The Blog

From workplace tips to new employment laws, we've got you covered.


Last chance to register for our seminar this Thursday, November 21 - almost at capacity!

Are you interested in pay equity, closing the gender gap, implicit bias, SHRM credits, CLE credits, or discussion with an outstanding panel? Join Jennifer Gokenbach, Karen Steinhauser, Joan Cooke, Maggie Tassi, Angie Wideman- Powell SHRM-SCP, PHR, Tiffany Todd, Rachel Lucas, PHR, and Stephen Rotter!

Thanks to our sponsors and partners: Obsidian HR, ClearCompany Talent Management Software, U.S. Legal Support, and Tito's Handmade Vodka!

October 25, 2019


Closing the Gender Gap & Implicit Bias

Top five reasons to attend this seminar:

1. Legal and Human Resource perspective on pay equity, gender bias, glass ceiling, and #metoo movement.

2. Practical advice for change-makers.

3. Outstanding panelists.

4. Pragmatic dialogue.

5. SHRM/HRCI/CLE credits.

September 20, 2019



Top five reasons to attend this seminar:

1. Moral and Ethical Obligations.

2. Legal Duties.

3. Tools to Protect.

4. Dialogue to Learn and Share.

5. Current Climate.

July 19, 2019


Leadership - Effectively Communicating

1. Be an active listener no matter the situation. Whether the purpose of your communication is to provide guidance, set goals, or issue discipline, it cannot be a one-way conversation. Great leaders are great listeners.

2. Tailor your communication. This goes beyond just knowing your audience. To lead effectively means to understand how to communicate effectively. Spend some time thinking about who you’re speaking with (not “speaking to”), and the best way to engage with them before doing so.

3. Communicate regularly. Ongoing feedback is a necessary part of fostering a productive environment and employee growth; excellent managers act as a support system when leading.

4. Keep things simple. Regardless of how difficult or complex a situation might be, be clear and succinct to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.

5. Be approachable. If you’re welcoming, present, and positive, your communications will be heard and followed. Likewise, employees will be more willing to listen to you and leverage your advice to help the company succeed.

May 10, 2019


Analyzing a few Modern Workplace trends

1. “Culture” is a vague, undefined buzzword for the modern workplace and may create a potentially discriminatory basis for employment actions. It can also become an excuse for not becoming, or trying to become, diverse and inclusive.

2. The modern workplace may include creating a company Diversity Committee and selecting certain employees to provide input regarding diversity and inclusion efforts. However, being “a diverse workplace,” doesn’t mean you pick the “onlys” to be on a committee and expect them to provide suggestions to management with limited scope and purpose. Instead, it means to effectuate change in hiring, promoting, and championing employees by those who have the power to do so with guidance from the committee and other leadership.

3, 4, and 5. It is very trendy to talk about “coachabilty,” “emotional intelligence,” and “the right values” when hiring candidates, which are certainly important factors. But, contrary to conclusions and assumptions about proper candidate evaluation (like those found in a Leadership IQ study of why workers were fired within 18 months of hire), these factors don’t overtake experience and technical competence. For example, the reason this study showed only 11% of employees failed due to lack of technical competence is because companies did the right thing 89% of the time by hiring experienced, competent employees but should have better evaluated interpersonal skills. It doesn't mean technical competence is not one of the most important hiring factors.

The 11% number would skyrocket if employers didn’t first evaluate their candidate pool to find the best skilled, experienced, and technically competent candidates, and then turn to the soft skills. Bottom line: Employers don’t need to sacrifice candidate experience and know-how for the ability to fit into an organization and be productive – they can (and should) have both.

Otherwise, employers may find themselves explaining to a judge or jury in a discrimination trial that they hired a certain candidate based on "culture fit" rather than those who were better qualified or more experienced - and also could have fit just fine into their workplace.


The Workplace Counsel LLC and Gokenbach Law LLC Merge to Expand Employment Law Defense Practice

Press Release!!!

DENVER, Colorado, May 2019 — Furthering their dedication to providing results-oriented and cost-effective legal counsel in employment law matters, The Workplace Counsel LLC and Gokenbach Law LLC are pleased to announce their new strategic law firm.

The Workplace Counsel LLC and Gokenbach Law LLC are Denver-based boutique law firms focused on employment law defense and day-to-day counsel for workplace matters. Effective May 1, 2019, the two firms merged to provide high quality labor and employment law services under the name The Workplace Counsel™.

The Workplace Counsel™ is now also the exclusive Colorado firm for Worklaw® Network, a network of independent law firms in the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, and Mexico representing employers and management in labor and employment matters.

