Message Image  

Friday, June 26

   Wednesday | Thursday | Saturday

7:00 a.m.

Tobias 5K Run
Participants are requested to meet in the lobby of the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel at 6:45 a.m.

7:00–9:00 a.m.

Registration & Continental Breakfast

9:00 a.m.–10:00 a.m.

Keynote Address By Taylor Branch
NELA is privileged to welcome acclaimed American author and historian Taylor Branch as our keynote speaker for this year's Annual Convention. Mr. Branch is best known for his landmark trilogy on the civil rights era, America in the King Years, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Mr. Branch will be introduced by Alan Banov.

10:15 a.m.–11:30 a.m.

Rules Of The Road For The Plaintiffs' Employment Lawyer
Moderator: Carla D. Brown
Speakers: Dennis E. Egan & Patrick Malone
Back by popular demand for the 2015 Annual Convention is Patrick Malone's Rules of the Road, America's bestselling trial guide on proving liability. Since its original release in 2006, it has helped plaintiffs' lawyers throughout the country secure significant victories in cases with difficult liability issues. Mr. Malone will be joined by two veteran plaintiff employment lawyers who will discuss how to apply Rules of the Road to employment cases, how to troubleshoot your rules, and how to use Rules of the Road to win your next trial.

11:30 a.m.–12:45 p.m

Box Lunch
Box lunch is available to Convention registrants only.

Meet EEOC Chair Jenny Yang
Speaker: Honorable Jenny R. Yang
Jenny R. Yang assumed leadership of the EEOC on September 1, 2014, after joining the EEOC as a Commissioner in May 2013. Chair Yang will share with NELA members her plans for expanding the EEOC's impact and more effectively serving the public, and invites NELA members to share their recommendations for how the EEOC can achieve these goals.

NELA Committee & Practice Group Meetings

Making The Most Of The NELA Exchange
Presenter: Pedro A. Valverde, NELA Technology & Office Administrator
NELA's online community, The NELA Exchange, allows you to harness the power of the largest plaintiffs' employment law firm in the country through subject-matter communities, blogs, resource libraries, and more. The NELA Exchange mobile app keeps you connected when you are on the go! Join Pedro Valverde, NELA's Technology & Office Administrator, to learn about The Exchange's features and how to make the most of this valuable members-only resource.

1:00–2:15 p.m.


Playing With A Full Deck, Or Playing Your Strongest Hand?
Moderator/Speaker: Amanda A. Farahany
Speakers: Karen Jo Koonan & R. Scott Oswald
When there are multiple potential theories, what strategies produce remarkable success with judges, jurors, and opposing counsel? Our panelists will propose successful approaches for planning and recovering large awards when there are multiple possible claims. They will discuss how you may play your cards when the employer engaged in several types of bias and retaliation; the strengths and pitfalls of filing a broad complaint to preserve all possible theories; and cases where increased evidence of misconduct in several distinct ways intensified the juror's anger at the employer, and those cases where multiple theories appeared to antagonize jurors as overreaching. They also will share cases where juries have found employers not liable for discrimination but have given large awards for retaliation with punitive damages—and vice versa! When, if ever, do you drop one claim and bring only the strongest claim? If you keep in two theories, how do you best play your hand with the stronger and weaker claims? What has brought six- and seven-figure verdicts in such claims? How do you stay nimble and persuasive as the facts strengthen in one area and weaken in another? Our experts will explore the theories, plans, and techniques to evaluate and test your case to produce the maximum result.

Storytelling For The Plaintiffs' Employment Lawyer
Moderator/Speaker: Bruce A. Fredrickson
Speakers: Susan L. Brackshaw & Professor Philip N. Meyer
Good lawyers have an ability to tell stories. Whether they are arguing a murder case or a complex financial securities case, they can capably explain a chain of events to judges and juries so that they understand them. The best lawyers are also able to construct narratives that have an emotional impact on their intended audiences. But what is a narrative, and how can lawyers go about constructing one? How does one transform a cold presentation of facts into a seamless story that clearly and compellingly takes readers not only from point A to point B, but to points C, D, E, F, and G as well? Our panel of storytellers will provide practical tips that will help you craft your own legal stories.

