Chicago IL 60606
- Education Law
- Higher Education
- K-12 Education
- Labor & Employment
- Counseling & Compliance
- Employment Litigation
- Union-Related Matters
- J.D., cum laude, Indiana University School of Law, 1999
- B.A., Indiana University, 1995 (political science)
Bar & Court Admissions
- U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois – Trial Bar
- U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois
- U.S. District Court for the Northern and Southern Districts of Indiana
Jeff serves as co-chair of the firm’s Labor and Employment Practice and recently was named by Law Bulletin Publishing as one of Illinois’ top “40 Attorneys Under 40” to watch in 2012. Jeff represents private and public sector management clients in all areas of labor and employment law. He regularly counsels and litigates single- and multi-plaintiff matters relating to employment discrimination and traditional labor claims, and has extensive trial experience before labor arbitrators, judges and juries, in both federal and state courts and before administrative agencies. He has extensive experience dealing with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including counseling clients on compliance with FMLA regulations, conducting FMLA audits and training, and successfully litigating FMLA and ADA lawsuits.
Due to his FMLA focus, Jeff serves on the editorial board of the Family and Medical Leave Handbook, a comprehensive HR publication which addresses the complex requirements of the FMLA, and he also serves as a chapter editor for BNA’s FMLA treatise. Jeff is the author of the firm’s FMLA Insights blog, which was selected in 2012 and 2011 by the ABA Journal as one of the top 100 legal blogs and voted the No. 2 Labor and Employment blog of 2011 by LexisNexis. It was featured in a blog post on Kevin O’Keefe’s Real Lawyers Have Blogs discussing the blog’s success.
Jeff frequently speaks on a wide range of employment topics and is regularly quoted by business and legal publications on employment-related issues. Most recently, Jeff authored an article published by the Chicago Tribune regarding the difficulty employers have in complying with the FMLA. Jeff was also featured in the Chicago Tribune in which he drafted a guest “Outside Opinion” column on Employers’ Requests for Facebook and other social media passwords (April 2012), and he was quoted extensively in the Chicago Tribune on the impact of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes on employers (July 2011). He also has been quoted in publications such as Inside Business in an article on FMLA abuse; in Bloomberg’s Business Week on the effect of the final ADAAA regulations on employers; the BNA Human Resources Report on an employer’s “talking points” when terminating an employee; and in an article, “Firing of Pregnant First-Year Employee Ruled Illegal” published in the April 2012 issue of Inside Counsel, in which Jeff advises employers on complying with FMLA regulations when dealing with employees who are not yet eligible for FMLA leave.
Prior to joining the firm, Jeff practiced at McDermott Will & Emery LLP (1999–2003). In 1995, following his undergraduate study at Indiana University, Jeff was selected by then Illinois Governor Jim Edgar’s administration for the Dunn Fellowship Program, where he spent a full year working in the press office of Governor Jim Edgar. During his undergraduate study, he served as student body president.
Jeff is the immediate past chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Committee. He also serves on the Illinois Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Section Council, the Legislative Committee of the Society of Human Resource Professionals (SHRM chapter), and the ABA’s Federal Labor Standards Legislation Committee.
In addition to practicing law, Jeff is Village Trustee for the Village of LaGrange. He serves on the board of directors for Marist High School, a Catholic college-preparatory school on Chicago’s southwest side and his alma mater. He was also appointed by Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford to serve on the Treasurer’s Performance Audit Working Group.
A self-proclaimed baseball fanatic (and avid White Sox fan), Jeff recently took a hiatus from nearly 20 years of umpiring high school baseball in the Chicago Catholic League so that he could begin coaching his sons’ Little League baseball teams, fulfilling a dream that rivals his daytime job.
