Practice Area

Employment Law

Patterson Belknap's Employment Law Group protects employers' interests both through litigation and through counseling designed to minimize litigation risks and ensure compliance with employment laws. Our employment lawyers have had very successful results litigating matters under the full range of federal and state employment laws. Whether representing a Fortune 50 company, a mid-size business or charitable institution, they promptly investigate and analyze the case, develop a strategy for obtaining optimal results, and provide clients with an early case assessment to avoid surprises down the line. The group's active counseling practice helps employers ensure that they are in compliance with workplace laws and minimize the legal risks that accompany sensitive individual or group employment decisions. The group also regularly conducts internal corporate investigations to prevent and address claims arising out of the #MeToo movement, claims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, and claims arising under whistleblower policies. The Employment Law Group also regularly provides assistance when employers are faced with gross misconduct by their employees, including employee fraud and theft. 


Our employment litigators regularly appear before federal, state and local courts and administrative agencies. We have successfully defended clients in class action and other multi-plaintiff suits involving the discrimination laws, wage and hour laws and employee benefits litigation under ERISA. In cases involving complex employee benefits issues, our employment litigators work closely with our employee benefits lawyers. We also litigate—often in fast-paced cases involving preliminary injunctions—disputes involving noncompete agreements and trade secrets.

Examples of recent Patterson Belknap employment litigation matters include:

  • Obtaining a defense verdict after trial of a case alleging failure to accommodate and unlawful termination due to disability.
  • Obtaining a defense verdict after trial of a case alleging failure to promote based on race discrimination and retaliation for the assertion of First Amendment rights.
  • Defeating class certification in a race discrimination action.
  • Obtaining attorneys’ fees incurred in successfully enforcing a covenant not to compete.
  • Winning summary judgment and creating Second Circuit law favorable to employers in a novel case alleging discrimination based on sexual stereotyping.
  • Obtaining voluntary dismissal of class action complaint alleging that participants in pension plan had received service credit for less than the total period of time for which they worked.
  • Winning a summary judgment on an action alleging failure to pay severance benefits due to a large class of employees under an employee benefit plan.

Other claims our employment attorneys defend on behalf of employers include charges of breach of employment contract, workplace defamation, invasion of privacy and wrongful discharge.

Compliance/Litigation Avoidance

Patterson Belknap employment lawyers regularly provide counsel to employers in implementing reductions in force. We advise employers on classification and other compliance issues under the wage and hours law. We consult with clients on cases involving requests for accommodation by employees with disabilities or on the obligations to employees seeking leave time. We also work closely with in-house counsel, human resources professionals and line managers to minimize the legal risks involved in sensitive individual employee terminations. Our attorneys additionally are experienced in evaluating the risks involved when a company wishes to employ an individual who has signed a noncompete agreement. We also negotiate and draft employment policies and manuals, employment contracts and severance agreements and investigate and assess the employment aspects of acquisitions and divestitures.