Kalandra Wheeler
Texas Employment Lawyer Kalandra Wheeler

It’s great when you love your career, job, boss, and coworkers.  But, how do you handle the toxic employment relationship? 

Usually, with at-will employment, the exit is as simple as giving notice, shaking hands and saying goodbye. With at-will employment, employees have the right to end their employment with one company and pursue other career opportunities. Yet, sometimes ending the relationship requires more thought, knowledge, and preparation.  

If you signed an employment agreement, are being asked by your employer to sign a severance, believe you have potential claims against your employer, or are concerned about benefits such as unpaid bonuses or unused paid time off, it is best to speak to an attorney before implementing your exit strategy.  It is better to be informed and know your rights or potential liabilities than to be sorry.

You may ask, “How might I be sorry?”

There are a number of things that can go wrong when employees don’t know their rights or when they don’t fully understand the limitations or legal obligations placed on them by what they may have perceived as an insignificant piece of paper.  

When a company has the job you want – with the great pay and benefits you desire – they have power.  With that power, one should expect that any piece of paper they give you and/or ask you to sign will come with some benefits for the company.  The company wants to protect its interests, employees must protect theirs. 

Employment and severance agreements may contain a number of terms that are beneficial to the employer that employees should understand.  Many employers require that employees protect confidential information, enter into noncompete and non solicitation agreements, or waive their rights to pursue legal claims in court.  

For an employee that wants to start a competing business, they may need to know if there are limitations on when, where, and how they can begin their business upon resignation.  They may also need to understand restrictions on asking coworkers to join them in their new business venture and any restrictions on contacting clients of their employer after they’ve moved on.  A lack of knowledge in this area could result in lawsuits and severe financial consequences.  

Employment agreements may also dictate the manner in which an employee’s disputes with a company are handled.  It is very common for employers to want employees to enter into arbitration agreements.  What this means for an employee is that if there is ever an employment dispute, it won’t be resolved by a jury of the employee’s peers, but instead by an arbitrator.  

Aside from considering the documents signed when beginning one’s employment and what they mean for one’s exit, if an employee has legal claims as a result of a toxic employment environment, an employee should also consider what a voluntary resignation may mean for their potential claims.  Not all employment disputes are the same.  Therefore, an employee should know that there are circumstances under which resignations can be detrimental to legal claims, and this is certainly something the employee should know before tendering their resignation.

Another consideration before resigning is what you may be leaving behind.  Is there an unpaid bonus?  Is there unused paid time off?  Depending on what’s in an employment agreement, employee handbook, or other employee document, resignation could put an unpaid bonus at risk, and the same can be said of unused paid time off.  After resigning, it can be disheartening to learn that your annual bonus will not be paid.  Get answers before you make the move.

Leaving a toxic employment relationship could be as easy as saying goodbye.  However, if you have concerns about documents you signed or are being asked to sign, want to know if you have potential claims and whether resignation will negatively impact them, or want to understand various company policies and how they may relate to your resignation, it is best to speak to an employment attorney before taking action.  Our attorneys are here to help.

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Photo of Kalandra N. Wheeler Kalandra N. Wheeler

We asked Kalandra N. Wheeler, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions.  After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Ms. Wheeler

We asked Kalandra N. Wheeler, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions.  After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Ms. Wheeler brings.

1.Why did you start practicing labor and employment law?

I wanted to be able to help people that otherwise might not find help. Labor and employment laws affect most of society.  And – whether our results help one or many – our work and efforts as employment lawyers touch people in a real way in their every day lives.

2. Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?

Thurgood Marshall.

3. What do you think is the most important part of a good case?

The client. Good facts and evidence are definitely important. But good clients are a lawyers’ most valuable asset.  A good client: (1) is invested in their case; (2) works or worked hard for their employer; (3) can tell their story clearly and concisely; and (4) is someone that a jury will find sympathetic and relatable.

4. If you could write a new law, what would it do?

The Texas Workplace Anti-Bullying law.  I hear the stories, the ones told by employees looking for help. And in far too many of those stories the law offers no solution.  Every employee that goes to work and works hard to do the job they are hired to perform should be able to do so without abuse, harassment, and bullying. There is no justification for bullying, not in our schools, and not in our workplaces.

5. Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?

For a year before law school, I worked as a lube tech for Jiffy Lube.  I spent hot summer days, working on hot cars, changing oil or flushing transmissions or radiators.  I never had a customer come back with a complaint.

6. How do you market yourself differently than others?

I tell clients what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear. Before a client begins down any path toward resolving an employment dispute, they need thoughtful, honest advice. I am a believer in justice and everyday people deserve competent representation in an arena that is difficult for non-lawyers to navigate.

7. What do you do when you’re not practicing law?

I spend time with family and friends.  I read true crime books.  I sew and draw.

8. How would you describe the color yellow to someone who could not see?

It’s not the intense heat of the sun during the month of August, but instead the softness of the sun on your skin just as the seasons change from Summer to Fall.  It’s warm. And soft to the touch.  It’s fresh squeezed lemonade with a hint of sugar.  Slightly cool, inviting, and happy.

9. What’s your favorite legal TV show?

Law & Order: SVU

10. If you could argue any case in history, what would it be?

The Karen Silkwood case. But really, I think that would be more about arguing and trying a case alongside Gerry Spence for the learning experience.

Kalandra N. Wheeler is a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C.  She graduated from The University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in political science.  Ms. Wheeler went on and received her law degree from The University of Arkansas.