Peyton N. Smith Partner

Peyton Smith is managing partner of the Austin office and a member of the Labor & Employment Department. With a focus on employment law and defending employers in employment-related litigation, Peyton possesses more than 30 years of experience as a trial attorney, both as defense and plaintiffs' counsel, and brings unique insight and leadership to both pre- litigation counseling and the courtroom. Peyton also serves as a trusted advisor to his clients in strategic planning by developing and leading legal teams to work in partnership with company executives to proactively seize on opportunities for acquisition, investment and growth.

Considered by many of his clients as their outside general counsel, Peyton has extensive experience advising and collaborating with executive leadership on strategic planning, advising management on employment-related claims to minimize the possibility and risk of employment litigation, counseling clients on drafting employment policies and agreements, guiding clients on workplace safety issues, conducting employee investigations, and assisting with hiring, termination and other employment-related actions.

Though he has specific and lengthy experience in representing national retail, restaurant, hospitality, manufacturing and healthcare industry clients, Peyton represents employers in virtually every industry, enabling him to quickly identify and effectively address the unique problems and issues of a wide array of clients. As an experienced advisor and trial attorney, Peyton is a strategic and effective advocate who represents employers in the courtroom, at arbitrations and before administrative agencies. When employment claims lead to litigation, he implements a strategic and proactive defense strategy, aiming to efficiently win the case before trial through detailed investigation, aggressive discovery and pre-trial motion practice.

Peyton has lived and practiced law in Austin throughout his entire career. His unique knowledge of the Austin business network is a treasured asset as he partners with clients looking to strategically open an Austin office or expand their footprint in the Greater Austin area. Before joining McGuireWoods LLP, he practiced law at an Austin-based business law firm, where he led the labor and employment practice group. Prior to that, he practiced at two large, Texas-based, national business law firms, where he served in multiple leadership roles.


Employment Litigation and Related Matters, including Nonsubscriber Litigation

Defense of international technology and multiple healthcare companies in a wide range of employment discrimination and wage and hour matters before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. Department of Labor, Texas Workforce Commission and in federal and state courts.

Defense of national retailer in more than 20 state court lawsuits filed by employees for alleged unsafe workplace, negligence and gross negligence. Secured defense verdicts following jury trial or summary judgment in each lawsuit.

Defense of national restaurant chain in customer claims and litigation related to shigella food poisoning.

Defense of national grocery store retailer in claims by former employee of unsafe workplace, negligence, gross negligence and permanent disability. Secured directed verdict as to all claims after plaintiff’s counsel rested case. Secured jury verdict against former employee for counterclaims of fraudulent procurement of ERISA benefits and a verdict finding fraud with an award of attorney’s fees and court costs against the former employee and his counsel.

Defense of employee claims asserting wrongful termination, breach of contract, discrimination and retaliation under various federal and state laws.

Served as lead counsel in the defense of a nursing home for claims of negligence, gross negligence and wrongful death alleged by the family of a deceased former resident. Following two week jury trial, secured defense verdict as to all claims.

Defense of regional retailer in five states for employee and customer tort-based claims and litigation.

Defense of national retailer in trucking fleet wrongful death litigation.

Defense of national apartment company as to claims of negligence and gross negligence following propane gas range explosion injuring resident.

Drafting and advice on employment-related policies, employee handbooks, and employment contracts.

Advice and counsel regarding employee discipline issues, terminations, and reductions in force.

Training of supervisors and employees on the prevention of unlawful employment practices, including sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.

Employment Advice and Counsel, including Mergers & Acquisitions

Serve as corporate and advisory counsel for real estate investment company on corporate, employment, finance, litigation and related business issues impacting company.  In partnership with client to serve as outside corporate counsel for all strategic meetings and discussions, serving as client relationship attorney to build and manage legal teams to represent rapidly growing company in all legal matters, including proactively planning for and addressing real estate, hospitality, technology, entertainment and investment opportunities.

Represented group of 250 anesthesiologists in Arizona in challenging contract renewal negotiation with parent company and drafting of extensive revisions to their collective and individual employment agreements. Negotiations were both impacted by and finalized during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Post-closing the transaction was valued at in excess of  $285,000,000.

