Work product: Attorney specializes in employment law; has seen huge changes

 By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News 
Early in his career, Brad Rayle worked at a firm that represented a meat packing plant during an ugly strike; trucks containing product were burned, and there were multiple violent incidents on the picket line. 
“Some union officials went to jail, and it opened my eyes to the realities of strike situations,” says Rayle, a partner at Howard & Howard Attorneys in Royal Oak. “Although the company ended up winning – to the extent that anyone ever wins a strike – it certainly educated me about the difference between what you read in a newspaper and the law books and what actually happens.”
Named among The Best Lawyers in America, Michigan Super Lawyers, and dbusiness Top Lawyers, Rayle specializes in management-side only counseling and litigation including Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FLSA, FMLA, state civil rights, sexual harassment, age, sex, race, national origin, religious, retaliation, and various other employment discrimination claims. 
“I’ve been fortunate to work in an area of law where just when you think you’ve seen everything, something new comes along – it keeps the practice interesting,” he says. 
One such case concerned someone who used an affair with a co-employee as a basis for a sexual harassment claim. 
“Our client was unaware of the affair, but when our office began investigating and looking at the facts more closely, we discovered the truth,” Rayle says. “We were able to successfully defend the claim and have it dismissed.”  
Although he enjoys employment defense litigation from the management side, Rayle derives the most pleasure in offering day-to-day counseling for clients.
“It lets me work with a number of human resource professionals on the real issues they face daily, and help guide them through the myriad of laws and regulations that have exploded in the employment and labor law area during the past 25 years,” he says. “When I was starting out, the courts hadn’t even declared an employee could have a cause of action for sexual harassment under Title VII or state anti-discrimination statutes— now those claims are commonplace.”
According to Rayle, Michigan’s recent “right to work” law is having an effect on labor relations and labor unions – and he cites as an example the Michigan Education Association (MEA) that has lost more than 5,000 members since this law was enacted. 
“Although that seems a small number, when you multiply it by the average dues paid by the professionals who resigned, that’s a significant amount of money, numbering in the millions of dollars,” he explains. 
Another current hot issue is the National Labor Relation Board’s interest in non-unionized employers, from challenging an employer’s handbook and policy provisions to an employer’s social media policies and employees’ use of social media.  
In three decades of practice, Rayle has seen technology change the law in a couple of ways. 
“Procedurally it’s made the practice of law easier, and allowed us to better service our clients,” he explains. “Substantively, technology has resulted in a number of new laws and regulations, and with them, new claims and causes of action for employees.”  
Rayle, whose interest in law was sparked by discussions with a cousin, an attorney in Ohio, was introduced to labor economics while earning an undergrad degree in economics, with highest honors, from Michigan State University. 
“From a few law-related undergrad classes I found I liked the logic involved in law, and that law is a problem-solving profession in many ways,” he says. 
The move from Portage, near Kalamazoo, to Detroit to earn his J.D., cum laude, from Wayne State University Law School, exposed Rayle to many more people with diverse backgrounds and ideas. He was fortunate in having a fellow student who was a life-long resident – and a great advocate for – the Motor City.  
“He loved Detroit and the many great things about it, and shared his passion with me, taking me to various sites and attractions,” Rayle says.
Empty nesters, Rayle and Ann, his wife of 30 years, share their Birmingham home with their two dogs. Son Tommy is a sophomore at Grand Valley State University, studying business; while daughter Caitlin, a University of Michigan grad, is following in her father’s law footsteps; a graduate of Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, she works in the government regulatory area at Abercrombie & Fitch headquarters in Columbus.
A native of Ohio, Rayle moved to Michigan as a child when his father started a 40-year career as owner of an office equipment business; and Rayle’s mother spent two decades teaching at Portage Central High School. 
“A fair amount of my family are ‘Buckeyes’ so we’ve had a friendly rivalry between Michigan State and Ohio State going on for years at family reunions,” he says with a smile.