Representative Experience click to view
- Secured complete dismissal of disability discrimination and FMLA claims in a federal court lawsuit filed by a former college registrar. (Wirey v. Richland Community College, 2012)
- Obtained early dismissal of reverse race discrimination employment discrimination action where federal court ruled that plaintiff did not allege facts amounting to an actionable discrimination claim. (Pazur v. Target Corporation, 2011)
- Served as lead defense counsel in a successful jury trial representing the University of Chicago. The Plaintiff, a former Ph.D. student, alleged that the University violated provisions in its student handbook when it suspended him after he made continuous inappropriate communications to University administrators. Following a nine-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the University. (Vernon v. University of Chicago, 2008)
- Obtained dismissal of several time-barred claims in a USERRA action brought by a faculty member against a private university. (April 2010)
- Obtained Plaintiff’s voluntary dismissal of worker’s compensation retaliatory discharge case in its entirety shortly after taking Plaintiff’s deposition. (Wiles v. Schneider Electric, 2009)
- Served as one of the lead defense counsel in a 20-plaintiff Title VII sexual discrimination and sexual harassment case on behalf a Fortune 100 national retail company. Responsible for the majority of Plaintiffs’ depositions and led the day-to-day management of the case. Favorable settlement achieved during discovery. (Feb. 2010)
- Obtained summary judgment in worker’s compensation retaliatory discharge case on behalf of Target Corporation. (Epstein v. Target Corporation, 2008)
- Negotiated faculty and adjunct faculty collective bargaining agreements for an Illinois community college. (2006 – 2010)
- Won FMLA and ADA case, when summary judgment was affirmed where Court found that Plaintiff did not place employer on notice of the need for FMLA leave. (Moody v. Colson Caster Corp., 2006)
- Prevailed in contentious multi-day labor arbitration for Chicago-area municipality where the employer placed employee on leave and later terminated his employment due to his inability to perform essential duties of position. Favorable decision avoided five years of back and additional potential damages. (2006)
- Obtained summary judgment in quid pro quo and hostile work environment sexual harassment case. (Ford v. Colson Caster Corp., 2005)
- Prevailed in labor arbitration on behalf of large suburban high school district where security officer was terminated as a result of physical altercation with high school student. (2004)
- Obtained summary judgment in a multi-plaintiff age discrimination, harassment and retaliation case, case dismissed upon conclusion of Plaintiff’s depositions. (Underwood et al. v. The Fairmont Hotel, 2003)
- Obtained summary judgment in litigation raising allegations of Title VII race discrimination and retaliation and violation of the Illinois School Visitation Rights Act. (Cisneros v. Condell Medical Center, 2002)
- Obtained summary judgment in age discrimination case, and successfully advanced a breach of the duty of loyalty claim against employee for allegedly using employer’s property and resources to create a competitor company. (Ladenberger v. General Signal Corp., 2001)
- Yahoo’s New Parental Leave Policy Raises Some Interesting FMLA Questions
- The Ugly Side of the Family Leave Law
- "After 20 years, FMLA Still Tests Some Employers"
- Legislators Considering Changes to New Facebook Law
- How a Natural Disaster Impacts Leave Taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act
- Adult Child Care FMLA Leave Requests
- FMLA Leave in Las Vegas
- FMLA Insights Blog Named to ABA Journal's Annual Blog 100 List for Second Year in Row
- Employee Leave Eligibility and Natural Disasters
- Which Supreme Court Case Will Affect HR Most this Term?
- "Business Risks Rise in Criminal History Discrimination"
- Jeff Nowak Named One of the Top 40 Lawyers Under the Age of 40 to Watch in Illinois
- "Illinois' 'Facebook' Law Handcuffs Employers"
- “US Employers Banned from Asking for Social Media Logins”
- "Unequal Treatment: EEOC Targets Blanket Leave of Absence and Attendance Policies for ADA Violations"
- "Bill Protecting Job Seekers', Employees' Social Media Passwords Advances to Gov. Quinn"
- FMLA FAQ: Can an Employer Require an Employee to Make Up Time Taken as FMLA Leave?
- New Supreme Court Term Promises a Range of Labor and Employment Cases
- Illinois’ New “Facebook Password” Law May Create a Host of Unintended Consequences for Employers
- EEOC Receives Record Number of Charges of Discrimination and Secures Highest Amount of Damages in FY 2011
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