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Michael L. Sullivan

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Michael Sullivan is Chair of the firm's Labor & Employment Group and a Principal in the firm's Litigation Group. He currently serves on the firm’s Management Committee and has also served on the Compensation Committee.  He advises employers, lenders and business executives, on a variety of labor and employment and litigation issues.

Mr. Sullivan has a wide spectrum of experience advising employers with respect to their labor and employment policies and practices and defending them in disputes with their employees. He also has broad experience litigating business disputes, including those involving allegations of restrictive covenants, fraud, defamation and other torts, contractual obligations, lender liability, bankruptcy and workout issues. Mr. Sullivan's practice increasingly focuses on  emergency disputes, including temporary restraining orders, injunctions, picketing and other time-sensitive proceedings.

Mr. Sullivan guides clients all over the country through the myriad of employment issues that arise under civil rights and anti-discrimination laws, employment contracts and restrictive covenants, wage-hour laws, OSHA employment torts and common law. He advises Goldberg Kohn's clients about the labor/employment implications of significant corporate transactions, including mergers, sales, acquisitions, loans, workouts and bankruptcies. He counsels executives and companies regarding "best practices" for creating sensible, enforceable employment policies that can be implemented by line managers and understood by employees.

Mr. Sullivan has defended employment related disputes in administrative agencies and in federal and state courts across the United States. He has obtained summary judgment dismissals of these 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.

Mr. Sullivan also represents employers across the nation who face union-related labor law issues, including matters pending before the National Labor Relations Board and its regional offices across the country. He represents clients in unfair labor practice hearings, decertification proceedings, and grievance arbitrations; he 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, Mr. Sullivan has experience handling difficult and expedited labor proceedings, including those involving strikes, picketing and emergency litigation in federal court. His traditional labor law experience spans a broad array of industries, including extensive work in the gaming and hospitality, newspaper, publishing, manufacturing, construction, education, insurance, retail and financial services industries.

Mr. Sullivan frequently authors and speaks on a variety of labor and employment and litigation issues. For example, he co-authors a chapter in the IICLE volume of Labor and Employment Issues in Transactions, Business Restructuring, and Workforce Reductions. He serves as a contributing editor for two of the best-known labor and employment law treatises: Elkouri and Elkouri's How Arbitration Works and The Developing Labor 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.

Mr. Sullivan has trained thousands of employers, managers, risk managers, lenders, and human resource leaders in the requirements of labor and employment laws. Recent speaking engagements include Regaining Control of Employee Leave, a session on Charter Schools at Illinois Public Sector Labor Relations Law Conference; a panel of Distinguished Charter School Leaders at Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys; "Unionized Charter Schools and Employment Best-Practices" at Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools in New Orleans; "Building a Team: Employment Law and Compensation" at Northwestern Law's 8th Annual Entrepreneurship Law Conference; an educational panel on the complexities of pension, PBGC and withdrawal liabilities for senior lenders; a panel presentation on "Hot Topics in Contemporary Labor Relations" at a conference sponsored by the NLRB and the Chicago-Kent College of Law; a webinar for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools relating to "Edujobs Funding Implications for Charter Schools;" a presentation for the Risk and Insurance Management Society, Inc. ("RIMS") on the topic of "Preventing Wage and Hour Class Actions;" and multiple presentations for the Illinois Network of Charter Schools related to labor and employment issues affecting charter schools.

Mr. Sullivan is admitted to practice in Illinois, the United States District Courts for the Northern District of Illinois (including its Trial Bar), the Central District of Illinois, Northern District of Indiana; and Eastern District of Michigan, as well as the United States Courts of Appeals for the Fourth and Seventh Circuits.

Mr. Sullivan has been 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 the American Bar Association (Developing Labor Law Practice Section), the Illinois Bar Association (Labor and Employment Section), and of the Chicago Bar Association (Labor and Employment Section). He is a director of the Chicago Chapter of the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA). Mr. Sullivan has served as President of the Board of Trustees of the Union League Boys & Girls Clubs and currently serves on its Executive Committee. He is currently on the Board of Directors of the Union League Club of Chicago.

Mr. Sullivan received his law degree in 1991 from the University of Illinois, where he was a Harno Fellow and awarded various honors, including the Rickert Award for Excellence in Moot Court. He received his B.S., with high honors, in business administration and organizational behavior from the University of Illinois in 1988.

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 twelve election objections filed by the Teamsters, Region 13 dismissed every objection, certifying the casino's election victory.

  • Worked closely with senior management of a major Chicago newspaper and seven trade unions to negotiate and effectuate the complex closure of a major 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
  • 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, 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

Attorneys At Law

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


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