 2016), shows.

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Contributing Editors
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Jason M. Knott
Partner
Email | 202.778.1813


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Andrew N. Goldfarb
Partner
Email | 202.778.1822