Labor of love: Attorney guides employers through a maze of labor laws

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

The man, tAttorney Daniel Villaire once had a disability discrimination case in which the plaintiff, disciplined at work for repeated tardiness, claimed a sleep disorder prevented him from waking up on time. o be difficult, submitted two bankers’ boxes of financial documents during discovery, including all his debit card records for several years – among which Villaire found multiple receipts for coffee and doughnuts.

“The receipts had dates and times and with the help of Mapquest I was able to determine that many of his tardy dates resulted from stopping for his morning breakfast rather than a sleep disorder,” Villaire says. “For that – and other reasons – the judge dismissed the case.”

Another case involved digital evidence rather than doughnuts: a workplace relationship that involved text messages, pictures, and videos.

“That type of evidence never really disappears and it often includes the date and time the material was created and distributed. Reviewing the ‘evidence’ was something else,” Villaire says. “It shed a lot of light on the nature on the relationship and when the parties were active such as during work hours.”

Those were among many fascinating cases for Villaire, an attorney with Howard & Howard Attorneys PLLC in Royal Oak, who concentrates his practice in labor and employment law. He routinely helps employers avoid litigation, and works with them to develop effective strategies for responding to harassment and discrimination complaints, requests for disability accommodations and FMLA leaves, overtime claims, and issues that arise under collective bargaining agreements.

He represents public and private employers in individual and class/collective actions, including cases involving the FMLA, the ADA, the ADEA, Title VII, the FLSA, the EEOC, union grievance arbitrations, employment agreements and assists employers with the administration and negotiation of collective bargaining agreements. He also drafts and assists employers enforcing severance agreements, covenants not to compete and confidentiality/trade secret agreements.

Villaire has represented employers in federal and state courts, labor arbitrations, and administrative agencies throughout the country, taken multiple cases to trial and appeared before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on multiple occasions.

Villaire enjoys his area of law for the variety of issues that arise in the workplace.

“Employees are one of the most important aspects of many businesses,” he says. “There are many issues such as wages, benefits, workplace behavior, and alleged discrimination and harassment that can have a significant impact on profitability, competitiveness, and survival of a business. It’s also always interesting to hear what people do, or think is acceptable to do, at work.”

He recalls a case where a male union employee had pending a grievance over a demotion for harassment, multiple unfair labor practices claims, and a civil lawsuit for religious discrimination. During the case, the wife of the client’s supervisor received a typed anonymous letter, apparently from a woman, intimating that the supervisor was having a relationship with the writer. But an analysis of a handwritten message on the back confirmed the male employee had written the note.

“That generated a fourth case—his discharge,” Villaire says. “This didn’t necessarily change the proofs in the other cases but it definitely put the employer in a much better position with respect to the employee’s overall credibility.”  

Sometimes there are mind-popping financial figures involved. Villaire obtained a verdict and $25 million appropriation for more than 400 school districts in a lawsuit over annual unreimbursed costs incurred to comply with state regulatory requirements; and successfully defended a school district against a vendor’s $3 million claim in a commercial arbitration and obtained $150,000 on a counterclaim.

A member of Oakland County, State Bar and American Bar Associations, Villaire earned his undergrad degree from the University of Michigan.

“I really enjoyed the many different cultural events that were available including museums and exhibits, concerts, films, and other local events,” he says. “I also liked the walkability of the city and the many unique restaurants.”

Always interested in knowing and understanding the rules of society that govern business, government, people, and himself, he decided to pursue a law degree.

“I was also drawn to the law because it is one of the few professions where you get to learn about so many other fields, and are always meeting interesting people from all walks of life,” he says.

He received his J.D., cum laude, from Wayne State University Law School, where he particularly enjoyed the proximity and connection WSU had to the city of Detroit.
“I had an opportunity to work at the Free Legal Aid Clinic which gave me the chance to apply the legal skills I was learning and work with people in the city who could not afford to pay for an attorney,” he explains. 

“At that time there was also a lot of excitement about the city and new developments such as the stadiums. I would spend quite a bit if time in the city and really grew to appreciate what it had to offer.”

The Bay City native now makes his home in West Bloomfield, where he enjoys traveling and any outdoor activity including skiing, golf, and biking, as well as anything he can do with his four children, ages 7, 9, 11, 13, including coaching them in many sports.

A member of the Board for Franklin Baseball for seven years, Villaire has run seven different age divisions for youth baseball.

Having lived in the Detroit area for a couple of decades, Villaire appreciates the many different things the Big D has to offer, including museums, sports, shows, and restaurants.

“People take for granted how convenient it is to be able to go a sporting event, a play, the zoo, or a great new restaurant within 20 minutes from their homes,” he says.

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