VOL. 123 | NO. 164 | Thursday, August 21, 2008
Biller Joins Luckett Pinstein Ridder PC, Discusses Business, Employment Practice
By Rebekah Hearn
Position: Of counsel
Firm: Luckett Pinstein Ridder PC
Basics: Biller concentrates his practice on labor and employment law and immigration law.
“There are always groups of people out there that essentially want something for nothing.”
– Stephen Biller
Stephen Biller has joined the law firm of Luckett Pinstein Ridder PC as of counsel. He received his undergraduate degree and his J.D. from Boston University and was named among the Best Lawyers in America in 2007. He is a member of the Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee and American Bar Associations.
Biller focuses his practice on labor and employment law, including wage and hour and equal employment opportunity law, as well as immigration law, the National Labor Relations Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and business litigation.
Q: What initially inspired you to go into law?
A: I got very interested in the dynamics of business and relationships between people. My dad had a small grocery store and he was thinking about maybe opening another store or expanding, and it was just interesting to see him deal with potential landlords, the equipment salesman and contractors. I would just sit in and listen to them go back and forth, and it just fascinated me. It was the interest in the business that got me going; I do do some of that, not to a great extent, but it’s always been in my background.
Q: Did you always know what areas you wanted to practice in?
A: No, I didn’t, but it’s sort of like being in certain places at certain times has an untold influence. I took a labor law course in, I think, the second year of law school, and it just piqued my interest. I learned all about the statute that controls labor and management relationships, and of course that’s forever expanded as time has gone on into the EEOC, Title 7, Family Medical Leave Act, American Disabilities Act — it just continued to grow. I got into what I call business immigration, because I was doing so much labor and employment, and when there was a large influx of Spanish-speaking people … it became necessary to convert our handbooks into Spanish, and so I knew some people who could do that, and they started bringing managers over from Europe and they needed non-immigrant visas, which are for a limited period of time. So, it’s just one thing grows on top of another, as the client makes additional demands on you.
Q: With the current economic “recession,” have you seen an increase or decrease in the number of employment-related and/or wage and hour law-related cases clients you serve?
A: Well, I think there’s been an increase, but I think the increase started before this “recession,” in that there are always groups of people out there that essentially want for something for nothing. And I think it’s just the normal push and shove between and labor and management, and then I think that as the economy has exacerbated the situation, people get fearful. So it’s just a constant looking around to see what else, as I like to put it, falls off the counter into the grocery cart. I find mostly through ignorance, (employers) do not know how to account for hours worked, or to pay for overtime, or misclassify employees who are entitled to overtime but are being paid a salary. The employer thinks, “Well, if I’m paying them a salary, it’s OK,” but it’s not OK, because only certain people can be paid salaries. They have to be exempt people, like professionals or administrative people or executives. So a lot of mispayment is a result of, really, ignorance, I don’t think of any intention on the part of the employer.
Q: Do you also provide mediation services? Can you explain what you do in those cases?
A: I have served as a mediator, but that’s been from time to time. My primary thrust in that area is that I serve as an arbitrator for what is now called FINRA, and that’s the merger of the NASD and the NYSC. If there’s any routine to it at all, there’s where I’ve been. With construction arbitration, which I do, I’m not the arbitrator; I’m representing somebody before the American Arbitration Association, for example, in reference to a construction contract dispute. So I mainly represent companies; I could appear for them in a union arbitration, I could appear for them in a securities arbitration before FINRA, or I could appear for the company before the American Arbitration Association in reference to mostly construction contracts.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I spend a lot of time in the backyard. Gardening, digging in the dirt, doing things and fixing things. You just get lost; you just really don’t think about anything else but exactly what you’re doing at that point in time.