Morgan Lewis has made management-side labor and employment a mainstay of its corporate services, both nationally and in its Princeton branch. The Labor and Employment Practice represents 125 Fortune 500 companies, of which 43 are in the Top 100, 11 in the Top 20 and seven in the Top 10.
Of the firm’s 1,400 lawyers across 24 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia, more than 270 practice labor and employment law. And 180 of those are litigators, comprising 30 percent of litigators firm-wide.
New Jersey, generally considered an "employee-friendly" state, presents special challenges to a management-side defense firm, requiring knowledge and expertise about compliance with an array of employee rights and protections beyond those accorded by federal law.
New Jersey continues to be a hotbed for wage-and-hour litigation in multiple industries, including financial services, food, health care, insurance, chemical, military defense, technology, pharmaceutical, public utilities, petroleum, real estate, transportation and entertainment, and Morgan Lewis lawyers have been at the forefront.
Sample industries are:
• Life Sciences: When the plaintiffs’ bar filed industry-wide litigation against pharmaceutical companies seeking overtime on behalf of pharmaceutical sales representatives, many companies turned to Morgan Lewis. New Jersey partners Thomas Linthorst and Rich Rosenblatt have been at the center of the firm’s engagements and are or were counsel of record in the overtime class or collective actions filed against Astellas, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Daiichi-Sankyo, Eisai, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi Aventis, Takeda and Wyeth. The work also includes representation of global health-care companies like Novo Nordisk. Partner Rene Johnson regularly counsels clients on employment issues, discrimination, harassment claims and reorganizations in this industry.
• Financial Services: Princeton partners are also at the center of Morgan Lewis’s financial services industry practice. Johnson and Linthorst maintain active practices advising financial services firms with respect to counseling and litigation involving whistleblower claims under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) and other whistleblower programs under Dodd-Frank. Johnson is currently handling a SOX case for Moody’s where an analyst, who criticized the company after allegedly being demoted and then, suspended for complaining internally about its practices, sued the firm, its credit-ratings unit and its chief executive officer for defamation.
• Public Utilities: Morgan Lewis has represented one of the state’s largest employers, PSEG, in a variety of litigation and advice matters. It has also represented a number of subsidiaries of a major national water company operating in New Jersey and Long Island, N.Y. These representations run the gamut from providing advice to litigating discrimination and ERISA matters, to handling labor arbitrations.
• Technology: In addition to representing "old economy" clients, the New Jersey office is fully engaged in the new economy, driven by technology companies. Examples include such Fortune 500 companies as Amazon.com, Cisco Systems, Cognizant Technology Solutions and SunGard Data Systems in a wide variety of matters both within New Jersey and around the country.
|Morgan Lewis by the Numbers|
| ||Firm-wide||N.J. Office|
|Department as percentage of firm (head-count)||47%||57%|
|Department as percentage of firm (revenue)||47%||57%|
• Richard Rosenblatt, partner — has practiced exclusively in labor and employment law since 1990. He has served as Morgan Lewis’s operations partner for the Labor and Employment Practice since 2008. In that role, he is heavily involved in all aspects of the practice group’s administration and in developing the firm’s cutting-edge experience handling matters under alternative fee arrangements. He is certified in legal process management. Though based in Princeton and Philadelphia, his practice is national in scope and includes wrongful discharge and other individual employment litigation; large-scale wage-and-hour matters; and restrictive covenant and trade secret litigation.
• Thomas Linthorst, partner, co-leader of the Labor and Employment Practice Group’s Wage and Hour Practice, Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Practice, and Life Sciences Industry Initiative — His practice is concentrated in defending employers against wage and hour class and collective actions, whistleblower claims, and claims for wrongful termination, sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation. He represents employers before state and federal trial and appellate courts and administrative agencies.
• Rene Johnson, partner — represents employers in litigation and disputes under federal, state and local statutes, including ERISA, in federal, state and administrative forums and in arbitration. With extensive experience representing clients in the financial services industry, she has worked closely with employers in that industry since 1993. Johnson has handled a number of trials, including jury trials and bench trials, as well as AAA and NASD arbitrations.
