Labor and Employment - South

Review

Labor and employment
Labor and Employment - South

 

*Please note: Nationally ranked firms can find editorial analysis here.

 

Alabama

Bradley

From its headquarters in Birmingham, Bradley operates a widespread network of offices in the South. The Birmingham office holds an exceptionally strong reputation for maintaining a robust labor and employment litigation practice. An Alabama-based peer considers it a “top firm” in labor and employment and lauds the firm’s “excellent” capability in litigation. 

Several of the firm’s lawyers operate out of the Birmingham office. T. Matthew Miller is among one of the well-known and highly reputable lawyers in the labor and employment practice. He is routinely retained for bet-the-company cases. Miller handles all types of claims for both Alabama-based and nationwide companies in a wide variety of industries. His cases range from single-plaintiff disputes to class and collective actions, as well as arbitrations.

Jennifer McGahey and John Hargrove also practice in Birmingham. McGahey’s practice extends beyond the realm of labor and employment to include other areas of litigation. A majority of her cases are multi-forum disputes. Hargrove is exclusively dedicated to labor and employment.

In Montgomery, Charles Stewart attends to a varied practice that involves labor and employment and product liability.


Maynard Cooper & Gale

Maynard Cooper & Gale is a full-service  firm based in Birmingham that is well-known for housing a group of lawyers exclusively focusing on labor and employment disputes. The firm primarily focuses on defending employers in litigation.

John Holmes has been handling a case that was set to go to trial in April of 2021. A former employee of the client, Warrior Met Coal and its entities, filed a lawsuit alleging age-discrimination claims and brought allegations concerning getting hurt on the job. Holmes also successfully resolved a whistleblower retaliation matter that was brought under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. He represented Chemical Waste Management in the matter against the former employee. Holmes obtained a dismissal of the case, which was significant as the plaintiff made a large settlement demand and threatened public humiliation.

Warren Lightfoot is a litigator whose practice includes employment and commercial litigation as well as business torts. Lightfoot recently handled a non-compete enforcement action in the Eastern District of Texas. Lightfoot represented Transplace and filed the lawsuit seeking injunctive relief and damages after an executive went to work for the competitor. A nationwide law firm represented the former executive and opposed the TRO; however, Lightfoot prevailed and obtained the TRO against the executive. Stephanie Mays practices exclusively in employment law, handling both litigation as well as highly sensitive investigations for nationally known clients. She represented New York Life Insurance in a matter alleging race discrimination. She won the case on a motion for summary judgment.

Employment lawyer Josh Bennett is actively litigating a matter for a client in the aviation industry. Bennett is defending the client against alleged claims of discrimination and retaliation filed under Title VII, the ADA and FMLA. He is also involved in a complex employee mobility case that involves breach of non-compete and non-solicitation covenants and tortious interference. David Smith represented Alabama Plate Cutting in a matter that was originally filed in New Jersey by Eddie Kane Steel Products; however, Smith successfully transferred the case to Alabama, which prompted the plaintiff to voluntarily dismiss the case for no compensation in April of 2020. 

 

Starnes Davis Florie

Starnes Davis Florie is an Alabama based full-service  firm with a strong reputation for trial experience in all areas of litigation, including labor and employment. The practice is comprised of lawyers who focus exclusively on labor and employment disputes, ranging from labor issues to wage-and-hour claims.

Chairing the firm’s practice group is Trip Umbach who has recently navigated a family dispute that involved employment issues, as the daughters filed a lawsuit against their father and the client, Jones Utility. The matter originally involved alleged discrimination claims and additionally a “pay-to-play” bribery scheme after the plaintiffs joined forces with a competitor. Umbach filed counterclaims and the disputes are ongoing. He has also handled cases alleging discrimination and retaliation, as well as restrictive covenant disputes.

Alfred Perkins is active in litigation representing Alabama Municipal Insurance Corporation in a case against a former account executive. The plaintiff alleges several claims including, gender discrimination, violations of the Equal Pay Act and retaliation.

 

Florida

Akerman

Full-service firm Akerman houses one of the largest labor and employment practices in Florida.  Its seven Florida offices are spread throughout the state, especially major market locations like Miami, West Palm Beach, and Tampa.

Eric Gordon serves as chair of the labor and employment practice from the West Palm Beach office. Gordon’s repertoire of recent cases includes two whistleblower lawsuits filed under the Florida Private Sector Whistleblower Act. One of these cases was resolved in June of 2020 with a successful motion for summary judgment in Broward County state court. Also in the West Palm Beach office, Arlene Kline recently represented a hospital in a multi-count complaint alleging harassment and disparate treatment based on nation of origin and race.

Tampa’s Zarra Elias along with fellow partner Karen Buesing led a wage-and-hour class action to a successful resolution. Last year, the pair handled a trade secrets case filed under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. In Fort Lauderdale, Debra Leder has been engaged in several actions, including a significant union dispute that went to the Sixth Circuit from the District Court of Kentucky.

 

Georgia

Lawrence & Bundy

Atlanta-based Lawrence & Bundy is a boutique exclusively focused on litigation. The firm maintains exceptional expertise in a wide range of disputes, from commercial to labor and employment litigation. The lawyers practicing in labor and employment are routinely retained to represent cities and counties in Georgia as well as Fortune 100 companies.

Allegra Lawrence-Hardy is recognized for her noteworthy work in labor and employment, crisis management, business and commercial claims. Her expertise ranges from trials and arbitrations to highly sensitive internal investigations, especially those involving race and gender discrimination. Recently her practice has included several matters on behalf of local public entities.  Lawrence-Hardy was retained by the city of Atlanta to represent it against a former office of the Atlanta Police Department who filed a petition of mandamus seeking to receive numerous benefits of employment after he was terminated and charged with felony murder for his role in the death of Rayshard Brooks. The matter garnered significant media and public attention and it was eventually voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff.

Lawrence-Hardy is currently engaged in a case representing Dekalb County against a former employee who alleges they were demoted and terminated in retaliation. The lawsuit was filed under the Georgia Whistleblower Act and Title VII. The plaintiff is seeking monetary damages and equitable relief. Lawrence-Hardy has been defending the client through all stages of litigation and she is preparing for trial in the Northern District of Georgia.

 

Louisiana

Chaffe McCall

Chaffe McCall’s mainstay is in New Orleans, where it has maintained a litigation practice for nearly 200 years. 

Julie Livaudais is the firm managing partner and labor and employment practice area coordinator She is often retained to address employment disputes for clients operating in a wide range of industries. Most recently, however, she has been retained to handle matters for two different Louisiana universities in separate matters. Livaudais represented Tulane in a lawsuit filed by a former Business School professor. The plaintiff alleged gender discrimination, arguing that she did not receive tenure on that basis. Livaudais successfully defended the university, prevailing on a motion for summary judgement and again on a motion for bill of costs for reimbursement of expenses.

In addition, she also handled a matter for Loyola University in a Title IX dispute that involved male students who challenged the university’s disciplinary actions after finding for sexual misconduct complaints against them. Livaudais also prevailed on summary judgment in this case.

 

Jones Walker

Jones Walker is a full-service  firm that features one of the largest labor and employment practices in Louisiana. The group is comprised of lawyers who are specialized in all facets of the practice area, including OSHA, employment litigation, class and collective actions, and traditional labor relations.

Head of the practice group, Sid Lewis is routinely engaged in labor issues on behalf of clients throughout the South. He represents employers in negotiations and other contentious disputes. Jennifer Faroldi Kogos won a victory at the Fifth Circuit which affirmed the summary judgment she obtained in favor of the client Ochsner Clinic Foundation. The case was an FLSA action arising from a former who employee who alleged that they were misclassified and improperly exempt from overtime. Joseph Lavigne has recently been involved in several employment disputes, particularly related to employee mobility and restrictive covenants.


North Carolina

Robinson Bradshaw

Robinson Bradshaw maintains a significant and extensive reputation especially throughout North Carolina and the Southeastern region. As part of the litigation department, the labor and employment practice maintains an active presence in courts around the region.

Charles Johnson has been particularly active in employment litigation. He has handled several class and collective actions recently, including one representing the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice in a wage-and-hour class action originally consisting of 16,000 former and current correctional officers and sergeants. The court conditionally certified the class and the case is ongoing. In a related case, Johnson is also defending the client against the lead plaintiff in the class and collective action. The plaintiff alleges he was terminated in retaliation for his involvement in the class action.

In a matter that was resolved, Johnson defended Facebook in a lawsuit alleging race discrimination and harassment. He, along with Angelique Vincent-Hamacher, prevailed against the claims on a granted motion for summary judgment, but the Fourth Circuit reversed in part and remanded the case. Johnson and Vincent-Hamacher resolved the case afterwards and it was dismissed in March. 

Julian Wright is also actively engaged in an FLSA action alleging failure to pay overtime wages. Wright defends Lalaja, a Mexican restaurant, the related catering business and the owners. The case is in early stages and Wright has briefed on the preliminary class certification.