Gokenbach Law LLC Managing Partner, Jennifer Gokenbach said: “Joining with Stephen and The Workplace Counsel LLC is an exciting opportunity to partner with other like-minded attorneys who want to champion their business clients in employment law matters at a reasonable cost. The large law firm model, which typically staffs legal matters with multiple attorneys of varying experience levels and at high rates, is not ideal for many businesses. When 99.7% of all U.S. employers have less than 500 employees, simple economics shows that a small business hit with a legal claim needs seasoned and cost-effective legal counsel.”

“Jennifer’s outstanding reputation for trial work, substantive litigation, and high client satisfaction makes her an excellent partner to merge with,” said Stephen Rotter, The Workplace Counsel LLC’s Managing Partner. “By combining our firms, we’re able to provide the highest-quality legal services directed toward relieving our clients’ stress, reducing costs, and delivering practical solutions. In keeping with our firm’s strategy, we are open to partnering with exceptional attorneys to meet our clients’ needs in all aspects of workplace law.”

April 19, 2019



1. Sexual Harassment. Companies have focused their polices, but it's just as important to implement annual training. While it helps with potential liability, more importantly are companies’ willingness to foster safe, positive work environments.

2. Implicit Bias. We are wired to judge quickly and use stereotypes to survive an endless barrage of information. To make sure we’re not using predispositions in a negative, illegal, or unproductive way, we need to recognize and have the tools to handle them.

3. Marijuana. Now legal in one form or another in 34 states, employers have to deal with OSHA obligations, federal mandates, assessment of reasonable suspicion, and vendor/customer attitudes.

4. Workplace Violence Prevention. In this era, it is key to teach workers how to prevent or minimize workplace danger. Companies are obligated to do so under OSHA standards and hopefully their own initiatives for a safe workplace.

5. Pay Equity. Companies need training regarding proper interview questions (many states now preclude salary history inquiries); implementing pay standards for workers performing the same job (e.g., is it 'substantially similar work,' or 'work requiring similar skill, effort, and responsibility'?); and tracking pay equity progress.

March 22, 2019



1. The First Amendment does not provide the same protections at the workplace as it does elsewhere. Employers may (and should) implement policies related to reasonable restrictions for political discussion and conduct, including limiting or banning company resources for such activity.

2. Political policies should be tailored to purely political speech or conduct, and preclude activity that is discriminatory, disruptive, or impacts performance.

3. Political policy enforcement should be applied fairly and evenly.

4. Many states prohibit employers from discrimination or retaliation against employees based on political views. Management should be advised to separate their political views from decision-making at work.

5. Be mindful of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which allows employees to engage in concerted activity related to the terms and conditions of their employment. For example, they may contact lawmakers, protest, or demonstrate, although these activities are typically limited to outside of work.

March 8, 2019



What Can Employers Do?

1. Sexual Harassment. It is one thing to have policies in place, another to put them into practice. Employers should remind their employees of sexual harassment policies and provide annual training.

2. Investigations. Complaints of sexual harassment, gender bias, pay equity, and #metoo-related allegations should be investigated fairly and addressed quickly.

3. Goals. Employers should set goals for diversity and inclusion and analyze their workforce composite to ensure they are headed in the right direction to achieving such goals.

4. Groups. McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace study points out the “Only” problem. Employers can ensure women are well-represented and heard through a conscientious effort to create mixed-gender teams and avenues for female empowerment.

5. Positivity. Employers should express their positivity regarding diversity advancement, female empowerment, and creating a safe, fun, inclusive workplace - it's a great message from the top.


February 22, 2019


And now...the Worst BOSS Traits

from John Brandon at Inc. and Bamboo HR:

1. Your boss takes credit for your work (63 percent)

One of the big findings is that employees really hate it when the boss takes credit for their work. And, older employees (those over 45) get even more irritated. Why is it just a trigger? Employees want to be recognized, and then challenged to complete other lofty goals. When they realize they won't get any credit or someone will steal it, they lose all motivation.

2. Your boss doesn't appear to trust or empower you (62 percent)

Trust and empowerment can change employee perceptions. When you show trust, you're essentially enabling the employee to succeed. Bad bosses don't understand that. They command and control, assuming an employee is going to fail or create conflict. To change, you have to demonstrate to an employee you are OK with small failures.

3. Your boss doesn't appear to care if you're overworked (58 percent)

The boss is out playing golf or on vacation in Orlando. At work, the employees are stretched pretty thin. That's a problem because, from the perspective of the workers, there isn't an example of how to do the work, someone explaining how to finish tasks, or any time-table other than "get this done before the boss starts paying attention again."

