Employment

Experience

Representation of Institution of Higher Education

Representation of theological institution and institution’s board on major contract, corporate and senior management issues

Allegations of age discrimination against an international media company

In July 2014, we won a jury trial on behalf of an international media company against an allegation of age discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Our client had terminated the plaintiff, a 61-year old executive who had been with the company nearly 25 years, during a reduction-in-force. The plaintiff alleged that the company had targeted him for termination because of his age and had “covered up” the discriminatory reasons for his termination. The plaintiff also asserted that a disproportionate number of older workers had been let go in the years before the plaintiff’s termination, pointing to human resources documents and e-mails that discussed employee ages in the context of reductions-in-force. Lastly, the plaintiff alleged that the company failed to offer him a job in the reorganized company. The plaintiff sought up to $1.4 million in damages.

Prior to trial, we successfully moved the court to dismiss plaintiff’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, arguing that pursuant to Kentucky law the claim was precluded by his age discrimination claim. We also successfully limited the evidence plaintiff sought to use at trial, including evidence of the company’s overall financial state as described in public filings.

During the eight-day trial in Jefferson Circuit Court, we established the company’s non-discriminatory reason for plaintiff’s termination: his highly paid job position was eliminated for business reasons due to a corporate restructuring. The jury of seven men and five women determined that age was not a “substantial motivating factor” in terminating the executive or in refusing to offer him another job position, finding for the defendant on both counts of age discrimination. The plaintiff did not appeal the jury’s verdict and the case is now final.

Captive Audience Legislation in West Virginia (2010)

Testified on behalf of West Virginia Chamber of Commerce regarding Captive Audience Legislation in West Virginia and appeared on television program "Decision Makers" to debate issue against UMWA official and Delegate who proposed bill.

Representation of Energy Industry Companies (2010)

Multi-National Package Delivery Business (DHL Express), 9-CB-11361

Represented in unfair labor practice charges against Teamster, Local 505 in violent strike situation.

Multi-State Utility Company

Represented company in West Virginia employment law cases, unfair labor practice charges and grievance arbitration hearings.

District 17, UMWA v. Marrowbone Development Company, 232 F.3d 383 (4th Cir. 2000)

Defended company in union's effort to overturn arbitration decision. Case eventually remanded to arbitrator in order to take additional evidence.

Flexsys America, L.P. v. Local Union 12610, 88 F.Supp.2d 600 (S.D. W.Va. 2000)

After hearing, arbitrator held ex parte conversation with employer advocate requesting company re-open hearing to investigate whether discharged employee's supervisor was "gay" which would influence arbitrator's decision. Obtained judgment to set aside arbitrator's decision due to discriminatory bias.

Superior Pocahontas Coal Company v. Island Creek Coal Company, 840 F.2d 11 (4th Cir. 1988)

Defended company in claim for pension plan withdrawal liability claim incurred by other company when it ceased operations, where adhesion contract claimed.

Secretary of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) v. Mid-America Mining

The U.S. issued a Section 105(c) citation to this Arkansas mining company, claiming that it fired its general manager after he has made formal complaints about the safety of the mine and its practices. This matter was settled on favorable terms to the client.

EEOC v. Brooks Run Mining, LLC, (S.D.W.V. 5:08-CV-71) (2009)

Defended client in sex discrimination case brought by the EEOC on behalf of female security guards employed by a contractor and assigned to work at our client’s facilities. Case was resolved favorably for the client after we filed a dispositive motion showing significant deficiencies in the EEOC’s proof against our client.

Hildebrand v. Ashland v. Chemtreat, Inc. - S.D.W.V. 2:07-CV-585 (2008)

Represented a publicly held company in non-compete litigation. Reached beneficial compromise following testimony at injunction hearing.

Eastern Associated Coal Corp. v. United Mine Workers of America, District 17, et al., 531 U.S. 57 (2000)

U.S. Supreme Court held that public policy considerations do not require courts to refuse to enforce an arbitration award ordering an employer to reinstate an employee truck driver even though he twice tested positive for drug use.  Worked with now-Chief Justice John Roberts, who was retained to do oral argument to the Supreme Court.

District 29, UMWA v. Royal Coal Company, 786 F.2d 588 (4Cir. 1985)

Case involved company's obligation to provide health benefits to retired and disabled miners after expiration of 1981 Wage Agreement when it ceased all active mining and did not execute 1984 Wage Agreement.

Abels v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. et al., (S.D. W.Va. 1993)

Co-counsel representing large aluminum manufacturers against class action claims filed on behalf of over 300 employees who were laid off and never recalled to work. The plaintiffs asserted that the defendants violated § 510 of ERISA by terminating them in order to prevent vesting of their employee benefit plans, and sought job reinstatement and massive awards damages for lost wages and lost benefits, as well as punitive damages. In ruling of the defendants’ pretrial motions, the court denied class certification, concluded that § 510 did not provide a right to extra-contractual relief or punitive damages in an ERISA action seeking enforcement through § 502(a), and held that the employees did not have a right to a jury trial. The parties then settled the case on terms viewed as very favorable by Kaiser and Ravenswood.

Affirmative Action Matters

We represent one of the nation's largest distributors of fresh produce with respect to affirmative action matters.  We have drafted affirmative action plans to the Company during the previous few years.  In addition, during the last 12 months we have successfully handled an Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs ("OFCCP") audit.

Allegations of Employment Discrimination Relating To FMLA

We represented an employer that operates a hotel in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio in an employment discrimination lawsuit. The Plaintiff asserted alleged violations of the FMLA. The case went to trial in the Southern District of Ohio. The Plaintiff sought in excess of $250,000 from the jury, plus attorney fees. Through effective presentation of the evidence and cross-examination of witnesses, we were able to limit the jury’s verdict to only $10,000.

Allegations of Wrongful Termination by Ex-Employee of Medical Device Manufacturer

When a medical device manufacturer faced allegations of wrongful termination from an ex-employee, they turned to Dinsmore. The plaintiff was an engineer who was originally hired by the client to serve as a project manager. Upon hiring the plaintiff, the terms of his employment were laid out in an employment contract, which also contained deadlines for the completion of various projects. After nearly a year of employment, it was determined that the plaintiff had not met the required deadlines, and he was terminated. The plaintiff alleged he was wrongfully terminated and filed 10 claims against the client, including alleged violation of public policy, breach of contract and age discrimination. We filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted on nine claims. For the remaining claim of violation of a public policy, we prepared the matter for trial, including managing discovery and taking depositions. On the first day of the trial, before proceedings officially began, we negotiated a settlement favorable to our client, enabling them to avoid litigation.

Anonymous Plaintiff v. Health Care Facility

I represented the Defendant, a health care facility, in an employment suit seeking $450,000 for claims of negligent hiring and wrongful termination.  The case resulted in a zero verdict.

Anonymous Plaintiff v. Transportation Management Services Company

The Plaintiff alleges he filed an EEOC charge against our client, a provider of transportation management services, and also alleges he was issued a Notice of Right to Sue.  The Company never received either.  Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in federal court in California on April 4, 2006.  The Company filed a Motion to Dismiss, which was granted on January 24, 2007.

Anonymous Plaintiff v. Transportation Management Services Company

We represented our client, a provider of transportation management services, in multiple discrimination and retaliation lawsuits that have been filed in Atlanta Georgia, Los Angeles California, and Jacksonville Florida.  We have filed motions to dismiss or motions for summary judgment which were granted, dismissing all causes of action in our client's favor.

Anonymous Plaintiffs v. Tobacco Company

Our firm represented the Defendant, a tobacco company, in two separate lawsuits brought by employees alleging breach of contract and ERISA claims.  Both cases were successfully dismissed in favor of the client.

Appellate Experience

Lira has served as special counsel for amicus curiae, Michigan Manufacturers' Association and National Association of Manufacturers, on employment and employee benefit issues. Representative cases include:

1) Nord v. The Black & Decker Disability Plan, 538 U.S. 822 (2003): Employee sued employer-sponsored disability plan alleging that the plan wrongfully denied his claim for benefits by failing to give proper weight to his treating physician's opinion. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether ERISA's requirement for a full and fair consideration of the employee's claim included giving deference to the treating physician's opinion. The Court held in favor of the benefit plan and reversed the Ninth Circuit's ruling, a position advocated by the National Association of Manufacturers' amicus brief.

