Mary A. Smigielski

Partner

  • location icon Chicago, IL
    550 West Adams Street
    Suite 300
    Chicago, IL 60661

Mary Smigielski is a partner in the Chicago office of Lewis Brisbois and a member of the Labor & Employment Practice. Ms. Smigielski handles class/collective actions and single-plaintiff employment litigation, administrative charges, nationwide counseling, training, and sensitive workplace investigations, including at the C-Suite level. Having spent nearly a decade as in-house employment counsel for a multi-national, Fortune 50 company with responsibility for over 100,000 employees, Ms. Smigielski is in a unique position to recognize the challenges faced by our clients and is committed to achieving creative and cost-effective solutions.

Ms. Smigielski partners with all levels of leadership to achieve complex business objectives, define, assess and control legal risk, and implement workplace policies and best practices. She routinely represents employers in State and Federal Courts, and she has appeared in courts across the United States in individual, class, collective and multi-district litigation as well as mediations and arbitrations. She has extensive experience with administrative agencies, including the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. Department of Labor, Illinois Department of Human Rights, Chicago Commission on Human Relations and various other agencies nationwide.

Ms. Smigielski’s counseling practice involves partnering with clients on all aspects of the employee life cycle, including pre-employment screening, the application process, restrictive covenants, orientation, handbooks, policies, compensation programs, exemption analysis, leaves of absence, accommodations, crisis response/threat management, training, wage/hour audits, reductions-in-force, facility closures, termination counseling, separation agreements and responding to inquires from the media and regulatory officials.

Her practice also involves unfair competition law, business-to-business disputes, gig-economy initiatives, executive agreements, non-disclosure agreements, non-competition agreements, non-solicitation agreements, professional services and independent contractor arrangements, mergers and acquisitions, asset purchase/sale agreements, and intellectual property matters such as the defense of trademarks.

Legal Experience

  • Nearly a decade in-house at an international Fortune 100 retail company after 14 years of private practice. Counseling and litigation supervision for approximately 100,000 retail and pharmacy employees nationally and off-shore, as well as Supply Chain/Distribution, Real Estate, Loss Prevention, Consumer Electronics, Procurement, Apparel, Grocery/Drug, Inventory Management, Facilities, Finance and other business units.
  • Cost sensitive litigation management of heavy class/collective action/PAGA and single-plaintiff docket nationally and in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Developed strategy with outside counsel, managed outside counsel/budgets and attended significant depositions, hearings, mediations, arbitrations, trials. Evaluated risks, set reserves and litigation budgets and counseled management on litigation process/avoidance. Resolved $26M individual plaintiff employment verdict and related cases for $1.9M in California.
  • Directed litigation and negotiated highly favorable class/collective settlements including alleged failure to pay vacation/personal days to approximately 100,000 employees in Illinois; national violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) during hiring; nationwide misclassification of various managers; improper wage statements in California.
  • Successfully defended Employment Arbitration Agreement from claims of unconscionability and compelled putative class actions to arbitration in state and federal court.
  • Employment law due diligence for M&A deals, including $2.3B spin-off with 6,000 employees and a $2B REIT transaction.
  • Counseled HR/management through all aspects of WARN, OWBPA and EEO adverse impact analysis of staff reductions and facility closures, including negotiating and preparing exit agreements and restructuring for optimal efficiency and avoidance of litigation.
  • Developed and revised employment policies, executive/employment agreements, third party contracts, organizational and compensation structures, diversity initiatives, marketing materials and press responses.
  • Continually revamped payroll practices to ensure compliance, evaluated risk and revised independent contractor selection process, and advised on e-commerce/gig-economy initiatives and new policies such as a non-accrual vacation policy, BYOD, social media and elimination of performance reviews.
  • Led significant workplace/ethics investigations and immediately responded to workplace violence or other situations requiring crisis management. Responded to DOL/state audits and partnered with law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, DOJ, and Homeland Security.
  • Proactively advised on new laws and regulations.
  • Developed training and trained all levels of employees on employment law issues.
  • Various Law Department responsibilities while in-house included RFP process, planning CLE, revamping processes for legal compliance, paralegal performance analysis, member of Pulse Committee and co-chair of social planning subcommittee.
  • Led corporate raiding/restrictive covenant litigation at direction of the Chairman of the Board of a national healthcare provider.
  • Achieved favorable consent decree in multi-year ADA litigation with the EEOC for a retail client.
  • Multiple favorable summary judgment decisions, including in favor of a mortgage company on a claim of retaliation when plaintiff was terminated five days after her sexual harassment deposition.
  • Member of firm management committee at a prior firm.

Professional Presentations

  • Lewis Brisbois Management Academy: Employment Documentation: Who, What Where, When and Why – What to Include and What to Leave Out, 2018
  • DRI National Webcast: The Millennial Effect: How Millennials are Impacting the Workforce and Employment Claims, 2018
  • 35th Annual National CLE Conference: Labor & Employment, Telecommuting as a Reasonable Accommodation, 2018
  • First Chair, Annual CLE Seminar – Hot Topics in Employment Law, 2016
  • North Shore Labor & Employment Counsel (NSLC) and Baker McKenzie – Employment ADR 2.0: How to Build an Effective & Efficient ADR Program, 2015
  • Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Wisconsin Chapter and Littler Mendelson – The Great Arbitration Debate, 2014
  • Ogletree Deakins, Workplace Strategies – State Law Considerations for HR Professionals, 2012
  • Littler Mendelson, Executive Employer Conference – Retail Roundtable, 2010
  • Kmart Corporation, National Store Managers Academy, Employment Law 101
  • Practicing Law Institute 27th, 28th, and 29th Annual Institutes on Employment Law (Title VII and Section 1981)
  • Morgan Lewis, Retail Roundtable – Hiring Employees Who Are Subject to Non-Competes, Non-Solicitation and Confidentiality Agreements, 2006
  • Fellow, Morgan Lewis Trial Academy, 2006

Admissions

Illinois

California

Indiana

District of Columbia (inactive)

U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois

U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana

Associations

  • Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC)
  • American Bar Association (ABA)
  • First Chair, Top Employment Counsel 2012, 2016
    • Top Assistant General Counsel 2014, 2015
  • Chicago Bar Association

Education

University of San Diego School of Law

Juris Doctor, 1993

  • Deans Distinguished Service Award
  • Editor-in-Chief, Motions, School of Law newspaper
  • Diploma, Institute for International and Comparative Law, Paris 1991
  • Intern, Center for Public Interest law

University of San Diego

Bachelor of Arts, Political Science, 1990

  • Honors

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