People: Brian M. Stolzenbach, Partner

Photo of Brian M. Stolzenbach, Partner

Brian M. Stolzenbach

Partner

Chicago
Direct: (312) 460-5551
Fax: (312) 460-7551
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Mr. Stolzenbach is a creative yet practical counselor, litigator, and negotiator. Capable of designing and executing different strategies and tactics for different situations, he seeks first and foremost to understand his client’s objectives before charting a path forward. Consistent with his adaptable approach, Mr. Stolzenbach has significant experience representing and counseling employers in many different industries, including the following:

  • construction
  • healthcare
  • higher education
  • hospitality
  • energy
  • financial services
  • manufacturing
  • print and broadcast media
  • professional sports
  • retail
  • telecommunications
  • transportation, distribution, and logistics
  • waste management

Mr. Stolzenbach is particularly well versed in the field of labor relations law and serves as Vice Chairman of the Firm’s Labor and Employee Relations Practice Group. Within this realm, he represents clients in:

  • collective bargaining
  • grievance and interest arbitrations
  • representation proceedings
  • unfair labor practice litigation
  • labor relations litigation in the courts

In addition to representing employers in labor relations litigation and collective bargaining, Mr. Stolzenbach also provides his clients with positive employee relations training and legal and practical advice on a wide spectrum of labor relations issues, including lockouts and strikes, card-check and neutrality agreements, corporate campaigns, traditional organizing campaigns, withdrawal liability and other employee benefits matters, successorship and other subjects related to mergers and acquisitions, leased employees, employee committees, and labor-related bankruptcy issues. Over the years, Mr. Stolzenbach has represented or counseled employers in labor relations matters involving virtually every major private sector labor union in the country.

Mr. Stolzenbach also maintains a robust employment litigation practice. Equally comfortable pursuing victory on a motion or at trial, at ease before a jury, private arbitrator, trial judge, or appellate panel, he defends employers throughout the country against any kind of legal claim their employees and former employees can imagine. He has defended statutory claims of discrimination and retaliation, various claims under ERISA, and common law claims for breach of contract, fraud and misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, defamation, breach of fiduciary duty, and more. Even so, he also works proactively with his clients on a daily basis to mitigate legal risk by training and counseling them on employment law and sound employee relations.

Finally, although his practice is focused almost entirely on labor and employment law, Mr. Stolzenbach also defends lawsuits filed by students against educational institutions, and he has represented clients in litigation involving municipal contracting and the Fourteenth Amendment, the separation of powers within local government, and the alleged intimidation of witnesses. During law school, he also served as a Felony Trial Division Intern in the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney for Washtenaw County, Michigan, where he tried and won several cases and provided substantial assistance in the successful prosecution of murderers and sex offenders. He also served as a judicial intern for the Honorable Patrick J. Duggan of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Mr. Stolzenbach is a creative yet practical counselor, litigator, and negotiator. Capable of designing and executing different strategies and tactics for different situations, he seeks first and foremost to understand his client’s objectives before charting a path forward. Consistent with his adaptable approach, Mr. Stolzenbach has significant experience representing and counseling employers in many different industries, including the following:

  • construction
  • healthcare
  • higher education
  • hospitality
  • energy
  • financial services
  • manufacturing
  • print and broadcast media
  • professional sports
  • retail
  • telecommunications
  • transportation, distribution, and logistics
  • waste management

Mr. Stolzenbach is particularly well versed in the field of labor relations law and serves as Vice Chairman of the Firm’s Labor and Employee Relations Practice Group. Within this realm, he represents clients in:

  • collective bargaining
  • grievance and interest arbitrations
  • representation proceedings
  • unfair labor practice litigation
  • labor relations litigation in the courts

In addition to representing employers in labor relations litigation and collective bargaining, Mr. Stolzenbach also provides his clients with positive employee relations training and legal and practical advice on a wide spectrum of labor relations issues, including lockouts and strikes, card-check and neutrality agreements, corporate campaigns, traditional organizing campaigns, withdrawal liability and other employee benefits matters, successorship and other subjects related to mergers and acquisitions, leased employees, employee committees, and labor-related bankruptcy issues. Over the years, Mr. Stolzenbach has represented or counseled employers in labor relations matters involving virtually every major private sector labor union in the country.

