Photo of Michael L. Sullivan

Michael L. Sullivan

Related Info
Return to Bio Narrative

Michael Sullivan is a principal in the firm, Chair of the Labor & Employment Group and a member of the Litigation Group. He advises employers on a wide variety of labor and employment law matters and also litigates complicated business disputes.

Mike has more than 30 years of experience counseling employers on sensible, best-practice labor and employment policies as well as in defending them in disputes with their employees. He counsels clients nationwide through the myriad of employment issues that arise under civil rights and anti-discrimination laws, wage-hour laws, employment contracts, leave laws, restrictive covenants and employment torts.

In addition, he advises clients on the labor/employment implications of significant corporate transactions, including mergers, sales, acquisitions, loans, workouts and bankruptcies.

Mike has defended employment-related disputes before administrative agencies and in federal and state courts from coast-to-coast. He has obtained summary judgment dismissals of scores of cases and has successfully defended their appeals before various federal and state appellate courts. He has deep experience in using alternative dispute resolution, including arbitration and mediation, to obtain expedited and favorable settlements of such matters.

Mike also represents employers across the country in disputes with organized labor, including matters pending before the National Labor Relations Board. He represents clients in unfair labor practice hearings, decertification proceedings and grievance arbitrations. He also counsels employers during union organizing campaigns and defends their interests throughout the union-election process, including in hearings on post-election challenges and objections. In addition, Mike is experienced in handling difficult and expedited labor proceedings, including those involving strikes, picketing and emergency litigation in federal court.

Mike has trained thousands of employers, managers, risk managers, lenders and human resource leaders in the requirements of labor and employment laws. At last count, he has trained employers in more than 35 states.

In addition, Mike's broad litigation experience includes representing clients in business disputes involving allegations of restrictive covenants, trade secrets, fraud, defamation and other torts, contractual obligations, lender liability, bankruptcy and workout issues. These frequently include emergency disputes, including temporary restraining orders, injunctions, picketing and other time-sensitive proceedings.

Mike has represented clients from a broad array of industries, and has worked extensively in the gaming and hospitality, retail, charter school, newspaper, publishing, manufacturing, construction, education, insurance and financial services industries.

Professional Background

Mike has received many accolades and awards in recognition of his legal skills. In March 2020 The National Law Journal honored him as an "Employment Law Trailblazer." Since 2018, he has been recognized annually by Best Lawyers in America in the area of Labor and Employment Law. He holds the AV Preeminent® peer review rating from Martindale-Hubbell, its highest rating for ethics and legal ability. He has been named a Leading Lawyer in Management Side Employment and Labor Law by Illinois Leading Lawyers every year since 2012. In addition, he is annually selected as an Illinois Super Lawyer, which is limited to the top five percent of labor and employment lawyers in Illinois.

Mike has served on Goldberg Kohn's management and compensation committees and also serves as the firm's primary liaison to Meritas, a global alliance of leading independent law firms.

Publications and Presentations

Mike frequently authors and speaks on a variety of labor and employment and litigation issues. This includes co-authoring "Bankruptcy Considerations," Chapter 8 in "Labor and Employment Issues in Transactions, Business Restructuring, and Workforce Reductions (2022 Edition)," published by IICLE. He has served as a contributing editor for two of the best-known labor and employment law treatises: "Elkouri and Elkouri: How Arbitration Works," and "The Developing Labor Law: The Board, the Courts, and the National Labor Relations Act," both published by the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law. He is frequently asked to comment in the press on issues extending from labor disputes in professional sports and education to executive compensation policy and current events.

A sampling of his speaking engagements include:

  • "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.
Community Service
  • Union League Boys & Girls Clubs, Board of Trustees Member, Executive Committee; Past Board President
  • Union League Club of Chicago, Past Member, Board of Directors

Representative Matters

  • 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 2009):  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. 2005):  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. 2004) (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. 1997) (affirming 930 F. Supp. 323 (N.D. IL 1997)) (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. 1998) (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. IL 1997) (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. 1995) (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).


Seminars & Speaking Engagements

Chicago Office
55 East Monroe Street
Suite 3300
Chicago, Illinois 60603-5792

Practice areas

Industry Focus


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

Bar 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. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
  • 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, Developing Labor Law Section
  • Illinois State Bar Association, Member, Labor and Employment Section
  • Chicago Bar Association, Member, Labor and Employment Section

Attorneys At Law

55 East Monroe Street
Suite 3300
Chicago, Illinois 60603-5792
Tel: 312.201.4000
Fax: 312.332.2196


Our website uses cookies to improve your experience. By continuing to use this website, you are agreeing to our Cookie Policy.