4. Your boss doesn't appear to advocate for you when it comes to monetary compensation (57 percent)

A curious one that ranks high on the list (above setting expectations or not getting a promotion), not advocating for an employee puts you in the doghouse. Why? Like the other high ranking reasons, the employee knows they won't get any credit (in this case, financially) for hard work. He or she will produce the work but won't ever get the recognition.

5. Your boss hires and/or promotes the wrong people (56 percent)

Favoritism is another de-motivator. A bad boss picks the people he or she likes, regardless of skill level. It might be because that person also drives an Audi. Bad bosses don't fairly critique all employees and understand what it takes to do a specific job or role.

February 15, 2019


Traits of a great mentor or boss

(in no particular order)

1. Approachability. If you can't approach your mentor or boss without feeling anxious, hesitant, or like you're going to feel dumb afterward, this is not someone who should be in a leadership position.

2. Empathy. Leaders have to be able to step into someone else's shoes, regardless of position, background, gender, or trait - otherwise they will never understand what their employees or mentees need for guidance and support.

3. Communication. The ability to communicate clearly, in a conversational manner where both sides contribute openly, is key for managers and advisors. In other words, it is crucial to have the ability to talk with someone and not at them, and to appreciate an exchange of ideas aimed towards growth.

4. Inclusiveness. Not just a buzzword in this era, it should be a way of life for companies, and for their change-makers - especially in relation to people, ideas, and solutions. Open-mindedness and nonjudgmental attitudes lead to inclusivity, which leads to better production, more positivity, and a dynamic work environment.

5. Egoless. Strong leaders focus on others, and make them feel like part of the team, that they matter, and they are appreciated. They connect with people, listen, and learn, which is an impossibility if they put themselves first.

January 25, 2019


New Year Items for Small (and not so small) Businesses

1. Ensure your policies comply with employment law changes. For example, in Colorado for 2019, benefit plans must reimburse employees for prescription contraception. In Illinois, employers must reimburse employees for necessary expenditures related to services performed. Check with your employment counsel for details.

2. Minimum wage increases. In Colorado, minimum wage is now $11.10 (tipped employees: $8.08), and $12 in 2020 (tipped employees: $8.98). In Illinois, minimum wage is $8.25 but $12 in Chicago ($13 on July 1, 2019) and $11 in the rest of Cook County (note these figures are different for tipped employees).

3. Data Privacy is Vital. Implement procedures for collection, storage, and use of personal identifying info, and security measures. In Colorado, employers maintaining, owning or licensing personal identifying information in the course of the person’s business are required to do so (enacted in August 2018) and many states require similar procedures.

4. HR Technology is exploding. From predicting employee turnover to onboarding, training, and engaging employees, businesses will look to HR cybertronics for turnover solutions, cost savings, and higher morale through responsiveness, data access, and stronger relationships. Explore better ways to integrate technology into Human Resources for your business needs.

5. Equal Pay is Here to Stay – Yaaaay! Equal Pay laws in states such as Oregon’s go into effect this year, in addition to employer bans on applicant salary history in various states and municipalities (e.g., CA, HI, OR, and several NY cities).

The Gender Gap

We recently honored Martin Luther King, Jr., for his vision and commitment to diversity. It therefore seems fitting to re-share McKinsey's Women in the Workplace 2018 study. Notably, "[C]orporate America has made almost no progress improving women’s representation. Women are underrepresented at every level, and women of color are the most underrepresented group of all, lagging behind white men, men of color, and white women."

Whether you're in Human Resources, management, or otherwise empowered to be a change-maker, I encourage you to review this McKinsey article and strongly consider the six actions recommended to make progress on gender diversity. For our part, The Workplace Counsel will be providing seminars across the country this year to help employers by outlining the legal framework, advising on practical considerations, and promoting meaningful discussions related to pay equity, parental leave, and gender bias.

January 18, 2019


Conducting Employer Investigations

1. Independence is critical – use outside counsel for serious or complex employee matters (i.e., those which may result in claims or litigation).

2. When conducting interviews, be personable, non-condescending, non-accusatory, and open-minded. Your approach should be fact-gathering, not conclusion-confirming.

3. Similarly, your mindset throughout investigations should be about fact discovery and neutrality. The facts should shape your theory of the matter – never the reverse.

4. You can never start an investigation too early. As soon as an employer is informed of a complaint, misconduct, or wrongdoing, the investigation should begin, and so should the proper steps (gather evidence, conduct interviews, document events, plan the next phase, etc.).

5. Always be mindful of how the investigation and evidence an employer relies on for their ultimate business decision would look at trial. While 99% of matters don’t reach trial, conduct yourself and the investigation as if it will.