Mr. Stolzenbach also maintains a robust employment litigation practice. Equally comfortable pursuing victory on a motion or at trial, at ease before a jury, private arbitrator, trial judge, or appellate panel, he defends employers throughout the country against any kind of legal claim their employees and former employees can imagine. He has defended statutory claims of discrimination and retaliation, various claims under ERISA, and common law claims for breach of contract, fraud and misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, defamation, breach of fiduciary duty, and more. Even so, he also works proactively with his clients on a daily basis to mitigate legal risk by training and counseling them on employment law and sound employee relations.

Finally, although his practice is focused almost entirely on labor and employment law, Mr. Stolzenbach also defends lawsuits filed by students against educational institutions, and he has represented clients in litigation involving municipal contracting and the Fourteenth Amendment, the separation of powers within local government, and the alleged intimidation of witnesses. During law school, he also served as a Felony Trial Division Intern in the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney for Washtenaw County, Michigan, where he tried and won several cases and provided substantial assistance in the successful prosecution of murderers and sex offenders. He also served as a judicial intern for the Honorable Patrick J. Duggan of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Education

  • J.D., University of Michigan, cum laude
    ABA-BNA Labor Law Award
    Book Award in Law & Bioethics
  • A.B., University of Missouri, cum laude with Honors in History
    Phi Beta Kappa
    Curators Scholar
  • Certified Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt

Admissions

  • Illinois

Courts

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Third, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and District of Columbia Circuits
  • 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 District of Indiana
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee 

Representative Engagements

Labor Relations Litigation - Federal Court

  • Seventh Circuit/Northern District of Illinois: appellate court affirms summary judgment for hotel operator and municipal owner of convention services hotel against union’s claim that it possessed a First Amendment right to demonstrate and handbill on publicly owned hotel property
  • Seventh Circuit/Northern District of Illinois: appellate court overturns district court’s decision vacating an arbitration award, thereby validating trade association’s ability to negotiate an industry-wide mandatory drug-testing program for electricians represented by the union
  • Ninth Circuit/Northern District of California: appellate court affirms summary judgment for airline employer, denying the employee’s petition to vacate an arbitration award under the Railway Labor Act
  • Eastern District of Pennsylvania: court grants summary judgment to employer in Section 301 lawsuit alleging improper dismissal of employee in violation of a collective bargaining agreement

Labor Relations Litigation - National Labor Relations Board

  • Unfair Labor Practice: Board affirms ALJ’s dismissal of complaint alleging that hotel unlawfully discharged prominently pro-union employee during organizing effort
  • Unfair Labor Practice: Board affirms ALJ’s dismissal of several serious unfair labor practice claims during nationwide corporate campaign
  • Unfair Labor Practice: Board affirms ALJ’s dismissal of second set of serious unfair labor practice claims during nationwide corporate campaign
  • Unit Clarification: Board affirms Regional Director’s decision denying petition to accrete non-represented truck drivers into existing bargaining unit of truck drivers and mechanics
  • Unit Hearing: Regional Director agrees that single-facility unit petitioned for by the union is inappropriate; addition of second facility to the bargaining unit assists employer in winning election
  • Unit Hearing: Regional Director dismisses union’s petition for election while request for review is pending because employer’s federal contract covering the petitioned-for unit is expiring
  • Election Objections: Regional Director overrules union’s objections to employer conduct and certifies employer’s election victory
  • Election Objections: Board affirms Regional Director decision overruling objections by union following employer’s victory in representation election; objections included allegations of interrogation, surveillance, solicitation of grievances, and threats to close the facility
  • Election Objections: Regional Director overrules union’s challenges to multiple ballots and also sustains employer’s objections to conduct of the election; employer wins election as a result

