Skip to main content

Michael D. Karpeles is Co-Chair of the Chicago Labor & Employment Practice. Mike is recognized as one of the top employment lawyers in Illinois and the U.S.. He has wide-ranging experience in complex commercial litigation with a concentration in employment law. Mike regularly defends employers in state and federal courts and administrative agencies around the country in class and collective actions as well as individual cases involving allegations of discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge and violations of wage and hour laws. He also handles cases under the ADA, ERISA, FMLA and whistleblower statutes. He has litigated numerous matters involving covenants not to compete, employee raiding, trade secret misappropriation and employment contracts.

Mike also provides advice and counsel to clients on how to minimize potential liability under the state and federal employment laws, including in connection with mass layoffs, reductions in force, merger and acquisition transactions, and OFCCP compliance audits. He negotiates and creates executive compensation, severance and release agreements, and advises companies concerning their employment policies. In both litigation and counseling, he has represented clients in a number of industries, including utility services, metals, manufacturing, retail, banking and financial services, commodities and futures, airlines, toys and sporting goods, cellular communications, real estate management, proprietary electronic trading, debt collection, consumer products, computer, health care, clinical research, education, and religious and other not-for-profit organizations.


  • Defend class and individual discrimination, harassment and retaliation litigation
  • Non-compete and trade secret litigation
  • Employment and executive compensation agreements
  • Wage and hour class and collective action defense
  • OFCCP, DOL and other government agency investigations and defense of litigation
  • Strategic advice in connection with reductions in force (RIFs), mass layoffs, and corporate transactions to minimize employment law risks



