J. Albert Diaz

Faced with uncertainties due to real and proposed shifts in U.S. employment and immigration policies, Florida-based Am Law 100 firm Akerman has added 17 labor and employment lawyers across the U.S. over the last 15 months.

“The law in labor and employment is constantly changing so it’s critical for our employer clients to have support in the markets in which they are located and the specific industries they are in,” said Akerman Labor and Employment Practice National Chairman Eric Gordon, who is based in West Palm Beach. “Employers need to learn to navigate whether the law is changing or not.”

Gordon cited proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act that were stayed following the last presidential election as an example of the uncertainty clients are facing.

When Gordon became head of Akerman’s labor and employment practice in 2016, he recognized that the practice area needed to expand nationally, with additions in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando and Washington, D.C. In Denver, Los Angeles and Washington D.C., the firm didn’t have a labor and employment attorney, and the needs of clients in those cities had to be serviced by labor and employment lawyers in other offices.

Four lawyers have joined the group in the last six months. The team now includes Angela Hart-Edwards, former chairwoman of the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Practice Group at Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani in Washington, D.C.; Colin Barnacle, formerly of Holland & Knight in Denver; Denise Gavica Perez, formerly from Fragomen in Miami; and Rory McEvoy, who was previously with Blank Rome in New York.

Gavica Perez was hired to work specifically with the corporate immigration department. She has 20 years of experience in immigration at Fragomen, Gordon said.

McEvoy has extensive experience in health care-related labor and employment.

Hart-Edwards, who started in mid-May, focuses on all aspects of employment, with an emphasis on representing employers in individual and class and collective litigation matters. As a former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Justice civil rights attorney, and an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Hart-Edwards defends government contractors and private-sector employers in employment discrimination lawsuits, EEOC and Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs systemic discrimination actions, and in wage and hour, and class and collective actions.

Barnacle focuses on compliance counseling, corporate governance counseling and investigations, noncompete and trade secret enforcement, and employment litigation. He also handles matters involving the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, state workers’ compensation laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and wage-and-hour compliance issues.

Hart-Edwards and Barnacle created a foothold in cities where the firm didn’t have a labor and employment lawyer, Gordon said, adding that Akerman is already in advanced hiring discussions with six more additions to the practice.

“We are definitely continuing on a growth path,” Gordon said. “Labor and employment is an area that is always growing.”

Monika Gonzalez Mesa writes about the business of law in Florida. Contact her at mgmesa@alm.com. On Twitter: @MonikaMesa1