Labor Relations Arbitration

  • Contract Interpretation: employer prevails in five separate contracting-out arbitrations over an eight-year period across multiple plants and different departments and types of work, all together preserving millions in annual cost savings and maintaining flexibility to meet critical customer demands
  • Contract Interpretation: arbitrator denies claim that company improperly changed its method of bonus payment, saving the company seven figures in annual costs
  • Contract Interpretation: arbitrator rejects grievance challenging employer’s operationally critical and cost-saving use of maintenance contractors
  • Contract Interpretation: arbitrator denies union grievance in dispute over vacation pay, preserving six figures in cost savings for the manufacturer
  • Contract Interpretation: successful representation of employer in dispute over the creation of a new job classification and setting of wage rate associated with the position
  • Contract Interpretation: arbitrator denies grievance challenging overtime assignments, rejecting union’s past practice argument despite informal agreement by first- and second-level supervisors to follow practice and existence of overtime assignment sheet detailing the practice
  • Contract Interpretation: arbitrator agrees with employer that the grievant (a union steward) is not qualified for an industrial electrician position, despite being the most senior internal applicant, and denies union’s grievance as a result
  • Contract Interpretation: union’s grievance denied by arbitrator in case involving the proper calculation of vacation accrual
  • Contract Interpretation: arbitrator rejects union’s grievance in dispute over proper payment of overtime when employees work from Sunday into Monday shift
  • Contract Interpretation: arbitrator rejects union’s grievance challenging employer’s operationally critical scheduling practices
  • Contract Interpretation: arbitrator concludes that union access provisions in card-check/neutrality agreement no longer apply after recognition of the union
  • Contract Interpretation: arbitrator denies union’s grievance challenging layoff selections, approving employer’s decision not to follow overall seniority
  • Contract Interpretation: arbitrator affirms employer’s right to change or abolish job classifications and denies union’s grievance where employee was discharged as a result of failure to qualify for newly created position
  • Contract Interpretation: union’s grievance denied after employer declined to reinstate employee following medical leave, owing to physical restrictions, and declined to grant her two years’ recall rights under layoff provisions
  • Contract Interpretation: employer prevails in dispute over use of temporary agency employees
  • Contract Interpretation: arbitrator rejects union’s grievance challenging manufacturer’s decision not to provide health insurance to strikers at the end of the strike, unless and until sufficient work became available to recall them
  • Contract Interpretation: successful defense of union’s grievance claiming that union officers are contractually entitled to leave work for certain union meetings
  • Contract Interpretation: arbitrator denies nationwide grievance challenging employer’s right to modify its family and medical leave policy 
  • Contract Interpretation: successful defense of employer in dispute over the proper assignment of overtime
  • Contract Interpretation: municipality prevails in dispute with over fire department’s ability to require minimum test score as qualification for promotion
  • Contract Interpretation: arbitrator denies union’s grievance, holding that newspaper’s use of non-unit employees to supplement the bargaining unit did not violate parties’ contract
  • Discharge/Discipline: employer prevails in discharge arbitration after employee is dismissed for viewing pornography at work
  • Discharge/Discipline: arbitrator denies grievance and affirms discharge of long-term employee because he made too many shipping errors
  • Discharge/Discipline: successful defense of grievance challenging dismissal of employee for FMLA fraud
  • Discharge/Discipline: arbitrator denies grievance challenging dismissal of truck driver for texting while driving
  • Discharge/Discipline: union’s grievance denied where employee was discharged for leaving the plant to avoid a post-injury drug and alcohol test
  • Discharge/Discipline: union’s grievance denied and discharge upheld based on circumstantial evidence of fuel theft
  • Discharge/Discipline: arbitrator denies grievance challenging dismissal of union steward for harassment of co-workers
  • Discharge/Discipline: arbitrator denies grievance over final warning for employee engaged in harassment of a co-worker
  • Discharge/Discipline: arbitrator upholds discharge of two retail clerks for dishonesty, even though dishonesty was not perpetrated against the employer
  • Discharge/Discipline: arbitrator affirms discharge of employee caught hiding in a corner during his shift, crediting supervisory personnel over the grievant
  • Discharge/Discipline: successful representation of employer against grievance challenging discharge of employee for FMLA fraud
  • Discharge/Discipline: arbitrator denies grievance and upholds company’s decision to discharge employee for violation of a last chance agreement

ERISA/Employee Benefits Litigation

  • U.S. Supreme Court/Seventh Circuit/Northern District of Illinois: Supreme Court declines to review appellate court’s decision affirming summary judgment for all defendants in “stock-drop” class action alleging breach of fiduciary duty in the management of a Section 401(k) retirement plan
  • Eighth Circuit/Southern District of Iowa: appellate court affirms denial of class certification in claim for pension benefits
  • Central District of California: following one-day bench trial, court rejects plaintiff’s claims for long term disability benefits through retirement, a no-cost half-million dollar life insurance policy, and statutory penalties under ERISA
  • Northern District of Illinois: court holds that a former participant in a Section 401(k) plan has no standing to bring a class action for breach of fiduciary duty in the context of a “stock-drop” claim
  • Northern District of Illinois: court denies motion for class certification in “stock-drop” class action lawsuit
  • Northern District of Ohio: court dismisses with prejudice a claim for significant life insurance benefits and breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA and Ohio common law

