Labor and Employment Practice

Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP helps companies manage the full spectrum of issues that arise in recruiting, retaining and employing a workforce. We offer labor and employment advice and litigation services to businesses employing both union and non-union labor across a broad range of industries. They include:

  • Restaurants and other food-industry participants
  • Manufacturers
  • Retailers
  • Real estate developers and property management companies
  • Hotels and hospitality providers
  • Financial institutions
  • Medical-device manufacturers and other healthcare companies
  • Broadcasters
  • Participants in the airline and transportation industries

Labor and Employment Counseling

Our employment attorneys offer practical counsel aimed at minimizing legal liability arising from decisions regarding hiring, employee discipline, terminations, leaves of absences and other day-to-day matters. We regularly develop and offer advice on employment contracts and benefits, employee handbooks, employee training and evaluations, sexual harassment issues, drug testing and background check practices, restrictive covenant agreements, separation agreements, vesting of bonuses, DNA testing, the use of polygraph tests, on-the-job injuries, the scope of insurance coverage, and record-keeping requirements. We advise on compliance with federal, state and local law concerning, among other issues, discrimination, minimum wage and overtime, unemployment compensation and matters involving the Railway Labor Act and the National Labor Relations Act.

In addition to handling day-to-day employment issues, our wide-ranging knowledge and resources allow us to counsel clients on the most complex personnel matters. We have experience advising on the employment aspects of corporate restructurings, downsizings, mergers, acquisitions and other transformative transactions. In these and other situations, we provide training for managers, supervisors and employees with an eye toward preventing employment claims and limiting liability associated with those that arise.

Litigation and Disputes

We take an aggressive and business-minded approach to representing employers’ interests in litigation, agency proceedings, arbitrations and other disputes. We regularly defend employers against claims brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and other federal, state and local anti-discrimination and employment laws. Our lawyers have a long record of success in disposing of discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other administrative bodies, sometimes just days after filing position papers.

In addition to discrimination and civil right actions, we represent clients in connection with employment-related tort claims, breach of contract actions and requests for injunctions involving restrictive covenant agreements, illegal slowdowns, work stoppages and secondary boycotts. When appropriate, we advise clients to pursue actions as plaintiffs against former employees and other counterparties. We have successfully obtained TROs and injunctions against employees who breached contractual and fiduciary duties by improperly competing with a former employer and misappropriating trade secrets.

We also have developed particular experience in representing employers in occupational safety and health citation enforcement actions, and serve as OSHA counsel to one of the largest employers in Illinois.

Our attorneys regularly prevail at bench and jury trials and win favorable decisions at the appellate level in whistleblower, discrimination, and breach of contract matters. We are also skilled in the use of cost-saving alternative dispute resolution processes, such as mediation and arbitration.

Select examples of our attorneys’ past successes include:

  • Winning a complete defense verdict at trial in a class action involving the exempt status of auto and casualty adjusters under the Illinois Minimum Wage Act (which incorporates the federal Fair Labor Standards Act).
  • Defeating two motions for class certification in a putative nationwide class action claim of gender discrimination under Title VII and the Equal Pay Act, and successfully defending those rulings on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
  • Winning a summary judgement ruling against claims of racial discrimination and business conspiracy, subsequently affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
  • Defeating plaintiffs’ motion for conditional certification in a Fair Labor Standards Act case alleging that a national restaurant chain maintained a policy of failing to pay for orientation and training.
  • Obtaining a defense jury verdict in favor of our client on Title VII gender discrimination and retaliation claims brought by the company’s female vice president of operations.

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