Convention Program

2021 Convention Program (All times Eastern)

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

11:30–11:45 a.m.Welcome Brunch & Convention Orientation
Grab a front-row seat and join your NELA colleagues for our 2021 Annual Convention.
11:45 a.m.–12:15 p.m.Paul H. Tobias Roll Call Of The States & Opening Remarks
Wade B. Cowan, NELA President & Jeffrey A. Mittman, Executive Director
12:15–1:00 p.m.Honoring Courageous Plaintiffs
Moderator: Wade B. Cowan
Courageous Plaintiffs: Laura Andrade, Shannon Miller* & Jimmy Nicks
Advocates: Christopher Benoit, Dan Siegel*, Camille Fundora Rodriguez & Sarah Schalman-Bergen
1:30–2:30 p.m.Anti-Racist Lawyering
Moderator: Phillis h. Rambsy
Speakers: : Professor Sherry Soanes & Professor Joan C. Williams
How do you incorporate anti-racism into your practice? How can you use this knowledge to litigate race discrimination cases where you have no egregious comments—but clear racism? This blockbuster panel of experts will discuss how anti-racism works and innovative strategies to help practitioners take on more race discrimination cases.
3:00–4:00 p.m.CONCURRENT SESSIONS
Trauma Informed Advocacy
Moderator/Speaker: Allegra L. Fishel
Speakers: Dr. Robert T. Carter & Sunu P. Chandy
How can lawyers, even well-seasoned ones, become more sensitized to the needs of clients who have experienced trauma, recognizing that trauma & emotional suffering that may impact the litigation? This panel will examine the strategies necessary to effectively advocate for clients who have suffered traumatic experiences, including racial trauma.
Maximizing Your Success In Collective And Class Wage And Hour Litigation
Moderator/Speaker: Omar V. Melehy
Speaker: Reena I. Desai & Jason C. Marsili
This session will guide practitioners through the challenges of case preparation and execution of collective actions under the FLSA and class actions under Rule 23. The topics include: the nuts and bolts of collective actions; Rule 23 class actions under state wage and hour laws; deciding whether to bring individual or class or collective actions; methods for locating and ethically communicating with additional plaintiffs or potential opt-ins; dealing with Rule 68 offers of judgment and other strategies used by defendants to under-cut claims or eliminate collective or class claims; communicating with class members in ways that will allow you to present your liability and damages claims effectively; and pleading FLSA claims to avoid issues under Iqbal/Twombly.
4:30-5:30 p.m.CONCURRENT SESSIONS
Overcoming Obstacles Under The Equal Pay Act
Moderator/Speaker: Christine T. Elzer
Speaker: Nina T. Pirrotti & Tae Sture
This session will explore the Equal Pay Act’s affirmative defenses, with a particular focus on the “factor other than sex” defense. It will provide an in-depth look at recent case law, and will discuss practice tips for best resisting the employer’s defenses to pay discrimination. Additionally, our experts will discuss the fundamentals of economic damage claims, including identifying pay gaps, how to obtain the right compensation data through discovery, and highlighting damage claims that may be overlooked.
Effective Techniques In Representing Individuals With Mental Disabilities
Moderator/Speaker: Mark D. Sherinian
Speaker: Brian East & Professor Alison Morantz
Employees with mental and psychological disabilities are often ridiculed and demonized in the workplace and in some cases, they have difficulties in social situations. This session would focus on the challenges associated with representing this class of disabled persons and making them feel comfortable, along with effective techniques for winning these types of cases, convincing judges and juries to rule for you and dealing with defense tactics of discrediting or maligning this group.
6:00-7:15 p.m.NELA 2021 Gala Awards Celebration
Honorees: Janice Goodman, M. Megan O’Malley & Kira Fonteneau
Join us as we gather for our 2021 Gala Awards Celebration to toast another incredible year of strong advocacy for workers and present the 2021 awards for distinguished service to the NELA community.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