  • Defended a national public retailer in a sexual harassment case where the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed that plaintiff’s supervisor’s conduct was not unwelcome.
  • Represented national bank as lead counsel in a trial involving retaliation claims by a former employee. Based on evidence developed during trial, the client sought and obtained dismissal of the case based on an issue of first impression under the Illinois Human Rights Act.
  • Defended a national law firm against sensitive federal court claims of sexual harassment and retaliation. After discovery, obtained summary judgment on all claims.
  • Defended a public bank against OFCCP investigation and allegation of class-wide race discrimination, resulting in complete dismissal and no liability or payment of damages.
  • Defended a national air freight company in a sexual harassment suit alleging repeated sexual misconduct by a co-worker of the plaintiff and claiming several hundred thousand dollars in damages. After taking the plaintiff’s deposition and establishing multiple discrepancies in her testimony, Mike settled the suit for nuisance value.
  • Represented public financial services company in a major race discrimination case. The client was granted a summary judgment, and the dismissal was affirmed by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Represented national company in a suit alleging racial bigotry. After deposing the plaintiff and his chief witness, the client was able to show that they repeatedly misrepresented facts and contradicted each other. The case settled for less than three percent of the amount claimed.
  • Guided a corporate client through an intensive sexual harassment investigation with potential for numerous sexual harassment suits; none were filed.
  • Represented proprietary electronic trading company in enforcing global non-compete against a senior software developer who left to join a direct competitor to develop similar software. After expedited discovery and trial on the client's motion for preliminary injunction, an injunction preventing the employee from working for the competitor was entered, along with other relief including express validation of the client's non-compete agreement. A principal of the competitor was also required to pay a substantial portion of the client's attorney's fees as part of a settlement with the competitor.
  • Defended North American retailer and subsidiary, President and Sales Manager against multimillion-dollar claims by corporate competitor of conspiracy, misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of restrictive covenants, and violation of unfair competition and computer integrity laws. The case was removed to federal court and the corporate defendants and President were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and key claims were dismissed on the merits against the remaining defendant. The plaintiff then dismissed the case with prejudice without payment of any money or other relief from the defendants.
  • Represented large financial services and insurance brokerage firm in enforcing non-compete and non-solicitation agreements against a former senior corporate officer and two former key employees. After conducting an intensive investigation, delivering an eight-count complaint to the former employees and their new employer, and holding a series of high-level negotiations with the threat of litigation on the table, Mike was able to negotiate a multimillion-dollar settlement for the client without having to incur the costs of litigation.
  • Defended a senior pharmaceutical industry executive against allegations of theft of trade secrets, inevitable disclosure, and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Mike worked with forensic technology experts to establish that the executive did not misappropriate trade secrets or access confidential information without authorization, and developed substantial evidence that the executive's job duties with his new employer were too dissimilar to those with his previous employer to justify a finding of inevitable disclosure. The case settled after months of expedited discovery pending a preliminary injunction, with the executive retaining his new job and not having to pay any settlement amount.
  • Defended and prosecuted numerous controversies involving covenants-not-to-compete and trade secret issues, including temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunction hearings.
  • Represented national furniture manufacturer/retailer in a Department of Labor wage and hour investigation involving alleged off-the-clock work, meal and rest break compliance, time rounding and exempt/non-exempt classification. Mike guided the client through a DOL wage and hour audit, developed the overall legal analysis, arranged for production of the appropriate documents, orchestrated the DOL site visit and witness interviews, and steered the investigation toward a resolution with no findings whatsoever of liability. No further claims were ever filed.
  • Defended a public company in the uniform industry against national FLSA collective actions and state law wage class actions. Developed substantial legal and factual defenses resulting in no class certification and minimal individual settlements.
  • Defended a financial services subsidiary of a national bank against class-wide allegations of wage and hour violations in California involving meal and rest breaks. Mike oversaw the process of obtaining 350 employee affidavits and other factual investigation that led to a pre-certification settlement through mediation.
  • Defended a commercial lender against allegations that the lender was responsible for wages and benefits of a class of employees of a bankrupt borrower. Mike developed compelling evidence through depositions and other discovery, which led to his client being dismissed outright from the case without liability or the payment of any money.
  • Represented national accounting firm in connection with the termination of the firm’s Australian General Manager, who developed medical issues and insisted on returning to the United States for treatment. Mike analyzed the executive’s employment agreement and the potentially applicable wage, disability, medical leave and workers compensation laws of three states and Australia, coordinating counsel in those jurisdictions and developing an approach that avoided all liability to the firm. Potential exposure for the termination exceeded $1 million.
  • Represented large regional banking institution in a several-hundred-thousand-dollar suit alleging breach of an employment  agreement. After bringing a recent court decision to the attention of opposing counsel and asserting that the case was dispositive on the main issue in the case, the suit settled for $500.
  • Represented a CEO purportedly terminated for cause in a Zoom arbitration trial during the pandemic. The arbitrator ruled entirely for the client executive, awarding substantial damages, attorneys fees, and equity rights, and declaring that the termination was not for cause.
  • Represented numerous C-level executives with employment contracts and separation agreements.
  • Oversaw the legal aspects and documentation of a mass layoff for a public banking organization with facilities in multiple states. No claims relating to the layoff were filed against the bank.
  • Represented FuelQuest, a leading on-demand software and services company for the global downstream energy industry, in the sale of its Zytax energy-related tax automation business to Avalara, a leading cloud-based sales tax and compliance automation technology provider. Oversaw the labor and employment law aspects of the transaction, including negotiation of employment-related terms of the deal, and structuring and advice regarding federal and various state employment law compliance issues.
  • Supervised the evaluation of various employment law issues relating to the adoption of a corporate code of ethics by a publicly held bank, including review of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the USA PATRIOT Act and the privacy laws of 36 states. Assisted a multinational public corporation in substantially revising its leave policies to incorporate features mandated by the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Negotiated and drafted employment agreements for senior officers of public and private companies incorporating final regulations under IRC 409A.
  • Assisted a national bank in restructuring its recruiting processes, including OFCCP and affirmative action compliance.
  • Litigated novel intellectual property and employment law claims on behalf of a large private employer against a former employee who organized internet chat rooms and created websites disparaging the company and its officers and interfering with the company's business relationships with clients and employees. The case resulted in an order being entered which required the employee to transfer domain names to the company, to shut down any websites and internet chat rooms relating to the company, to refrain from disparaging the company or its employees, and to refrain from disclosing confidential and other information about the company.
  • Served as co-lead counsel on behalf of a public utility company in a three-month trial that obtained a dramatically reduced property tax assessment on one of the company’s nuclear power plants from over $1 billion to less than $300 million. This result was achieved despite a contrary earlier decision on another plant in a different jurisdiction. Mike worked on the case for three years and developed much of the legal analysis and factual testimony, including that of the key witness. The trial was upheld on appeal; the case settled while the parties awaited a decision from the Illinois Supreme Court.
  • Represented government agency that was seeking several million dollars in back taxes against the successor of a bankrupt railroad, in a case in which the constitutionality of the taxes was questioned. Mike was instrumental in achieving a multimillion-dollar settlement on the eve of the trial.
  • Defended a large condominium association and its board of directors against accusations of condominium election fraud and violations of numerous federal and state laws. Mike defeated several attempts to obtain restraining orders and other preliminary relief against the board. All charges were dismissed, and Mike argued the appeal that affirmed the dismissal of the case.

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

Sukcesy i wyróżnienia

  • Listed, The Best Lawyers in America, Labor and Employment Law - Management, 2008-2022
  • Listed, Super Lawyers magazine, Illinois Super Lawyers, 2005-2006, 2008-2021
  • Listed, Leading Lawyers Network, 2012-2022
  • Listed, Chambers USA Guide, 2009, 2012-2018
  • Team Member, a Law360 "Food & Beverage Practice Group of the Year," 2015
  • Team Member, a Law360 "Employment Practice Group of the Year," 2011 and 2013
  • Fellow, The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers
  • 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.

  • Member, Chicago Bar Association, Labor and Employment Law Committee
  • Member, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
  • Member and Past Chairman, Salvation Army Greater Chicago Advisory Board
  • Member and Past President, Salvation Army Pathway Forward Advisory Council (federal corrections reentry program)


  • J.D., cum laude, Harvard Law School
  • B.A., summa cum laude, Wheaton College
Posiadane uprawnienia
  • Illinois
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • Supreme Court of the United States