Michael D. Karpeles - Greenberg Traurig LLP

Michael D. Karpeles

Listed in Best Lawyers since 2008

Michael D. Karpeles chairs the Chicago Labor & Employment Practice. He has wide-ranging experience in complex commercial litigation and concentrates his practice in employment law. Mike regularly defends employers in state and federal courts and administrative agencies around the country in class and collective actions as well as individual cases involving allegations of discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge and violations of wage and hour laws. He also handles cases under the ADA, ERISA, FMLA and whistleblower statutes. He has litigated numerous matters involving covenants not to compete, employee raiding, trade secret misappropriation and employment contracts.

Mike also provides advice and counsel to clients on how to minimize potential liability under the state and federal employment laws, including in connection with mass layoffs, reductions in force, merger and acquisition transactions, and OFCCP compliance audits. He negotiates and creates executive compensation, severance and release agreements, and advises companies concerning their employment policies. In both litigation and counseling, he has represented clients in a number of industries, including utility services, metals, manufacturing, retail, banking and financial services, airlines, toys and sporting goods, cellular communications, real estate management, proprietary electronic trading, debt collection, consumer products, computer, health care, clinical research, education, and not-for-profit organizations.

Wheaton CollegeBA 1981Harvard Law SchoolJ.D. 1985
Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)Salvation Army Greater Chicago Advisory Board Chicago Bar AssociationSalvation Army Correctional Services Program Advisory Council

Case History

Other Court Admissions
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

Areas of Concentration
  • Defend class and individual discrimination and harassment litigation
  • Non-compete and trade secret litigation
  • Wage and hour class and collective action defense
  • Employment and executive compensation agreements
  • Strategic advice in connection with reductions in force (RIFs), mass layoffs, and corporate transactions to minimize employment law risks
  • OFCCP, DOL and other government agency investigations and defense of litigation
Significant Representations
  • Defended a national public retailer in a sexual harassment case where the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed that plaintiff’s supervisor’s conduct was not unwelcome.
  • Represented national bank as lead counsel in a trial involving retaliation claims by a former employee. Based on evidence developed during trial, Mike sought and obtained dismissal of the case based on an issue of first impression under the Illinois Human Rights Act.
  • Defended a national law firm against sensitive federal court claims of sexual harassment and retaliation. After discovery, obtained summary judgment on all claims.  
  • Represented proprietary electronic trading company in enforcing global non-compete against a senior software developer who left to join a direct competitor to develop similar software.  After expedited discovery and trial on the client's motion for preliminary injunction, an injunction preventing the employee from working for the competitor was entered, along with other relief including express validation of the client's non-compete agreement.  A principal of the competitor was also required to pay a substantial portion of the client's attorney's fees as part of a settlement with the competitor.
Part 2
  • Represented national furniture manufacturer/retailer in a Department of Labor wage and hour investigation involving alleged off-the-clock work, meal and rest break compliance, time rounding and exempt/non-exempt classification. Mike guided the client through a DOL wage and hour audit, developed the overall legal analysis, arranged for production of the appropriate documents, orchestrated the DOL site visit and witness interviews, and steered the investigation toward a resolution with no findings whatsoever of liability. No further claims were ever filed.
  • Represented national accounting firm in connection with the termination of the firm’s Australian General Manager, who developed medical issues and insisted on returning to the United States for treatment. Mike analyzed the executive’s employment agreement and the potentially applicable wage, disability, medical leave and workers compensation laws of three states and Australia, coordinating counsel in those jurisdictions, and developing an approach that avoided all liability to the firm. Potential exposure for the termination exceeded $1 million.
  • Defended a public bank against OFCCP investigation and allegation of class-wide race discrimination, resulting in complete dismissal and no liability or payment of damages. 
Part 3
  • Represented large financial services and insurance brokerage firm in enforcing non-compete and non-solicitation agreements against a former senior corporate officer and two former key employees. After conducting an intensive investigation, delivering an eight-count complaint to the former employees and their new employer, and holding a series of high-level negotiations with the threat of litigation on the table, Mike was able to negotiate a multi-million dollar settlement for the client without having to incur the costs of litigation.
  • Defended a national air freight company in a sexual harassment suit alleging repeated sexual misconduct by a co-worker of the plaintiff and claiming several hundred thousand dollars in damages. After taking the plaintiff’s deposition and establishing multiple discrepancies in her testimony, Mike settled the suit for nuisance value.
  • Litigated novel intellectual property and employment law claims on behalf of a large private employer against a former employee who organized internet chat rooms and created websites disparaging the company and its officers and interfering with the company's business relationships with clients and employees. The case resulted in an order being entered which required the employee to transfer domain names to the company, to shut down any websites and internet chat rooms relating to the company, to refrain from disparaging the company or its employees, and to refrain from disclosing confidential and other information about the company.
Part 4

  • Represented public financial services company in a major race discrimination case. Mike was granted a summary judgment, and the dismissal was affirmed by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Defended a public company in the uniform industry against national FLSA collective actions and state law wage class actions. Developed substantial legal and factual defenses resulting in no class certification and minimal individual settlements.
  • Defended a financial services subsidiary of a national bank against class-wide allegations of wage and hour violations in California involving meal and rest breaks. Mike oversaw the process of obtaining 350 employee affidavits and other factual investigation that led to a very favorable pre-certification settlement through mediation.
  • Defended a senior pharmaceutical industry executive against allegations of theft of trade secrets, inevitable disclosure, and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Mike worked with forensic technology experts to establish that the executive did not misappropriate trade secrets or access confidential information without authorization, and developed substantial evidence that the executive's job duties with his new employer were too dissimilar to those with his previous employer to justify a finding of inevitable disclosure. The case settled after months of expedited discovery pending a preliminary injunction, with the executive retaining his new job and not having to pay any settlement amount.
Part 5
  • Oversaw the legal aspects and documentation of a mass layoff for a public banking organization with facilities in multiple states. No claims relating to the layoff were filed against the bank.
  • Defended a commercial lender against allegations that the lender was responsible for wages and benefits of a class of employees of a bankrupt borrower. Mike developed compelling evidence through depositions and other discovery, which led to his client being dismissed outright from the case without liability or the payment of any money.
  • Guided a corporate client through an intensive sexual harassment investigation with potential for numerous sexual harassment suits; none were filed.
  • Served as co-lead counsel on behalf of a public utility company in a three-month trial that obtained a dramatically reduced property tax assessment on one of the company’s nuclear power plants from over $1 billion to less than $300 million. This result was achieved despite a contrary earlier decision on another plant in a different jurisdiction. Mike worked on the case for three years and developed much of the legal analysis and factual testimony, including that of the key witness. The trial was upheld on appeal; the case settled favorably while the parties awaited a decision from the Illinois Supreme Court.
Part 6
  • Supervised the evaluation of various employment law issues relating to the adoption of a corporate code of ethics by a publicly held bank, including review of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the USA PATRIOT Act and the privacy laws of 36 states.
  • Represented national company in a suit alleging racial bigotry. After deposing the plaintiff and his chief witness, Mike was able to show that they repeatedly misrepresented facts and contradicted each other. The case settled for less than three percent of the amount claimed.
  • Assisted a multinational public corporation in substantially revising its leave policies to incorporate features mandated by the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Negotiated and drafted employment agreements for senior officers of public and private companies incorporating final regulations under IRC 409A.
  • Assisted a national bank in restructuring its recruiting processes, including OFCCP and affirmative action compliance.
Part 6
  • Defended and prosecuted numerous controversies involving covenants-not-to-compete and trade secret issues, including temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunction hearings.
  • Represented government agency that was seeking several million dollars in back taxes against the successor of a bankrupt railroad, in a case in which the constitutionality of the taxes was questioned. Mike was instrumental in achieving a multi-million dollar settlement on the eve of the trial.
  • Defended a large condominium association and its board of directors against accusations of condominium election fraud and violations of numerous federal and state laws. Mike defeated several attempts to obtain restraining orders and other preliminary relief against the board. All charges were dismissed, and Mike argued the appeal that affirmed the dismissal of the case.

Client Comments

"Michael Karpeles is one of the most technically proficient lawyers I have worked with."

-Doug Johnson
Salvagnini America, Inc.

"Mike Karpeles is a highly skilled contentious employment law attorney, combining excellent attention to detail with a very commercial approach."

Office Location

77 West Wacker Drive, Suite 3100
Chicago, IL 60601
United States

Practice Areas

Employment Law - Management
Labor Law - Management