2) Chambers v. Trettco, 463 Mich. 297, 614 N.W.2d 910 (2000): Employee sued employer under Michigan's Civil Rights Act alleging sexual harassment by a supervisory employee. The employer argued that it was not vicariously liable under the Michigan Civil Rights Act, citing key differences in the Michigan statute and Title VII. The Michigan Court of Appeals applied an analysis consistent with Title VII and held the employer liable. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, following position advocated by the Michigan Manufacturers' Association's amicus brief, relying on differences in the text of the state law to hold that the principles stated in the federal civil rights cases did not control.

3) Sniecinski v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Michigan, 469 Mich. 124, 666 N.W.2d 186 (2002): Employee sued employer under Michigan's Civil Rights Act alleging pregnancy discrimination. The trial court denied the employer's motion for summary disposition and the matter was tried to a jury, which found in favor of the employee. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Michigan Supreme Court granted leave to appeal and reversed and remanded, following position advocated by the Michigan Manufacturers' Association's amicus, with direction to enter a finding of no cause of action as a matter of law.

Lira has also represented appellants in federal and state courts. Representative cases include:

4) Taunt v. General Retirement Sys. of the City of Detroit (In Re: Wilcox), 233 F.3d 899 (6th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 533 U.S. 929 (June 2001): Bankruptcy trustee sought access to debtor's retirement benefits on behalf of creditors, and debtor's municipal retirement plan sought to protect the benefits under 11 U.S.C. § 541(c)(2). The bankruptcy court held that the plan's anti-assignment provision was not enforceable under § 541(c)(2), and the district court agreed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the anti-assignment provision satisfied § 541(c)(2) and that the benefits could not be reached by creditors.

5) Preston v. John Alden Life Ins. Co., et al., 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48260 (S. Dist. Ohio 2006): Former employee sued his employer and insurance company administrating the employer's disability benefit plan, contending that he was wrongfully denied benefits. The insurer and employer moved for judgment as a matter of law on the basis that ERISA preempted the employee's claims and that the employee failed to state an actionable claim. The court ruled in favor of defendants and granted summary judgment.

6) Prudential Property and Casualty Ins. v. Delfield Co. Group Health Plan, 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 18708 (Sixth Circuit 1999): Plaintiff insurance carrier sued defendant self-funded employee benefit plan, contending that the employee benefit plan was primarily responsible for medical expenses incurred by its insured in an automobile accident. The employee benefit plan sought to require the insurer to pursue its claim administratively before resorting to litigation. The district court ruled in favor of the benefits plan, but the appeals court reversed on the basis that it was bound to follow a prior panel's ruling and allow litigation, although the concurrence pointed out that the prior ruling was inconsistent with subsequent case law. 

7) Alstork v. AIG Life Ins. Co. et al., United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Case No. 08-4339 (2008): Plaintiff beneficiary of employee's life insurance policy sued defendant employer, employee benefit plan, and insurer, contending that Plaintiff should have been paid accidental death benefits when employee died following an automobile accident. Defendants denied benefits based on the terms of the benefit plan and results of post-accident medical review. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio upheld denial of benefits, and Plaintiff appealed. Case successfully settled on appeal.

8) Hodges v. American Heritage Life Ins. Co., United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Case No. 08-5777 (2008) (pending): Plaintiff former employee sued defendant employer, employee benefit plan, and insurer, contending that Plaintiff should have been paid disability benefits for chronic condition characterized by subjective complaints of pain. Defendants denied benefits based on the terms of the benefit plan and results of independent medical reviews. The United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky upheld denial of benefits, and Plaintiff appealed. Case is pending.

Archie Allen v. Superior Beverages and Wine Distributors

This case, brought by five plaintiffs, was pending in the Court of Common Pleas for Cuyahoga County. The Court granted summary judgment in favor of our client Wine Distributors on plaintiffs’ age and race discrimination claims and entered against plaintiffs for breach of severance agreements.

