John counsels employers with both unionized and non-union workforces on every aspect of the employment relationship, including discipline and termination issues, medical leaves of absence, wage and hour compliance, workplace safety concerns, drug/alcohol in the workplace and in conducting internal investigations. John offers guidance regarding non-discrimination laws, and addresses claims of discrimination based upon race, sex, national origin, age, religion and other protected characteristics. John also serves as a resource for clients involved with claims of sexual or other discriminatory harassment, and provides practical guidance responsibly to address and resolve such claims. He has significant experience assisting employers in accommodating persons with disabilities and otherwise complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He defends claims of unlawful retaliation based upon employees pursuing civil rights claims. John also provides guidance to clients on a regular basis as to rights and obligations under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

John assists employers in drafting and promulgating restrictive covenants designed to avoid unfair competition, such as non-compete, non-solicitation and confidentiality agreements. He appears in court to obtain temporary restraining orders and other injunctive relief as to former employees who violate these restrictive covenants. He regularly handles administrative proceedings before the Wage & Hour Office, the OFCCP regarding affirmative action obligations, OSHA, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He also defends employers and management representatives sued in court by former employees claiming “wrongful termination” on a variety of grounds.

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John’s experience representing employers with unionized workforces includes extensive involvement with the National Labor Relations Board, including counseling employers in representation elections and as to unfair labor practice charges. He has extensive first chair experience negotiating labor contracts for several employers involving many different unions, including the Teamsters, UAW, IBEW and the Steelworkers Union. John regularly counsels employers as to contract administration and interpretation, and successfully has arbitrated many grievances involving both disciplinary actions and contract interpretation.

John advises clients as to a wide variety of issues that arise in the workplace on a daily basis, including discipline/termination and leave-related issues which arise with little advance notice. He recognizes that immediate responsiveness is critical to best serve in-house counsel, human resources professionals and management representatives. John drafts and revises employment contracts and personnel policies, including those concerning non-discrimination, the FMLA, electronic communications, and confidential business and technical information. John regularly conducts in-house training sessions for management and supervisors to assist them in complying with the wide array of laws impacting the workplace.

John is a frequent speaker at Calfee’s regular half-day Labor & Employment seminars and at the firm’s “Workplace Breakfast Series” sessions. He has an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale Hubbell and is listed in Cleveland’s Top Rated Lawyers Guide. John has been recognized in editions of the Best Lawyers in America and as one of America’s leading labor and employment lawyers in Chambers USA. He serves as a member of the firm’s Executive Committee.

Recent Representations

  • Provided daily counsel to a large employer facing an aggressive organizing campaign by a Teamsters local Union.  The production and maintenance employees at issue voted to maintain a union-free workplace in a formal election conducted on-site by the National Labor Relations Board on site.  Successfully defended all unfair labor practice charges filed by the Union relating to this election resulting in the NLRB certifying the victory for the employer.
  • Successfully represented a manufacturer of high tech safety helmets in avoiding an engineer with significant knowledge of its confidential designs and technical information from joining a competitor in California in violation of his non-compete and other restrictive covenants by obtaining an emergency TRO and further injunctive relief in the Court of Common Pleas for Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The former employee was made to comply with his post-employment obligations, as the competing employer revoked his offer of employment when faced with the Preliminary Injunction issued by the Court.
  • Assisted a large employer in a reorganization resulting in the separation of several employees within several protected classes. Prepared and revised internal memoranda to assist management in communicating the reorganization, as well as “Separation Agreements” for the affected employees complying with the Older Worker’s Benefit Protection Act. Assisted client in obtaining meaningful outplacement resources to assist displaced employees in transitioning to alternative employment.
  • Conducted on-site investigation at employer’s premises regarding allegations of sexual harassment allegedly affecting the work environment of several co-workers.  Interviewed several co-workers with on-site HR manager and confronted alleged harasser with his inappropriate behavior.  Counseled employer as to appropriate remedial action leading to the alleged harasser being transitioned from the workplace.
  • Successfully defended claims of disability discrimination in violation of the ADA in federal court regarding an employee who was terminated after two years of uninterrupted medical leave. Discovered additional grounds for termination by obtaining physician’s records indicating that employee had obtained a full release to return to work well prior to his eventual discharge,  thus implicating the company’s three-day “no show, no call” rule.
  • Successfully represented a trucking industry client in a comprehensive investigation conducted by the Wage & Hour Office as to their drivers categorized as independent contractors, classification of employees as “exempt” or “non-exempt” from overtime entitlement, and as to workplace practices concerning the tracking of working time.
  • Enforced noncompete covenant against Vice President of Sales resigning clients’ employment and immediately soliciting business for a local competitor from the client’s existing customers.  Case was resolved with former employee resigning from competitor and agreeing to abide by the terms of his post-employment covenants, with his new employer compensating client for all business lost due to disregard of the noncompete restriction.
  • Successfully resolved acrimonious employment termination involving highly-placed executive through face-to-face meetings with the executive’s counsel and disclosure of personnel documents outside of the discovery process to evidence the company’s legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for transitioning the executive. Able to avoid costly litigation and arrive upon a practical solution which benefitted all concerned.
  • Assist clients with managing leaves of absence to comply with the Family & Medical Leave Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and workers’ compensation Laws.  Prepare comprehensive “medical” and “family” leave policy statements to assist HR professionals in promulgating straight forward, “user friendly” policy statements to allow employer to manager leaves effectively.
  • Negotiated collective bargaining agreements with both a Teamsters Local and a USW Local providing each employer with its first five-year labor agreement, both including favorable wage and benefit provisions. First chaired all negotiation sessions with regular communication with, and guidance from the President of each company to achieve client’s bargaining objectives.
  • Provided on-site training to managers and supervisors at a manufacturing concern in several sessions to accommodate personnel working on all shifts at multiple facilities. Engaged management team with “real world” scenarios involving the interplay of the FMLA, the ADA and worker’s compensation laws.
  • Assisted client in closing unionized production and maintenance facility and relocating work to a nearby non-union facility.  Negotiated and drafted Contract Termination Agreement with union, prepared required WARN Notices, and counseled as to severance an outplacement assistance to assist affected workers with their transitions.

 

Chambers 2017

Contact John

Practice Areas

Education

  • University of Virginia School of Law, J.D., 1986
  • Harvard University, B.A., cum laude, 1982

Admissions

  • State of Ohio
  • U.S. District Court (Northern District of Ohio)
  • U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Sixth and D.C. Circuits

Contact John

  • jcernelich@calfee.com
  • 216.622.8251
  • vCard

Practice Areas

  • Labor and Employment Litigation
  • Labor and Employment
  • Compliance Services

Education

  • University of Virginia School of Law, J.D., 1986
  • Harvard University, B.A., cum laude, 1982

Admissions

  • State of Ohio
  • U.S. District Court (Northern District of Ohio)
  • U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Sixth and D.C. Circuits