"Because Of": Trying Retaliation Cases After Nassar
Moderator/Speaker: Amy L. Coopman
Speakers: Margaret A. Harris & Robert S. Mantell
Following the 1991 amendments to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the causation standard for status-based discrimination—race, color, religion, sex, and national origin—was statutorily defined as "a motivating factor." In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court in Gross v. FBL Financial Services concluded that the ADEA's language "because of such individual's age" requires proof of "but for" causation. In 2014, in Univ. of Texas SW Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, the Court determined that Title VII's anti-retaliation provisions—which were not amended in 1991—also require proof that the protected activity was the "but for" cause of an alleged adverse action. How does this impact trying a case, particularly where both discrimination and retaliation are asserted? How do you handle jury instructions, motions in limine, proving damages? Join our distinguished panel of lawyers as they explore the practical issues of proving and defending retaliation claims post-Nassar.

Ethics Tips From The Experts
Moderator/Speaker: Janet E. Wise
Speakers: Paul H. Merry & Richard R. Renner
NELA's Ethics & Sanctions Committee fields queries on a wide variety of ethical issues. This year, Committee members distill the most common and vexing issues into a comprehensive review. They will present their top tips for addressing (1) conflicts of interest, such as waiver agreements for representing multiple plaintiffs in the same matter and attorney-client conflicts over whether to dismiss, settle, or proceed with claims; (2) document dilemmas, including inadvertent receipt of an adversary's confidential documents, how to handle so-called purloined documents from the employer, and spoliation of evidence (including Facebook takedowns) by the defendant or plaintiff; (3) witness contacts, with unrepresented witnesses and management employees, and addressing when you may contact them and how it must be done; (4) retainer agreements, including presentation of the NELA Ethics & Sanctions Committee’s model contingent retainer agreement; and (5) avoiding sanctions threats and bar discipline, with tips on maintaining good client relationships, recognizing warning signs and addressing them proactively, and responding to safe harbor letters, defense threats, and disciplinary complaints. The Committee is hopeful that this comprehensive review will inspire synergistic thoughts of managing ethical issues with good sense, legal compliance, and eminent practicality.

Recent Developments On LGBT Rights In The Workplace
Moderator/Speaker: Julie Wilensky
Speakers: Cathy Harris & Gregory R. Nevins
With the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor, combined with recent lower court decisions recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry, it is easy to overlook that members of the LGBT community remain largely unprotected in the workplace. In the majority of states, employees can still be fired for being gay. How do the marriage equality cases affect the legal arguments made for equality in the workplace? Join a panel of experienced practitioners to discuss this cutting-edge issue, including constitutional considerations, the EEOC's interpretation of Title VII and LGBT protection, President Obama's amendments to Executive Orders 11478 and 11246, and federal guidance on employee benefits law.


The Cases All NELA Members Need In Their Hip Pockets
Moderator: David L. Lee
Speakers: Alice W. Ballard & Diane S. King
As NELA celebrates its 30th anniversary of employee rights advocacy, we have witnessed positive as well as negative changes that have significantly affected employment litigation from the Americans with Disabilities Act to the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, fighting forced arbitration and summary judgment motions, different standards of causation, recognition of LGBT rights, and more. Whether it is a case that advances the law, an obscure opinion with great legal reasoning, or one that defines victory for workers, our experts will scan the vast legal landscape and identify those cases that you need to have in your hip pocket as you advocate for your clients' workplace rights.

2:30–3:45 p.m.


Decisions, Decisions: Evaluating Case Values During Mediation
Moderator/Speaker: Daniel M. Klein
Speakers: Adrienne Fechter & Judge Elaine Gordon (Ret.)
This session is aimed at helping you "think on your feet" when you are in mediation and must make important negotiation decisions quickly. Some mediators and lawyers use a method called a decision tree to help analyze case values that shift while agreements are being negotiated. Our panel of mediators will analyze the use of this method, but also discuss more generally how to assess potential success of certain claims and defenses, how to set priorities, how to explain the time-value of money to your client, what gives you leverage outside of just the facts and law of your case, how to negotiate for multiple co-plaintiffs, how to deal with a document or testimony that is a serious problem but that you must confront, and other practical issues that arise while you are mediating. This interactive session is geared to help you negotiate more strategically in the future.

E-Discovery In Plaintiffs' Employment Cases: Going Native
Moderator/Speaker: Jeff Kerr
Speakers: David L. Scher & John Simek
This session will explore the discovery, production, and review of native format documents: emails, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint® presentations, images, PDF files, and more. These items exist in their native form as files on computers, and our experts will discuss the benefits of obtaining these items in this form and how to request them. In doing so, they will explain some computer concepts that will clarify misconceptions about the production of native documents and will help practitioners to avoid pitfalls in this area.

