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300 S. Wacker Drive
Suite 3400
Chicago IL 60606
TEL: 312.786.6164
FAX: 312.986.9192
Practice Areas
Education
  • J.D., cum laude, Indiana University School of Law, 1999
  • B.A., Indiana University, 1995 (political science)
Bar & Court Admissions
  • Illinois
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • 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
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Jeff Nowak

Partner
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Jeff serves as co-chair of the firm’s Labor and Employment Practice and was named by Law Bulletin Publishing as one of Illinois’ top “40 Attorneys Under 40” to watch in 2012. Jeff provides private and public sector employers with advice and counsel on how to minimize legal risk so they can run the most profitable business and efficient operations without being side-tracked by discrimination claims, strikes or other workplace issues. From sensitive employee termination issues to high-level harassment investigations to protection of their trade secrets, Jeff partners with our clients to help them meet their business objectives. If litigation is unavoidable, Jeff is a zealous advocate for our clients, having built a successful track record in dismissing employment claims against employers at the earliest stage possible and at the lowest cost. 

Jeff is widely recognized as one of the nation’s foremost FMLA and ADA experts, regularly counseling clients on compliance with FMLA and ADA regulations, conducting FMLA/ADA audits and training, and successfully litigating FMLA and ADA lawsuits. Jeff is the author of the firm’s highly regarded FMLA Insights blog, which has been selected for four consecutive years by the ABA Journal as one of the top 100 legal blogs (2011-2014) and was also voted the No. 2 Labor and Employment blog by LexisNexis. 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 on the faculty of the National Employment Law Institute (NELI) in the areas of FMLA and ADA.

Jeff is regularly quoted by business and legal publications on employment-related issues. Most recently, Jeff authored a column published by the Chicago Tribune regarding the difficulty employers have in complying with the FMLA, and he was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article regarding the increase in FMLA-related lawsuits.

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 past chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Committee. He also has served 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. 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

  • Prevailed on summary judgment in race discrimination and retaliation action on behalf of local luxury hotel. (Carter v. Thompson Hotels/Sax Hotel, May 2013)
  • Secured extremely favorable settlement for national laboratory after taking Plaintiff’s deposition in an age discrimination lawsuit brought by high-level director. (Sept. 2012)
  • Secured complete dismissal of ADA 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)

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