Pearlynn Houck maintains a practice that mixes both labor and employment and complex business disputes. She is representing Synergy Holdings against a 10-count complaint filed by a former employee who was terminated. Houck is defending against breach of contract, fraud, securities violations, wrongful termination and various other claims. In addition, the plaintiff is alleging that she was terminated based on age discrimination in violation of the ADA. Houck awaiting the verdict of a pending motion to dismiss.

 

Smith Anderson

Smith Anderson is headquartered in North Carolina where the firm maintains a labor and employment practice with lawyers dedicated entirely to the practice area. Recently, the group has defended numerous nationally known clients and cases that have garnered significant media attention.

Kerry Shad is one of the leading labor and employment litigators in North Carolina and has recently earned a spot on Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation list. Shad has been representing fellow full-service North Carolina law firm Myers Bigel and the managing partner. A former partner alleged that they were misclassified and should have been considered an employee and protected under Title VII. Shad successfully defended the law firm and obtained a full dismissal and the court also denied the plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend. The case went up to the Fourth Circuit and affirmed the lower court’s decision in a published opinion. Shad has also been active representing nationwide clients like Blue Cross Blue Shield and GlaxoSmithKline in employment cases in courts throughout the US.

Zebulon Anderson often represents clients in disputes that involve business issues. He represents Brady Trane Services in a matter against a former employee who had agreed to a new employment agreement regarding a new position that did not include commission payments under the new compensation model. The plaintiff alleged that he was fraudulently induced to agree to such an agreement and asserted alleged claims of fraud and quantum meruit. The court granted Anderson’s motion for judgment that was granted in 2019; however, the plaintiff appealed, and the appellate court reversed the fraud claim and affirmed the quantum meruit claim. In another employment matter, Anderson has been defending C&S Rail Services and owners against five former African-American employees who alleged claims of race harassment, retaliation, wage and hour violations, and FMLA violations against the clients. Anderson successfully defended the client against many of the claims in a motion for partial dismissal that was mostly granted, limiting the client’s exposure.

 

Oklahoma

Crowe & Dunlevy

Crowe & Dunlevy maintains one of the largest groups dedicated to labor and employment in the state. Adam Childers is one of the most active lawyers in the labor and employment group. In a single-plaintiff matter, Childers defended The Salvation Army against alleged disability discrimination, gender discrimination and retaliation claims, along with an additional claim for misclassification under the FLSA. Childers prevailed against the FLSA claim after a major cross-examination finding led to its voluntarily dismissal by the plaintiff. The case is ongoing with the other claims.

He and Allen Hutson represented two doctors individually and acted as co-counsel for Oklahoma State University Center for Health Services. The lawsuit was filed by a former resident in the school’s residency program who alleged numerous claims against the doctors and the school. Last year, the team was granted summary judgment in a 121-page order from the Western District of Oklahoma.

Mary Snyder partnered with Childers to defend Lowe’s Home Centers in a FMLA matter. Snyder and Childers filed a motion to dismiss which was granted by the Northern District of Oklahoma.

 

GableGotwals

The Tulsa and Oklahoma City offices of full-service firm GableGotwals are comprised of labor and employment lawyers who are routinely engaged in contentious disputes. The practice is equipped with the experience to handle both traditional labor relations and employment litigation.

Ellen Adams is based in the Oklahoma City office and maintains a highly active practice. She has been litigating claims filed under various federal and state laws, including Texas and Arkansas in addition to Oklahoma. Also operating out of Oklahoma City is Paula Williams, who obtained a favorable settlement for client StaffLink and dismissal of a pregnancy discrimination case. Tulsa’s Chris Thrutchley regularly handles both labor and employment matters. He represented Magellan Midstream Holdings in a labor dispute with the United Steel Workers Local Union, which filed a union grievance after the client terminated a member. The union sought reinstatement with backpay and challenged the termination up to arbitration. Thrutchley successfully handled the arbitration and the arbitrator found in favor of the client, denying the grievance and the remedies sought by the union. On the employment litigation side of his practice, he is actively litigating a wage-and-hour matter filed under the FLSA and state law. The collective was originally conditionally certified; however, the court was convinced to decertify it following briefing and discovery. The matter is ongoing with the two remaining named plaintiffs.


Tennessee

Bass Berry & Sims

Bass Berry & Sims is a full-service law firm that operates offices spanning three major cities in Tennessee: Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis. The labor and employment group is mainly centered in Nashville, but represents clients in litigation throughout the state and beyond. The group is comprised of lawyers who handle both labor relations issues and employment litigation.