• Prashanth Jayachandran, of counsel — represents employers in an array of labor and employment law matters, including before federal and state trial and appellate courts and administrative agencies. He also has handled wage and hour class and collective actions and has led internal investigations into various harassment and discrimination claims and negotiated employment, noncompete and separation agreements. Jayachandran has also represented employers before the National Labor Relations Board and labor arbitrators; in opposition to union-organizing campaigns; in responding to labor grievances and strikes; and in collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
Cases of Note:
• Avaya, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc., U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey — In October 2010, Avaya, a key competitor of Cisco’s, sued in New Jersey state court over Cisco’s hiring of a former senior vice president of Avaya after it was discovered that the former vice president had apparently downloaded the full contents of his Avaya computer shortly prior to giving notice to Avaya of his resignation.
After removing the matter to federal court, Morgan Lewis successfully staved off Avaya’s attempt to obtain a temporary restraining order by obtaining on an expedited basis a forensic analysis that demonstrated that the former Avaya vice president had never looked at the information after it was downloaded to a hard drive, which was consistent with his testimony that the download was inadvertent and unknowing. Given the computer downloading issue, the denial of the TRO was an enormous victory.
Avaya continued to sue Cisco and Avaya’s former vice president, however, claiming that he breached a noncompete agreement. After Morgan Lewis aggressively challenged the enforceability of Avaya’s standard noncompetition agreement and after several depositions, Avaya ultimately stipulated to the dismissal with prejudice of the claims against the former vice president.
Avaya, however, continued to aggressively pursue a corporate raiding and trade secret misappropriation claim against Cisco pertaining to Cisco’s hiring of a large number of former Avaya sales and technical employees. In support of that effort, Avaya served overwhelming discovery. In opposition, Morgan Lewis acknowledged that Avaya had pleaded enough facts to overcome a motion to dismiss, but those facts were insufficient to justify invasive discovery from a direct competitor such as Cisco. The court accepted that argument and largely denied Avaya’s discovery.
Avaya did not give up. Rather, it filed an extensive amended complaint and served on Cisco a "trade secret identification list" that it claimed reflected the information that former Avaya employees might have taken or otherwise be using at Cisco. Morgan Lewis again sought a protective order. The court held that Avaya was on an improper "fishing expedition" for information that might support its allegations for which it was required to have had facts upon filing. Ultimately, Avaya stipulated to the dismissal of the case with prejudice.
(Lead attorneys, Richard Rosenblatt and Drew Wixted)
• Vargas v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York — Morgan Lewis defeated a nationwide FLSA collective action seeking overtime on behalf of fund accountants when Judge Deborah Batts denied plaintiff’s motion for conditional certification on Aug. 10, 2012. The defense team marshalled the evidence in opposition to the plaintiff’s motion, including declarations from numerous other fund accountants that Batts relied upon in denying the motion. The judge also denied plaintiff’s request to amend the complaint to add a retaliation claim.
(Lead attorneys, Thomas Linthorst, Sam Shaulson and Melissa Kelly)
• HOV Services, Inc. v. Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey — Morgan Lewis represented Cognizant on a variety of matters, including those relating to issues central to the company’s business, such as allegations of unfair competition by competitors like HOV Services. HOV brought a broad-based corporate raiding claim relating to allegations arising out of the hiring of a number of employees from HOV’s operations in India by Cognizant’s operations in India. HOV has sued Cognizant in New Jersey on a variety of unfair competition, corporate raiding and computer-related offense theories.
In the face of an aggressive defense, HOV Services voluntarily dismissed all of its claims against Cognizant with prejudice. Morgan Lewis filed an early motion to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds, arguing that this case, if litigated at all, should be litigated in India. When the Court issued an order limiting discovery solely to the threshold question of whether the case was appropriately brought in the United States, HOV Services ultimately stipulated to the dismissal of the matter with prejudice and without any payment by the client. •