— Posts About Michael Okun

Mike and Narendra Secure Fourth Circuit Victory for Union

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Patterson Harkavy’s client in Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, AFL-CIO, Local Union No. 289 v. Verizon S., Inc., No. 12-2013, 2013 WL 3770706 (4th Cir. July 19, 2013).

The case arose from a dispute surrounding Verizon’s termination of employee Brian Pollard.  Verizon sought to avoid arbitration of the controversy, claiming that Mr. Pollard was only a probationary employee without the right to arbitrate his discharge under the Union’s collective bargaining agreement.  Representing the Union in the Middle District of North Carolina, attorneys Narendra Ghosh and Mike Okun filed a motion to compel arbitration.  In January of 2012, Magistrate Judge Trevor Sharp recommended that the Union’s motion to compel arbitration be granted.  Following the Recommendation’s adoption by Judge William Osteen, Jr., Verizon South appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

In an opinion issued last week, the Fourth Circuit unanimously affirmed the District Court’s ruling, finding that both the Collective Bargaining Agreement and a separate agreement were “at minimum, reasonably susceptible to the interpretation that the Union advances.”  Since doubts as to whether an arbitration clause covers a given dispute are resolved in favor of coverage, the Fourth Circuit found it appropriate to compel arbitration of the dispute.

Congratulations to Mike and Narendra on the win!

Categories: Judicial Decisions Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Briefs in IBEW 289 Arbitration Case in Federal Court

In International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO, Local Union No. 289 v. Verizon South, Inc., the Union has filed suit in federal court (Middle District of North Carolina) to compel the company to engage in arbitration regarding the termination of an employee.  On behalf of the Union, Patterson Harkavy has filed this response brief and this reply brief.  Mike Okun and Narendra Ghosh are representing the Union.

This is a summary of the Union’s argument:  Because national labor policy strongly favors arbitration as the means for resolving labor disputes, courts must apply a presumption of arbitrability to collective bargaining agreements that contain arbitration provisions, and direct the parties to arbitrate unless the parties have expressly agreed not to arbitrate a particular matter.  Any doubt or ambiguity regarding arbitrability is to be resolved in favor of arbitration. 

Here, the parties’ collective bargaining agreement and separate settlement agreement for grievant Brian Pollard require arbitration of the grievance regarding Pollard’s termination because Pollard was not a “new employee” when he was rehired in 2010.  Moreover, to the extent the settlement agreement is ambiguous about permitting Pollard’s grievance to be arbitrated, that ambiguity must be construed in favor of arbitration.  Therefore, defendant’s motion to dismiss should be denied, and plaintiff’s motion to compel arbitration – filed this same day – should be granted.

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ATU 1328 Prevails in Arbitration Case in Federal Court

In, Cape Fear Public Transit Authority v. Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1328, the Wilmington transit authority is challenging a labor arbitration in favor of the Union, which ordered a terminated employee be put back to work.  This case is before federal Judge Boyle in the Eastern District of North Carolina.  Yesterday, Judge Boyle ruled for the Union, concluding that there were no grounds to reverse the arbitration decision.  Finding the city’s lawsuit to be “without justification,” Judge Boyle also awarded the Union its attorneys’ fees for defending this case.  Here is the opinion.  Mike Okun and Narendra Ghosh are representing the Union.

Categories: News of the Firm, Results Tags: , , , , , , ,

Briefs in ATU 1328 Arbitration Case

In, Cape Fear Public Transit Authority v. Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1328, the Wilmington transit authority is challenging a labor arbitration that was in favor of the Union, and which ordered a terminated employee be put back to work.  This case is before Judge Boyle in federal court (EDNC).  On behalf of the Union, Patterson Harkavy has filed the following brief, response brief, and reply brief.  Mike Okun and Narendra Ghosh are representing the Union.

Here is a summary of the Union’s position: 

First, plaintiff’s claim should be dismissed for failure to timely effect service because plaintiff did not properly serve defendant before the 120-day deadline elapsed, and had no good cause for its failure to do so.  Second, plaintiff’s claim should be dismissed because plaintiff CFPTA was not a party to the arbitration decision that it seeks to vacate, has no standing to challenge the decision, and has provided no relevant authority to demonstrate that it is permitted to bring this suit under 28 U.S.C. § 185. 

Third, plaintiff’s claim should be dismissed for failure to state a valid claim to vacate the arbitration decision.  The arbitrator correctly determined that Professional Transit Management of Wilmington, Inc. (“PTM”) violated the controlling collective bargain agreement (“CBA”) in terminating the grievant, and to the extent there was ambiguity in the operative language of the CBA, the arbitrator’s interpretation cannot be disturbed by the Court.  Under the standard enunciated by the Supreme Court, plaintiff has also failed to show how the arbitrator’s decision to reinstate the grievant violates any clearly established public policy.  For all these reasons, the Court should award defendant its reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred in this litigation because plaintiff’s motion to vacate the arbitration award has no arguable basis in the law.