Protecting Employees & Job Applicants From Improper Criminal Background Checks
Moderator/Speaker: E. Michelle Drake
Speakers: James Kan & Christopher Wilmes
The vast majority of employers engage in formal background screening of applicants and employees. This session will cover the multitude of state and federal laws that govern the use of background information in the employment realm, from the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act governing disclosures and notices that must be provided before and after a check is run, to the EEOC's Title VII guidance covering the use of criminal and credit information in the employment process. This presentation will take a start-to-finish approach, with an eye to providing you with both the practical tools you need to advise clients about tricky legal issues, such as how to answer questions about criminal background on employment applications, and the tools attorneys need to identify in pursuing litigation opportunities.

Cutting-Edge Issues In Age Discrimination & The Aging Workforce
Moderator/Speaker: Cathy Ventrell-Monsees
Speakers: Daniel B. Kohrman & L. Steven Platt
Employees age 50 and older represent almost a third of the U.S. workforce. By 2018, the number of employees over 55 will increase by almost 30% in just one decade. Many older workers plan to continue working well beyond what used to
be considered the "normal" retirement age. This presents a dilemma for some employers who feel the aging workforce blocks the progression of younger workers while other employers are grateful to retain experienced older workers. The number of age discrimination charges filed with the EEOC has increased, yet some feel that it is harder to win a case alleging age discrimination than it is for other types of discrimination. This panel will discuss the effect of the changing demographics, cases since the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Services Inc., the recent regulations from the EEOC, and best practices in drafting and administering severance agreements and releases.


Statistics For Lawyers Who Hate Math
Moderator/Speaker: Rachel Geman
Speakers: Michael D. Lieder & Christine E. Webber
This session will address two cutting-edge issues that arise in FLSA and Title VII cases. In FLSA cases, there has been a push to require use of statistical sampling, sometimes supported by expert testimony, to establish that "representative testimony" really is. This can benefit plaintiffs in some cases (random selection of opt-ins to respond to discovery instead of letting the defendant cherry pick) but can also make trial more complicated by requiring an expert to establish your evidence really is representative. In Title VII class actions, the proper standard for evaluating statistical evidence post-Dukes is in flux, as disaggregated statistical analyses raise new questions about how to determine if the results are significant evidence of discrimination. While both issues are very important for anyone litigating class or collective actions, and may require expert testimony, the concepts and arguments can be understood even by those who hate math.


What Every NELA Lawyer Should Know About ERISA
Moderator/Speaker: William D. Frumkin
Speakers: Denise M. Clark & Joshua Davidson
This primer will introduce you to employee benefits issues with a focus on client intake and settlements. NELA's experts will help you spot issues involving the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), teach you how to resolve them when you can, and tell you when you need to get expert help.

4:00–5:00 p.m.

What Great Movies Can Teach Us About Ethics & Professionalism
Introduction: Roberta L. Steele, NELA Program Director
Speaker: Larry J. Cohen
Not since Atticus Finch have lawyers been able to take ethical cues from lawyers portrayed in the movies. After all, screen writers get paid big bucks to ensure that lawyers in movies face issues that will entertain, not enlighten. But sometimes the lawyers in movies are faced with the same types of ethical issues that real practitioners face. What choices do celluloid lawyers make when confronted with ethical dilemmas from real life? It is fair to say that the Hollywood choices are not reliable guides for real lawyers? Join Mr. Cohen for this interactive and entertaining presentation that will keep you on the edge of your seat as you learn about what movies can teach you about ethics and professionalism.

6:00–7:30 p.m.

Annual Dinner
Annual Dinner is included in the registration fee for Registrants only. Guest tickets may be purchased separately. Please note the Annual Dinner precedes NELA's Gala Fundraiser and is a separate event.

8:00–11:30 p.m.

NELA's 30th Anniversary Gala Fundraiser
The Power Of NELA~Vision • Inspiration • Passion
Join us for NELA's Annual Gala Fundraiser to support NELA's advocacy initiatives to advance equality and justice in the American workplace. As NELA celebrates its 30th anniversary, we look forward to honoring the founding leaders of NELA for their vision, inspiration, and passion. The Gala Fundraiser follows NELA's Annual Dinner and is a separate event. Tickets for the Gala Fundraiser may be purchased at the Registration Desk or at the door.

     Wednesday | Thursday | Saturday
  Program subject to change without notice.