11:00–11:45 a.m.Wellness Activity
12:00–12:45 p.m.2021 Keynote Address by ReNika Moore, Director, ACLU's Racial Justice Program
NELA is honored to welcome ReNika Moore, Director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program (RJP), as our 2021 Annual Convention Keynote Speaker. ReNika Moore is the Director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program (RJP). She leads a dedicated team that uses litigation, advocacy, grassroots mobilization, and public education to dismantle barriers to equality for people of color.
1:15-2:15 p.m. Polarizing The Employment Case
Moderator/Speaker: J. Bernard Alexander
Speakers: Dennis E. Egan & Heather Leonard
Join our trial experts as they explore the strategy of “polarizing” a case, addressing defense attempts to attack the character or truthfulness of your client in a powerful and direct manner.
2:45–3:45 p.m.CONCURRENT SESSIONS
Encountering Sexism & Racism In The Practice Of Law
Moderator/Speaker: Renuka V. Jain
Speakers: Professor Kimberly Norwood & Judge Angela C. Robinson
When implicit bias presents itself, from a judicial officer and/or opposing counsel, it can be both demeaning and frustrating and gives attorneys pause as to whether the case will be fairly adjudicated or not based on the immutable characteristics of the attorney. This panel will address mechanisms for all attorneys to recognize the conscious (or unconscious) stereotyping of attorneys based on numerous factors & how to confront these implicit and explicit biases. This session will also provide information to non-minority attorneys on how to recognize when these situations are occurring & what they can do to help stop the spread of stereotypes and implicit bias in decision making.
Handling Your Bad Facts
Moderator/Speaker: R. Scott Oswald
Speakers: Carla D. Brown & James H. Kaster
Almost every case contains some bad facts. Because they don't disappear, what are the best ways to deal with them? We intend to confront common bad facts, and some of our best trial lawyers will help turn lemons into lemonade.
4:15–5:15 p.m.CONCURRENT SESSIONS
Whistleblower Claims In A Time Of Upheaval
Moderator/Speaker: Julie K. Bracker
Speakers: Elizabeth L. Riles & H. Vincent McKnight Jr.
Whistleblowers are a vital check on unscrupulous employers. Recently, whistleblowers have brought attention to some of the biggest societal concerns. This panel will discuss how to effectively represent whistleblowers, especially in times that are unpredictable.
Creative Techniques For Proving Damages
Moderator/Speaker: Alicia K. Haynes
Speakers: Erika Birch & Geraldine Sumter
Proving damages in employment cases can be challenging. This panel of experts will discuss new and creative ways to prove damages and get the best outcome for your client.
5:45-6:45 p.m. CONCURRENT SESSIONS
Bostock & Zarda One Year On
Moderator/Speaker: Maureen Truax Holland
Speaker: Thomas J. Mew
How has the Bostock decision changed the legal landscape in the past year? In addition to the vital importance of the case to workers, Bostock has also been cited in an ACA case and a fair housing case. How will Bostock affect workers in employment cases where religious discrimination is at stake?
Ethics—Should You Have Those?
Moderator: Deborah Karpatkin
Speakers: Kate A. Fisher & Kamee B. Verdrager
Sometimes clients take emails or documents from their workplace that prove their case. Many times, Defendants argue your client had not right to take possession of those documents. This session will discuss trade secrets law, & how to avoid landing in an unethical situation, still accessing the evidence you need.
6:45–8:00 p.m.NELA Wins Happy Hour

Friday, June 25, 2021

Before 12:00 p.m. EasternTobias 5K Run
Participants can join the NELA2021 Club on Strava, and upload their 5K time!
10:00–10:30 a.m.Yoga For Stressed Out Attorneys
10:45–11:15 a.m.Brunch With The Institute
Grab your breakfast or coffee and join our Paul H. Tobias Attorney Fellow, Christy England, and Institute Board President Rebecca Salawdeh to learn about the vital work of The Institute.
11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. CONCURRENT SESSIONS
MSPB: Litigation Strategies For Federal Sector Claims In The No-Board (No AJ?!) Era
Moderator/Speaker: James M. Eisenmann
Speakers: Donna W. Rucker
The lack of Merit System Protection Board members is drastically changing the landscape for Federal employees who must seek redress at the MSPB. Two agencies have successfully sidelined MSPB AJs from hearing initial appeals. What are your options for getting your client’s claims heard and/or appealed? Come to this advanced panel to hear from James M. Eisenmann, formerly General Counsel (2010-2013) and Executive Director of the MSPB (2013-2018), and experts in the field to find out how to navigate the various federal personnel claims around the new and emerging barriers.
The Impact Of COVID-19 On Age Discrimination
Moderator: Joseph D. Garrison
Speakers: Samuel J. Cordes, & Dara S. Smith
Join our experts as they discuss strategies to succeed in age discrimination cases. Reductions in force and restructuring often impact older workers disproportionately. During COVID-19, these impacts have been even more apparent. This session will analyze corporate culture, examine the difference between "stray remarks" and stereotypical age discriminatory remarks, discriminatory failures to hire qualified applicants on the basis of age, how to use statistics to strengthen your case, and major trends in age discrimination claims during and after COVID-19.
1:00–2:00 p.m.CONCURRENT SESSIONS
Creating Themes In Employment Cases
Moderator/Speaker: Megan Goddard
Speakers: Lauren A. Khouri & Chauniqua D. Young
Join our experts as they discuss the importance of creating a clear and cohesive theme for your case – from discovery all the way through case resolution.
Advanced Topics In Title IX Litigation
Moderator/Speaker: Deborah K. Marcuse
Speakers: Monica R. Shah & Adria L. Silva
This panel will feature national Title IX experts and employment lawyers who routinely litigate discrimination claims against colleges and universities. The panel will consider the relevant legal factors to determine whether an individual is an employee of an educational institution and whether individuals with dual student/employee roles (for example, graduate students) have employment claims in addition to educational discrimination claims. The panelists will shed light on the benefits and drawbacks of bringing litigation under Title IX as opposed to, or in addition to, Title VII to address employment discrimination, including addressing issues related to exhaustion of administrative remedies, the statute of limitations, discovery, and the standards of proof under both statutes.
2:30–3:30 p.m.CONCURRENT SESSIONS
Combatting Defense Distractions
Moderator: Francisco E. Mundaca
Speaker: Brenda Adams & Amanda A. Farahany
Often defense counsel will try and put your client on trial in harassment cases. Our experts will discuss how to combat these distractions and make sure the focus of the decisionmaker remains on the wrongdoing and not the actions of your client.
Advanced FMLA Topics
Moderator/Speaker: Bryn A. Sfetsios
Speakers: N. Sue Allen & Lisa B. Golan
This session will address addressed topics in Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) litigation. Topics include the impact of the 2009 regulatory amendments to constructive notice claims, joint employers under the FMLA, FMLA class actions, and much more.
4:00–5:30 p.m.The Year In Review: Significant Developments In Employment Law
Moderator: Ashley O. Westby
Speakers: Professor Eric Schnapper & Richard T. Seymour
The 2021 Virtual Convention will close with Professor Schnapper and Mr. Seymour discussing the employment cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court during its 2019–2020 term, significant legislative and state law developments, as well as emerging issues in plaintiffs’ employment law.