AT&T Corp. Deliberate Intent Litigation (Kanawha, County, WV 2008)

Lead counsel in the successful defense of AT&T against 25 consolidated deliberate intent civil actions filed by a unified group of former employees who alleged that they sustained serious injuries as a result of exposure to mold in the company’s Charleston Call Center. Suit also was filed against several co-defendants, including the building’s owners and maintenance contractors. AT&T denied that there was mold present in the building sufficient to establish the existence of a specific unsafe working condition, or that the plaintiffs could establish any of the other requisite statutory elements of their deliberate intent claims. After extensive lay and expert witness discovery, the plaintiff’s dismissed their claims against AT&T in exchange for payment of only nominal sums.

Baldwin v. General Electric Co.

Obtained summary judgment in Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas in Ohio on two plaintiffs' claims for sexual harassment, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and obtained favorable settlement through private mediation on plaintiffs' claims for negligent retention and failure to provide unsafe workplace.

Baron v. Watson Pharms., Inc.

Breach of Employment Contract, Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Public Policy, and Age and Disability Discrimination. The total amount at issue was in excess of $100,000. The district court dismissed Plaintiff Complaint on summary judgment finding that plaintiff failed to establish he had an employment contract and failed to establish that he reasonably and detrimentally relied on any promises by Watson that his employment would be for a specific duration. The court also found that Plaintiff was not disabled even though he had a heart attack.

Basinger, et al. v. Pilarczyk. et al.

Dinsmore & Shohl represented the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in a breach of contract and age discrimination suit filed by two teachers who were dismissed from one of its parochial elementary schools.  The reason for termination given by the school was that the teachers' marriage was canonically invalid and that their co-habitation was contrary to the school's religious mission.  The teachers claimed this reason was a mere pretext for age discrimination, since they were replaced by younger teachers.  Following two separate appeals, the judgment of the trial court dismissing the suit was affirmed.

Bell v. Ashland Oil, Inc.(S.D. W.Va. 1998)

Co-counsel defending Ashland Oil against claims initiated by a former refinery engineer who was terminated from his employment after the company found that he had engaged in conduct in violation of its sexual harassment policy. The plaintiff asserted claims against Ashland Oil for wrongful discharge in violation of West Virginia public policy, defamation and fraud. Following cross examination of the plaintiff on the first day of trial, the court invited us to move for a directed verdict. To avoid that result, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his claims and trial was concluded.

Beverly Coda v. Thorntons, Inc.

Won summary judgment in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas for promissory estoppel, breach of contract, and gender discrimination.

Bond v. General Motors

We represented Defendant General Motors in a suit filed by its employee under the Employee's Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., alleging breach of fiduciary obligations and equitable or promissory estoppel.  The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio granted summary judgement for the employer.

Booker v. Garden Manor

Complaint filed in Federal District Court alleging claims of race discrimination, retaliation, and spoilation against our client Garden Manor Nursing Home. We were granted summary judgment dismissing all claims.

Carla Cornicelli v. Large National Insurance Company

Plaintiff brought an employment intentional tort claim after she was jailed on contempt charges by a judge for failing to attend a settlement conference as an insurance adjuster.

Christine Skidmore v. Affordable Denture Laboratories

The plaintiff claimed she was the subject of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment created by the lewd comments, dirty jokes and sexual overtures from her supervisor; that her complaints were ignored; and that she was thereafter constructively discharged. This case was settled on favorable terms to the client.

Cornell v. General Electric Plastics, 853 F. Supp. 221 (S.D. W. Va. 1994)

Lead counsel defending GE against claims by a former female employee, who, after being fired following 18 years of employment, alleged sex discrimination claims under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1981, Title VII, and the West Virginia Human Rights Act. The Court granted summary judgment to GE on all claims, finding that § 1981 applied to racial but not sexual discrimination, rejecting the Title VII claim because the plaintiff had not first unsuccessfully pursued her state administrative remedies, and dismissing her claim under the Human Rights Act because she could not submit any evidence contradicting GE’s evidence suggesting poor work performance as the reason for her discharge.