Joseph E. Tilson - Cozen O

Joseph E. Tilson

Listed in Best Lawyers since 2003

Joe Tilson is a founding partner and serves as Co-Chair of the law firm of Meckler Bulger Tilson Marick & Pearson LLP in Chicago, Illinois. A recognized authority in the area of labor and employment law, Joe represents employers in large scale employment litigation and labor arbitrations. In the past thirty years, he has tried over one hundred and fifty jury and non-jury cases before the full range of courts, administrative agencies and labor arbitrators. His clients include a number of the country’s largest public and private employers, and Illinois’ most prestigious universities, whom he represents in both traditional labor law matters and employment litigation. Joe is nationally known for his knowledge and success in handling large wage and hour class action cases, but he also has vast experience in collective bargaining involving large and complex bargaining units. 

Joe has been recognized as one of the top labor and employment lawyers in Chicago. He was named the 2014 Chicago Employment Law “Lawyer of the Year” by Best Lawyers for the second time in the last four years; he was named one of the Nation's Most Powerful Employment Attorneys by Human Resource Executive and Lawdragon; and he has consistently achieved a Tier 1 Labor and Employment ranking from Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business. Joe is a frequent lecturer, author and bar association leader. He regularly speaks on labor and employment issues for the American Bar Association, Practicing Law Institute, Northwestern University's Corporate Council Institute, Chicago-Kent College of Law and many other educational institutions and associations.

Joe is a Fellow of the College of Labor & Employment Lawyers, and is the former Chair of the American Bar Association’s Federal Labor Standards Legislation Committee. He currently serves on the ABA’s Council, the governing body of the ABA’s Labor and Employment Law Section. Joe also serves on the Board of Managers of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago.

Admitted to Practice: 
  • Illinois (1979)

Work History
  • Meckler Bulger Tilson Marick & Pearson  (1994 – Present)
  • Katten Muchin (1989 – 1994)
  • Pope Ballard (1980 – 1989)
  • Clerk for Judge Stephanie Seymour of the tenth Circuit (1979)

University of MichiganBA 1976University of Michigan Law SchoolJ.D. 1979
College of Labor and Employment LawyersYMCA of Metropolitan Chicago

Case History

Represented Northwestern University in First Ever Attempt to Unionize a College Sports Team

Represented Northwestern University in the first ever attempt by a union to organize a college team in proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board and throughout the union election campaign.   Currently handling appeal in which more than 20 interested parties filed amicus briefs.

Successfully Defended Fortune 100 Company in Nationwide Wage & Hour Lawsuit

Defended a large meatpacking company in the first enforcement action brought by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in the unionized sector of the meat industry for donning and doffing pay.  That lawsuit covered all of the Company’s unionized meatpacking plants throughout the U.S.  After winning a number of critical pre-trial rulings, including a finding that the DOL had waived its attorney client privilege by bringing the lawsuit, ultimately negotiated a global settlement agreement with the DOL on terms that were favorable to the Company.

Successfully Defended Fortune 100 Company in Nationwide Race Discrimination Case

Led a team of MBT lawyers in defending a nationwide race discrimination case on behalf of a large international company challenging promotions, disciplinary actions, pay, hiring, terms and conditions of employment and an alleged hostile work environment. After successfully fending off class certification, obtained summary judgment on the individual claims of the nine named plaintiffs.  

Successfully Enforced Class Action Waiver in Multi-State Wage & Hour Misclassification Case

Successfully enforced mandatory arbitration agreement with a class action waiver in a wage and hour lawsuit brought against one of the country's largest fast food franchisees.  The court ordered the  named plaintiffs to pursue their claims through arbitration on an individual basis instead of through a federal wage and hour collective action, which ended the litigation.

Office Location

123 North Wacker Drive, Suite 1800
Chicago, IL 60606
United States

Lawyer of the Year Awards

2017 Lawyer of the Year in Labor Law - Management of the Chicago Metro Area2014 Lawyer of the Year in Employment Law - Management of the Chicago Metro Area2011 Lawyer of the Year in Labor and Employment Law of the Chicago Metro Area
Joseph E. Tilson has earned a Lawyer of the Year award for 2017!Joseph E. Tilson has earned a Lawyer of the Year award for 2014!Joseph E. Tilson has earned a Lawyer of the Year award for 2011!

Practice Areas

Employment Law - Management
Labor Law - Management
Litigation - Labor and Employment

Other Information

Gender: Male