By Matt Chandler
Buffalo Law Journal - September 11, 2013
I saw that they were looking for a new attorney in the labor and employment department - it was a growing department - and I had some experience working with the EEOC, doing employment discrimination cases. So I thought it would be a great fit for me, with my background and experience. From the very beginning, I thought it was a great opportunity for me and I was excited to get back to working with a firm, to doing litigation and getting back in the courts. I had no nerves about changing jobs.
How will your experience with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission benefit your current practice?
I was working specifically on some equal pay and promotion lawsuits, as well as some sexual harassment lawsuits. I really got a good background and understanding of the laws that the EEOC is charged with enforcing. I got a good background in several of those federal laws, including the Equal Pay Act and the ADA, so I got a better understanding of not only how those laws work but how the EEOC goes about enforcing those laws. I also got a chance to see some very complex litigation with large employers and a very large number of claimants, so that was a great experience that will carry over to my work here.
Attorneys represent the employer or the employee. You handle cases for both. Does that present some unique challenges?
I think it is actually an advantage. When you work both sides, you are able to advise your client better. For example, when you see a lot of cases from the employee perspective you are then able to better advise employers on what kinds of best practices they should have in place and what kinds of workplace policies they need to consider implementing to try and avoid some of these lawsuits. Overall, to be able to see these cases from both perspectives helps out no matter what side you are on.
What do you see as hot issues in labor and employment law?
I have been noticing more in the area of gender discrimination. We get a lot of calls from women who work in typically male-dominated industries and where the policies maybe haven't caught up to what some of the laws are. That leads to a lot of equal-pay and possible gender-discrimination claims in those fields. I also think we are seeing more with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). In 2009 the ADA expanded the definition of disability, and there are additional individuals who now fall under that definition of disabled. So you have people, for a variety of reasons, who have an unexpected disability and you have a lot of cases coming out of that.
What's your take on the Western New York legal community?
This is the only place I've ever practiced, but I can say that Buffalo is a wonderful place to practice law. I've been active in attending events for the Women's Bar, for the Erie County Bar. I have attended some of the CLEs and other programs. I've learned so much from different attorneys during those events, and I think it is because most attorneys in Buffalo are so willing to help out a newer attorney, to offer advice. And I think that extends to the judges, as well. I see them going out of their way to assist the attorneys, and I think that is part of a closeness in the legal community in Buffalo.