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Mike and Narendra Prevail for IAM Unions in Challenge to Labor Arbitration Decision

On behalf of two local IAM unions, Patterson Harkavy has prevailed in federal district court in a case challenging a labor arbitration decision.  This case arises from Plaintiff UGL UNICCO’s termination of union member Ronald Corbett.  UGL UNICCO provides facilities maintenance services at a tire plant in Wilson, North Carolina, owned by Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire.  Corbett was employed by UGL UNICCO and worked at the Bridgestone Plant.  Defendants Local 2541 and District 110 are constituent entities of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (“IAM”).  The IAM was represented in this case by Mike Okun and Narendra Ghosh.

The union challenged Corbett’s termination and the case was initially decided by an experienced labor arbitrator.  Corbett, a 34-year employee, did nothing wrong in getting fired, but was terminated without just cause because of Bridgestone’s unilateral decision.  This is commonly known as a persona non grata situation.  The arbitrator found that this firing violated the union’s contract with UNICCO, and award Corbett 68 weeks of pay as damages because she could not order Bridgestone to return him to work.  UNICCO challenged the arbitrator’s decision in federal court.

In his July 16, 2010 opinion, Judge Boyle affirmed the arbitrator’s award and granted the union’s motion to enforce it.  Judge Boyle reasoned:  Read more…

Categories: Judicial Decisions, Results Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Burton, Hank, Mike, and Jonathan Recognized as North Carolina “Super Lawyers”

Four of Patterson Harkavy’s attorneys have been named North Carolina “Super Lawyers” for 2010 in a recent study by Law & Politics magazine.  The findings are published in the February 2010 edition of the North Carolina Super Lawyers magazine.

Patterson Harkavy’s 2010 North Carolina “Super Lawyers” are:

  • Burton Craige — Personal Injury: Medical Malpractice
  • Hank Patterson — Workers’ Compensation
  • Michael Okun — Labor & Employment Law
  • Jonathan Harkavy — Alternative Dispute Resolution

In addition, Jonathan Harkavy was named to the list of the Top 100 attorneys in North Carolina.

Law & Politics conducts a regional survey of lawyers who have been in practice for at least five years, asking them to nominate the best attorneys they’ve personally observed in action.  In addition, the magazine’s attorney-led research department reviews nominees’ credentials based on a set of evaluation criteria.  To ensure a diverse and well-balanced list, the research staff considers factors such as firm size, practice area and geographic location.

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Mike Okun Speaks to NC Legislative Committee on Work and Family Balance

Yesterday, Michael Okun spoke in front of the North Carolina Legislature’s Joint Study Committee on Work and Family Balance.  Mike presented an overview of employment law, the specific laws that assist employees in caring for family members and themselves, and possible improvements that could be made to further assist employees as they balance the demands of work and family.

An excellent paper on the topic is “Free Riding on Families: Why the American Workplace Needs to Change and How to Do It,” an Issue Brief by Phoebe Taubman, an Equal Justice Works Fellow with A Better Balance: The Work and Family Legal Center, based in New York City.  The paper discusses the need for reform, compares our laws to the more robust protections available in most other countries, and proposes reforms in the areas of: an improved Family and Medical Leave Act, paid sick days, workplace flexibility, employment discrimination against caregivers, and workplace equity.

Categories: Legislative Action Tags: , , , , , ,

Okun and Harkavy Recognized as Among Legal Elite in Employment Law

In its January 2010 issue, Business North Carolina recognized lawyers as being among the “Legal Elite” in various areas of the law.  Michael Okun was recognized as one of the “Legal Elite” in employment law, and Jonathan Harkavy retained recognition in the “Legal Elite Hall of Fame” in employment law.

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Mike Organizes Annual Labor Laywer Meeting with NLRB in Winston-Salem

As part of the Committee on Practice and Procedure under the NLRA (Southern Region (Region VIII) of the ABA’s Labor and Employment Section), Mike Okun helped organize the annual discussion between the labor bar and the NLRB Region 11’s Director, attorneys, and staff.   At today’s meeting at the NLRB office in Winston-Salem, we had the good fortune to be joined by John E. Higgins, Jr, currently the agency’s Deputy General Counsel, who filled us in on developments at the national level, including the NLRB’s work with only two board members and the potential effects of EFCA.

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Hank Honored by North Carolina Industrial Commission

At the 14th Annual North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference in Raleigh, which is put on the by the Industrial Commission, Hank Patterson was presented with an award in recognition for his years of outstanding service to the workers and the workers’ compensation of system of North Carolina.  Mike Okun was called on to present the award to him.  Also honored was C. Woodrow Teague of the law firm Teague Campbell Dennis & Gorham.

Hank Speaks after Receiving Recognition

Hank Speaks after Receiving Recognition

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