Served as employment advisory and transactional counsel in the representation of RBJ & Associates, one of the largest independent producers of water infrastructure and disposal services for energy companies in the Permian Basin whose assets included 24 saltwater disposal wells with a permitted daily disposal capacity of approximately 600,000 barrels, 150 miles of pipeline gathering systems and other supporting infrastructure, in its sale to a subsidiary of Pilot Flying J, a national owner and operating of tanker trucks, salt water gathering pipelines, and disposal facilities.

Investigative counsel for numerous employers in formal discrimination, harassment and retaliation complaints.

Represented group of 80 anesthesiologists in contentious contract renewal negotiations, securing reformation of their compensation structure, and revising terms of their collective and individual employment agreements with parent company. The value of the transaction was in excess of $85,000,000.

Represented group of 32 anesthesiologists in contract renewal negotiations with parent company and revisions to their collective and individual employment agreements. Post-closing the transaction was valued at $40,000,000.

Served as outside general counsel for a health supplements company providing labor and employment advice and counsel, guidance on vendor and independent contractor issues, and partnering with President and CEO on addressing a myriad of business and legal issues faced by company.

Served as employment counsel in the representation of Intervale Capital, an energy-focused private equity firm, in the sale of a portfolio company, Epic Lift Systems, a leading provider of plunger lift, gas lift and complementary compression products, to Tally Energy Services.

Provided labor and employment advice and guidance and assisted in the sale of a California-based behavioral health company to a private equity client.

ERISA Litigation and Claims

Defense of ERISA group medical benefit plans in single and multi-plaintiff benefit disputes.

Provided advice and guidance to national retailers and restaurant chains concerning ERISA health plan-related issues and claims.

Provide advice and counsel to national big box retailers, national restaurants, healthcare, hospitality and technology companies in the Texas option of nonsubscription to workers’ compensation, including assisting in drafting ERISA plans for medical and lost wage benefits to employees, investigating employee injury claims, counseling businesses on workplace safety-related issues and defending nonsubscribing employers in employee injury arbitrations and litigation in state and federal courts.

Served as lead defense counsel in representation of national big box grocer in employee injury lawsuit, including development of trial defense strategy and counter-claims against both the plaintiff employee and plaintiff’s counsel for fraud and the fraudulent procurement of ERISA benefits. Secured directed verdict from judge as to plaintiff’s multiple claims and damages and, following a jury finding of fraud as to both plaintiff and his counsel, an award of damages requiring plaintiff to repay in full the ERISA benefits he had received, as well as ordering plaintiff and his counsel to reimburse the employer’s attorney fees and costs.

  • Baylor University, BA, Business Administration and Finance
  • Baylor Law School, JD, Phi Delta Phi

American Bar Association, Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS), Vice Chair of the Self-Insurers and Risk Management Committee

Member, Austin Bar Association, Civil Litigation and Labor and Employment Law Sections

Member, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce

Member, Round Rock Chamber of Commerce

Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America (LCA)

Member, State Bar of Texas, Labor and Employment Law Section

Board of Trustees, Texas Baptist Children’s Home, 2015-2019

  • Panelist, Reopening Issues Facing Texas Retailers and Manufacturers, September 23, 2020
  • Speaker, "A Primer for Texas Retailers: Labor & Employment Law Update," Texas Retailers Association Annual Conference, Austin, Texas, August 2019
  • Presenter, "Austin’s New Rules on Panhandling, Camping and Resting in Public: A New Area of Potential Liability for Business Owners," Employment Seminar, Austin, Texas, July 2019
  • Presenter, "Preventing Employee Injuries and Litigation," Employment Seminar, Dallas, Texas, October 2013
  • Speaker, "Social Media in the Workplace: The Five Hot Issues for Employers," Wal-Mart CLE Event, February 2013
  • Speaker, "Today's HR Mistakes - Tomorrow's Disasters: The Value of Good HR Practices," ALA Annual National Conference, April 2012
  • Speaker, "Preparing for Disaster: The Legal and Practical Considerations Employers Should Examine," 2006 PartnerSource Conference, October 2006
  • Texas
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas

Named to "Texas Super Lawyers", Employment Litigation Defense, Super Lawyers, Thomson Reuters, 2012, 2014-2020

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