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James M. Nelson is Co-Chair of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice’s ERISA & Employee Benefits Litigation group. He represents employers and ERISA plan fiduciaries in matters concerning ERISA compliance, fiduciary responsibility, collective bargaining, wage and hour, employee benefits, safety, discrimination, wrongful termination, and other labor and employment issues. His experience includes complex litigation, class action defense, administrative proceedings, and appeals, as well as advice and counseling to ERISA plan fiduciaries of single-employer and multi-employer plans. He counsels clients on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) matters including litigation as well as compliance, due diligence reviews, and safety and health audits. James has counseled clients in numerous industries, including construction, transportation, health care, hospitality, manufacturing, and publishing.


  • Complex labor and employment litigation
  • Labor and employment advice and counselling
  • ERISA litigation
  • Collective bargaining
  • Wage and hour litigation
  • Alternative WorkForce and Independent contractor misclassification issues



  • Counsel of Record, Concrete Pipe and Products v. Construction Laborers Pension Trust for Southern California, 508 U.S. 602, 124 L.Ed.2d 539 (1993), complex ERISA litigation involving fiduciary responsibility/actuarial disputes resulting from Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act and dispute over constitutionality of various provisions and circumstances under which a collective bargaining relationship has ceased.
  • Lynn-Edwards Corp., 290 NLRB No.28 (1988); on remand from NLRB v. Lynn-Edwards Corp., 825 F.2d 413 (9th Cir. 1987), established the status of ESOP as retirement plan governed by ERISA and that employer did not violate LMRA by excluding union employees with collectively bargained retirement benefits from participation in ESOP.
  • Kentucky Association of Health Plans Inc. v. Miller, U.S. , 155 L.Ed.2d 468 (2003), Amicus counsel for Society of Human Resources Management on ERISA preemption of state “any willing provider” statutes regulating managed health care.
  • Wells v. One2One Learning Foundation, 39 C.4th 1164 (2006), applicability of Unfair Competition Law and False Claims Act to charter schools and their chartering school districts.

Multi-Plaintiff Non-Class Action

  • Race and age claims of six plaintiffs in four separate actions arising from same managers in a single facility, Alameda County.
  • Seven plaintiff sexual harassment and discrimination claims under California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Sonoma County.
  • Four plaintiff coordinated race discrimination and harassment cases, Sacramento County.
  • Five plaintiff, gender, age, sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination claims, mediated Sacramento County.
  • EEOC pattern and practice gender discrimination claims in hotel restaurant setting, Maricopa County.
  • EEOC pattern and practice and separate class action sexual harassment claim involving minor employees, Maricopa County and D. Az.

Representative Class Action

  • WARN/COBRA class action involving plant closure and termination of health plans, E.D. Cal.
  • Age Discrimination/ COBRA class action asserting discriminatory benefit structure, E.D. Cal.
  • Labor Code §2802 state wide class action and unfair competition action involving independent contractor classifications, Los Angeles County Superior Court.
  • ERISA litigation related to ESOP valuation with U.S. Dept. of Labor and assertion of settlement class of participants, E.D. Cal.
  • Labor Code 226.7/ Unfair Competition state wide class claim related to breaks and meal periods, Orange County Superior Court.
  • "Off the Clock" wages, failure to pay overtime and call back time class claim, Sacramento County Superior Court.
  • Rest and meal period/failure to pay overtime, failure to provide tools/incorrect payday statement unfair competition claim, San Bernardino County Superior Court.

Some of the above representations were handled by Mr. Nelson prior to his joining Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

Recognition & Leadership

  • Listed, The Best Lawyers in America, Employment Law - Management; Litigation - Labor & Employment, 2012-2022
    • Named, "Lawyer of the Year," Litigation - Labor & Employment, Sacramento, 2021
    • Named, "Lawyer of the Year," Employment Law - Management, Sacramento, 2020
  • Listed, The Legal 500 United States, Labor and Employment - ERISA Litigation, 2019-2021
  • Listed, Super Lawyers magazine, Northern California Super Lawyers, 2013-2022
  • Listed, Sacramento Magazine, "Top Lawyer," 2015-2017, 2019-2021
    • Employee Benefits, 2015-2017, 2020-201
    • Employment & Labor, 2017, 2019-2021
  • Fellow, American College of Employee Benefits Counsel
  • Fellow, College of Labor and Employment Lawyers
  • Fellow, American Bar Foundation
  • Listed, Sacramento Business Journal, "Best of the Bar," 2014
  • Listed, Who's Who in American Law
  • Listed, Who's Who in the West
  • Rated, AV Preeminent® 5.0 out of 5.0

°AV®, AV Preeminent®, Martindale-Hubbell DistinguishedSM and Martindale-Hubbell NotableSM are certification marks used under license in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell® certification procedures, standards and policies.

  • Board Member, ALS Association, Greater Sacramento Chapter, 2016-2018
  • Board Member, American College of Employee Benefits Counsel, Board of Governors, 2010-2018
  • Member, ALS Association National Board of Representatives, 2017-2018
  • Member, Arizona Bar Association, Labor and Employment Law Section
  • Mediator/Evaluator, Voluntary Dispute Resolution, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, 1997-2019 (Employee Benefit claim cases)
  • Adjunct Professor, John Marshall Law School, 2010-2021
  • Member, University of Arizona – James E. Rogers College of Law, Board of Visitors, 2017-Present
  • Member, American Bar Association, 1987-2020
    • Subcommittee Co-Chair, Welfare Plans, Benefit Claims, Labor and Employment Law Section, 2012-2014
    • Subcommittee Co-Chair, Welfare Plans, Employee Benefits Committee, Labor and Employment Law Section, 2010-2011
  • Board of Directors, Crossroads, a mental health rehabilitation agency, 1989-1996, 2009-2015
  • Board of Directors, Sacramento Medical Group Managers Association, 1998-2013
  • Member, California Bar Association, Labor and Employment Law Section


  • J.D., University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, 1981
    • Co-Founder and First Comment and Note Editor, Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law
    • Legislative Intern, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, 1981
  • B.A., University of Arizona, 1979
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Washington
  • Supreme Court of the United States
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona
  • U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington