Skip to Main Content

Michael L. Sullivan

Principal

Michael Sullivan chairs Goldberg Kohn's Labor & Employment Group and is a Principal in its Litigation Group and its Charter School Group. Mike advises charter schools, CMOs, employers, associations, foundations and business owners on a wide variety of labor and employment, litigation and charter school issues.

Since serving (a very long time ago) on his own public high school's Curriculum Committee, Mike has advocated for education reform. Of particular interest to him are the dynamics of fueling effective and sustained public school reform efforts in underserved neighborhoods. In this regard, he has worked extensively with charter schools, associations, foundations and other interest groups who continually search for ways to improve public education. Mike has represented charter schools from coast to coast in their effort to remain independent and free from traditional, bureaucratic teachers union contracts.

Mike has a wide spectrum of experience training and advising educational employers with respect to their labor and employment policies and practices. He has defended educational and other employers in almost all types of employee disputes, all over the United States. He also has broad experience litigating and mediating other disputes, including those involving allegations of fraud and other torts, contractual obligations, restrictive covenants, and other commercial issues. Mike's work frequently involves guiding charter schools and other employers through emergency disputes, including picketing, strikes, temporary restraining orders, injunctions and other time-sensitive proceedings.

Mike has also served as lead counsel in significant and precedential charter school matters. He has bargained multiple collective bargaining agreements for charter schools all over the United States, including the first charter contract in the City of Chicago. He has trained countless charter school administrators and funders all over the country related to applicable labor, employment and charter school laws. Mike also frequently is asked to speak, comment and write on timely labor and employment and charter school issues.

Mike is annually recognized by Super Lawyers as one of the top five percent of labor and employment lawyers in Illinois and is AV Peer Rated by Martindale-Hubbell. He is a "Leading Lawyer" in the areas of management side employment law and labor law. He is a member of several bar associations, including the American Bar Association (Developing Labor Law Practice Section), and has long served as a director of the Chicago Chapter of the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA).

Experience

  • Served as lead labor counsel in opposition to Teamsters’ campaign to organize workers at an Illinois casino, including the successful defense of the casino’s campaign conduct. After a hearing on the 12 election objections filed by the Teamsters, Region 13 dismissed every objection, certifying the casino’s election victory.
  • Obtained, and upheld in federal court, judgment against a public company in a two-week arbitration representing high-profile sports agents alleging securities fraud and retaliatory termination.
  • Worked closely with senior management of a major Chicago newspaper and seven trade unions to negotiate and effectuate the complex closure of the newspaper’s printing facility.
  • Served as lead labor counsel for the successful stalking horse bidder of the Chicago Sun-Times’ assets in a bankruptcy court 363 sale, including the negotiation of amended union contracts with all 16 labor unions that eliminated the bidder’s exposure to any defined pension plan withdrawal liability.
  • Civitas Schools, LLC and Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, et al., (Case No. 13-RM-1764): Won precedential representational case for charter schools by proving that charter school teachers were subject to the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board (which does not require employers to accept “card check” organizing) rather than the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (which allows employees to organize by “card check” without an election).
  • Solsberry v. Chicago Sun-Times, Inc., 95 FEP Cases 1904 (BNA) N.D. Ill.): Obtained summary judgment dismissal of allegations of pervasive race discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
  • Daniels v. Bursey, et al., 33 Employee Benefits Cases 1366 (BNA (N.D. Ill.) (denying plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction seeking removal of welfare benefit plan administrator in suit alleging violations of ERISA, common law fraud and breach of fiduciary duty).
  • Linebek v. International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150. In conjunction with Region 25 of the NLRB, obtained a Section 10(l) temporary restraining order to stop union’s illegal secondary picketing of key construction client to a construction equipment company.
  • Greenslade v. Chicago Sun-Times, et. al., 112 F.3d 853 (7th Cir.) (affirming 930 F. Supp. 323 (N.D. IL)). Argued Seventh Circuit appeal upholding district court’s grant of summary judgment against male employee claiming that he was a victim of reverse-gender discrimination.
  • Turner v. Claims Administration Corp., 993 F. Supp. 982 (W.D. Tex.). Summary judgment granted for employer in race discrimination claim emanating, in part, out of alleged workplace hostilities following the O.J. Simpson verdict.
  • Burton v. CNA Ins. Co., 978 F. Supp. 803 (N.D. Ill.). Summary judgment granted for employer in race and gender discrimination claim alleging systematic discrimination against African-American women.
  • Kahalas v. Claims Administration Corp., 69 FEP Cases 816 (BNA) (D. Md.). Summary judgment granted for employer in multi-count ERISA, age discrimination and contract claim after long-term employee was dismissed due to her poor treatment of subordinates in the workplace.

Credentials

Education

  • University of Illinois College of Law, J.D., 1991
    • Harno Fellow 
    • Rickert Award for Excellence in Moot Court 
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, B.S., 1988
    • Business Administration and Organizational Behavior, with high honors

Admissions

  • Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, including the Trial Bar
  • U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Professional Activities

  • Chicago Labor and Employment Relations Association, Board of Directors Member 
  • American Bar Association, Member, Tort and Insurance Practice Section; Employee Relations Committee; and Labor and Employment Section 
  • Illinois State Bar Association, Member, Labor and Employment Section 
  • Chicago Bar Association, Member, Labor and Employment Section 

Presentations

  • “NLRB Has No ‘Chill’ – Are ULPs Lurking in Your Separation Agreements and Non-Competes?” Meritas Litigation/Labor & Employment Meeting, Austin, Texas.
  • “Illinois Charter School Challenges and Changes” at a Goldberg Kohn conference, Chicago.
  • “Show Me the Money! Why Do Problems With Fair Pay Exist?” at a seminar hosted by the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, Elmhurst, Illinois.
  • “What CBA Provisions Can We Live With (And Maybe Even Thrive Under?)” at a National Alliance for Public Charter Schools conference, Atlanta.
  • “Recent Changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act” at a National Alliance for Public Charter Schools conference, Philadelphia.
  • “Developments in Labor Law: What Charter Schools Need to Know” at a Goldberg Kohn conference, Chicago.
  • “Department of Labor’s Final Rule on Overtime Regulations,” a webinar for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Washington D.C.
  • “Union Security and Right to Work Issues” at the “Hot Topics in Labor Law” conference sponsored by the NLRB and Chicago-Kent College of Law, Chicago.
  • “Supreme Court Update: What Does Noel Canning Mean for Charter Schools” at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Fall Legal Seminar, Santa Monica, California.
  • “Hot Topics in Contemporary Labor Relations Law” conference sponsored by the NLRB and the Chicago-Kent College of Law, Chicago.
  • “Regaining Control of Employee Leave,” a session on Charter Schools at the Illinois Public Sector Labor Relations Law Conference, Chicago.
  • “Challenges That National Charter Leaders Can Expect” at the annual meeting of the Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys, Chicago, IL.
  • “Unionized Charter Schools and Employment Best-Practices” at a meeting of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, New Orleans.
  • “Building a Team: Employment Law and Compensation” at Northwestern University School of Law’s 8th Annual Entrepreneurship Law Conference, Chicago.
  • “Ethics: Who Can You Talk To & When Can You Insist on Being Present” at the NLRB and Chicago-Kent College of Law’s “Hot Topics in Contemporary Labor Relations” conference, Chicago.
  • “Edujobs Funding Implications for Charter Schools,” a webinar hosted by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
  • “Preventing Wage and Hour Class Actions” at a Risk and Insurance Management Society conference, Chicago.