Other Employment Litigation

  • Kansas Supreme Court/Kansas Court of Appeals/Johnson County District Court: Kansas Supreme Court declines review of Court of Appeals decision affirming complete judgment for employer following jury trial on claims for breach of implied employment contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and intentional misrepresentation
  • Seventh Circuit/Northern District of Illinois: appellate court affirms summary judgment for employer against two employees claiming race and national origin harassment, as well as retaliatory discharge
  • Seventh Circuit/Northern District of Illinois: appellate court affirms summary judgment for employer on wrongful discharge claim, disability discrimination claim, and retaliatory discharge claim
  • Seventh Circuit/Northern District of Illinois: appellate court affirms summary judgment for employer on various claims of discrimination
  • Illinois Appellate Court/Cook County Circuit Court: in case of first impression, appellate court affirms trial court’s decision to grant employer’s motion to dismiss a whistleblower claim
  • Illinois Appellate Court/Cook County Circuit Court: appellate court affirms dismissal of plaintiff’s complaint for retaliatory discharge because the claim is preempted by the Railway Labor Act
  • Johnson County (Kansas) District Court: summary judgment awarded to employer on claims of intentional misrepresentation, promissory estoppel and breach of fiduciary duty; complete defense verdict for employer following jury trial on claim for breach of implied employment contract
  • Private Arbitration (Illinois): summary judgment granted to employer on plaintiff’s claim of retaliation; complete victory for employer after arbitration hearing on claim of national origin discrimination
  • Private Arbitration (Illinois): summary judgment granted to employer on plaintiff’s claims of pay discrimination and retaliatory discharge; complete victory for employer after arbitration hearing on claim of discriminatory discharge
  • Private Arbitration (Nevada): in case presenting novel issue of law, arbitrator grants employer’s motion to dismiss state law whistleblower claim and subsequently grants summary judgment to university on claim for breach of implied employment contract
  • Florida Commission on Human Rights: following a hearing before an administrative law judge, complete defense victory on a claim of age discrimination under state law
  • Northern District of Illinois: summary judgment granted to employer on claim of retaliatory discharge under the FMLA
  • Northern District of Illinois: summary judgment granted to employer on claim of disability discrimination under the ADA
  • Northern District of Indiana: summary judgment granted to employer on disability discrimination, FMLA retaliation, FMLA interference, and worker’s compensation retaliation claims
  • Northern District of Indiana: summary judgment granted to employer in age and race discrimination case
  • Eastern District of Michigan: court grants employer’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims of race discrimination and retaliatory discharge with prejudice
  • Central District of California: summary judgment granted to employer in lawsuit claiming retaliatory discharge and age discrimination
  • Northern District of Oklahoma: court grants employer’s motion to dismiss case alleging harassment based on age, national origin, and sex

Student Litigation

  • Third Circuit/District of New Jersey: appellate court affirms district court’s holding that Title III of the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination do not apply to veterinary school’s conduct in St. Kitts, as well as district court’s decision dismissing remaining common law claims on forum non conveniens grounds
  • Seventh Circuit/Northern District of Illinois: appellate court affirms district court’s forum non conveniens dismissal of student’s lawsuit stemming from his expulsion from veterinary school in St. Kitts
  • Illinois Appellate Court/Kankakee County Circuit Court/Central District of Illinois: appellate court affirms dismissal of paramedic student’s claim that vaccination policy violated the Illinois Constitution and various Illinois statutes after federal district court granted motion to dismiss the student’s claims under the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and remanded the remaining claims to state court
  • Tenth Circuit/District of Colorado: appellate court affirms dismissal of student’s claims against his former university
  • Central District of California: court dismisses student’s claim against medical school in Dominica with prejudice for lack of personal jurisdiction and denies transfer of venue to Florida or New Jersey on same grounds