Robert Horton chairs the labor and employment practice and maintains an active practice with both traditional labor and employment work. His employment litigation practice has encompassed class- action litigation under the FLSA and additionally an administrative proceeding before the Department of Labor. He and Tim Garrett have both been involved in actions before the National Labor Relations Board as well. Garrett is an experienced labor and employment lawyer and has recently been engaged in several single-plaintiff actions. He represented YAPP USA Automotive Systems in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed in Gallatin Circuit Court. The plaintiff also sought worker’s compensation benefits following an altercation with the alleged harasser. Garrett prevailed against the arguments made by the plaintiff on a granted motion for summary judgment, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The plaintiff then attempted to take the case up to the Tennessee Supreme Court; however, they denied permission to hear the matter. 

 
Bradley

Bradley maintains its strong reputation in the southeast ranging from its deep south headquarters up to Tennessee and beyond. As one of the leading law firms throughout the region, the firm stands out in labor and employment for its capability in litigation. One of the firm’s clients attests to its expertise in labor and employment litigation, emphasizing the group’s “excellent legal work” on a case.

One of the labor and employment litigators at the firm was recently praised by a client who describes Matthew Lonergan as “outstanding in every way.” His experience over the last year has involved labor relations, having negotiated a Project Labor Agreement on behalf of a southeastern construction client and a collective bargaining agreement for a government subtractor at a military installation. On the employment litigation side of his practice, Lonergan has obtained several victories for clients on motions for summary judgment. In one of his wins, he represented the city of Murfreesboro against an employee who resigned after testing positive for THC during a required drug test for a promotion. After a discussion with her supervisor, the plaintiff began taking CBD oils to cope with negative side effects of medication for mental health. Following her resignation, however, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the city alleging ADA discrimination and failure to accommodate claims. Lonergan filed a motion for summary judgment which was granted by the court and dismissed all claims.

Chuck Mataya is also practicing out of the Nashville office and has been actively litigating a case that was filed against a client by the EEOC in the Middle District of Tennessee. The original plaintiff was a registered ER nurse with the client, Tennova Healthcare – Clarkesville, who injured her ACL on the job and required surgery that left permanent restrictions. As a result, the hospital terminated the plaintiff as she could no longer perform essential functions. The EEOC filed a lawsuit on behalf of the original plaintiff claiming that she was discriminatorily discharged and was not reasonably accommodated. The EEOC specifically claims that she was not accommodated by being moved to a different position. Mataya filed a motion for summary judgment which is currently pending.

Craig Oliver also practices out of the Nashville office and exclusively focuses on labor and employment. Like Lonergan, Oliver’s practice is a mix of both labor relations and employment litigation, handling the full breadth and scope of the practice area.

Summary judgment, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The plaintiff then attempted to take the case up to the Tennessee Supreme Court; however, they denied permission to hear the matter.  

 

Texas

Haynes and Boone

Dallas-based Haynes and Boone’s labor and employment practice spans five of the firm’s Texas offices. The firm boasts one of the largest labor and employment focused groups in the state. Litigation practice co-chair and head of the wage-and-hour litigation practice Laura O’Donnell practices out of the San Antonio and Austin offices. She and Melissa Goodman have been representing AT&T in 12 multi-plaintiff FLSA lawsuits pending in the Northern District of Texas, Western District of Texas, and the Western District of Missouri. The lawsuit stems from a collective action that was decertified.

Dallas’ Goodman recently also handled another matter for a high-profile client, CBS, which was facing an age discrimination case filed by the EEOC on behalf of a preeminent traffic reporter. The case garnered significant media attention due to the reporter’s reputation and the matter was successfully settled.

Matthew Deffebach is the chair of the OSHA and workplace disasters group and splits his time between Houston and Orange County. As the chair of the OSHA group, Deffebach has been highly active in related disputes and investigations on behalf of a wide variety of clients. Recently, he represented national retailer Home Depot in an administrative trial via Zoom. The client was cited for alleged violations under OSHA and California law, particularly related to crossovers conveyer belt safety, which would have been cost-intensive and burdensome to alter. Deffebach successfully represented the client and obtained a favorable ruling and dismissal by the Administrative Law Judge.

Austin-based Adam Sencenbaugh is well-known as a trial litigator with decades of experience litigating cases in various court settings. Sencenbaugh has been actively handling several restrictive- covenant and employee-mobility cases. One is a pending case that involves alleged breach of non-solicit and non-compete agreements, and additionally, misappropriation of trade secrets. Sencenbaugh represents the plaintiff BalanceCXI against high-level executives, and the case questions the duty of departing employees to preserve electronic evidence post-employment. Last November, the court granted death penalty sanctions against the former employees and awarded attorney’s fees as well.