Michael R. Phillips Partner

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For over 25 years, Mike Phillips has been defending employers in labor and employment claims and helping them avoid litigation through sound and practical advice. Mike’s practice is nationwide.

He has represented employers in virtually every state in the country in cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, ERISA, and other state and federal employment statutes. These cases have included many class and collective actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act and state wage payment laws. Mike also guides employers on their obligations under federal labor law and collective bargaining agreements and has arbitrated dozens of grievances, securing many important victories for his clients.

Mike is also an experienced commercial litigator. He has represented businesses and individuals in breach of contract, business tort, professional liability and other business disputes. He both prosecutes and defends non-compete, trade secret and other restrictive covenant cases throughout the country. Mike has tried numerous cases to verdict in jury, non-jury and arbitration settings.

Mike is known for his creativity in resolving disputes and his ability to fight hard for his clients while maintaining the relationships with the court and opposing counsel necessary to achieve the most favorable outcome. Through his skillful management of the litigation process, he has won the trust and confidence of some of America’s largest employers.

Although his practice spans numerous industries, Mike has particular expertise in the staffing industry, where he has represented staffing companies both large and small, as well as in the food and beverage, energy, healthcare, transportation and telecommunications fields.

Mike has been honored as an Illinois “Super Lawyer” in Labor and Employment law seven times, has been named a BTI Client Service All-Star, and has been asked to participate in Illinois State Bar Association continuing legal education panels and industry group conferences to share his views on key employment law issues. He is also the editor of and a frequent contributor to WorkCite, McGuireWoods’ labor and employment law newsletter.

In 2021, Mike received a Certificate in Mediation Skills from Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies after completing mediator training.


  • Successfully resolved hundreds of single plaintiff and multiple plaintiff cases in courts across the country alleging discrimination, retaliation, harassment or other violations of state or federal employment laws.
  • Lead counsel in numerous class and collective actions in multiple states involving alleged violations of state and federal wage and hour laws.  Notable victories include:
    • Achieved summary judgment for staffing company in class action lawsuit claiming that vacation pay program violated California Labor Code.
    • Obtained complete dismissal of class action lawsuit involving tens of thousands of potential class members alleging multiple violations of wage payment laws.
    • Defeated multi-million dollar class action claim by long-haul truck drivers alleging that state law required employer to pay them for all time spent on duty and not driving.
  • Prevailed at arbitration hearings involving grievances brought under collective bargaining agreements, including:
    • Arbitration award upholding termination of long term employee for inciting violence on the plant floor.
    • Series of awards in several states in favor of meatpacking company holding that contracting out of various plant functions to vendor did not violate CBAs.
    • Arbitration award upholding termination of utility worker for multiple drug test violations despite long tenure and strong performance record.
  • Obtained favorable outcomes in business litigation related to enforcement of restrictive covenants and other contract and tort disputes, including the following:
    • Persuaded Virginia Supreme Court to overturn entry of preliminary injunction in restrictive covenant case, resulting in complete victory for client and precedent setting ruling against its litigious competitor.
    • Obtained injunction against crop insurance salesperson who attempted to solicit customers in violation of employment covenants.
    • Represented engineering company in 10 year long battle with real estate developer, obtaining complete recovery of unpaid fees in arbitration and then resolving professional negligence counterclaims through favorable rulings on pre-trial motions.
    • Achieved trial victory for real estate broker on fraud claims, obtaining not guilty verdict on all counts of complaint.
  • Represented employer before the U.S. Supreme Court in Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, one of the most important employment law decisions in recent history, in which the Court redefined the law governing employer liability for workplace sexual harassment.