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Steven L. Brenneman

Steven Brenneman is a capital partner and Chair of the Employment Law Group. He brings over 25 years of experience representing clients in the full range of employment and labor law matters.

Steve advises and provides preventive counseling to employers on a wide range of issues affecting the employment relationship, including EEO issues, covenants against competition, wage and hour issues, leaves of absence under the FMLA and other laws, employee handbooks and personnel policies, issues arising from the use of technology in the workplace, reductions in force, affirmative action obligations, hiring and background checks, and strategies for employee discipline and termination.

Steve regularly practices in the trial and appellate levels of federal and state courts, as well as administrative agencies. He produces excellent results in a cost-effective manner while handling a broad range of employment and labor disputes, including cases involving allegations of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of non-competition agreements and other contracts, fraud, defamation, and negligent supervision and retention. He also handles claims involving federal and state wage payment laws, ERISA, the WARN Act, employee handbooks, and drug testing. Steve has represented employers in labor arbitrations and labor injunction litigation. His efforts have yielded favorable results in many reported decisions.

Steve is editor-in-chief of the Illinois Employment Law Letter, a monthly newsletter written to help Illinois employers stay current on state and federal employment law developments.

    • Koehler v. Sara Lee Corporation, 2013 WL 6773642 (E.D. Wis. Dec. 23, 2013) Steve represented Sara Lee in an action brought by a former plant human resources manager alleging he was fired in retaliation for his opposition to alleged improper pay practices and noncompliance with affirmative action obligations. At the conclusion of discovery, the court granted the company’s motion for summary judgment.
    • Khan v. S&C Electric Company, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131712 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 14, 2012) Steve represented the employer in an action brought by a former employee alleging disability discrimination and retaliation. The company’s position was that the plaintiff was terminated because his medical restrictions precluded him from performing essential job functions and thus he was not a qualified individual. At the conclusion of discovery, the court granted the company’s motion for summary judgment.
    • Sara Lee Corporation v. Burns, No. 1:11 cv 7577 (N.D. Ill.) Steve represented Sara Lee in an action alleging breach of a non-competition agreement and misappropriation of trade secrets. The plant manager instrumental in designing and starting up the client’s state-of-the-art production facility resigned to take a similar position with a competitor. On the fourth day of trial, with the judge’s involvement, the parties reached a settlement that included activity restraints on Sara Lee’s former employee, reporting and monitoring to enforce the agreement, and defendants’ reimbursement of Sara Lee’s computer forensics costs.
    • Chan v. S&C Electric Company, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70927 (N.D. Ill. June 27, 2011) Steve represented the employer in this action brought by a current employee who alleged that she was discriminated against on the basis of national origin in that the company allegedly denied her overtime, denied her job transfers, denied her training, and subjected her to a hostile work environment. At the conclusion of discovery, the court granted the company’s motion for summary judgment on all claims.
    • Ortiz v. Exmark Manufacturing Company (a Toro subsidiary) (Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission Charge No. 1-13/14-3-44827-RS) obtained dismissal and finding of lack of reasonable cause on a charge of discrimination filed by a former employee alleging she was subjected to sexual harassment and terminated on the basis of sex and in retaliation for her alleged protected activity.
    • Pliant Corporation v. Jordan, et al. (N.D. Ill.) Steve represented an individual and two sales brokerage companies accused of misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, tortious interference with contract, and civil conspiracy. The individual we represented allegedly was an inventor and one of the world’s foremost experts in chemical formulations relating to agricultural plastic film. After expedited discovery involving large amounts of electronically stored information, and full preparation for an anticipated four-day evidentiary hearing on plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction, the parties reached a negotiated settlement on the morning the trial began.
    • Equitec Group v. Yamaguchi, No. 09 CH 16171 (Circuit Court of Cook County) Steve represented an employer in the business of developing and selling financial trading and market-making software tools, against a former IT employee arising from a violation of a covenant not to compete.  After the entry of a Temporary Restraining Order in favor of the client, the parties negotiated a stipulated injunction order on favorable terms for the client.
  • Beach v. Yellow Freight System, 312 F.3d 391 (8th Cir. 2002) (same-sex sexual harassment)
  • EEOC v. Yellow Freight System, 253 F.3d 943 (7th Cir. 2001) (en banc) (Americans with Disabilities Act)
  • Matthews v. Rollins Hudig Hall, 72 F.3d 50 (7th Cir. 1995) (Federal Arbitration Act/age discrimination)
  • Roger v. Yellow Freight System, 21 F.3d 146 (7th Cir. 1994) (retaliatory discharge)
  • Bojda v. Black Dot Graphics, 1994 U.S. App. LEXIS 117 (7th Cir. 1994) (age discrimination/reduction in force)
  • House v. S&C Electric Company, 2015 WL 1594137 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 7, 2015)(sex and race discrimination)
  • Koehler v. Sara Lee Corporation, 2013 WL 6773642 (E.D. Wis. Dec. 23, 2013) (retaliation)
  • Khan v. S&C Electric Company, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131712 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 14, 2012) (disability discrimination and retaliation)
  • Chan v. S&C Electric Company, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70927 (N.D. Ill. June 27, 2011) (national origin discrimination)
  • Shaffer v. Combined Insurance Company of America, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20689 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 18, 2003) (Title VII timeliness)
  • Carroll v. Yellow Freight System, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16743 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 24, 2003) (racial harassment and discrimination)
  • Tressel v. Combined Insurance Company of America, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4818 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 27, 2003) (age discrimination and retaliation)
  • Lemieux v. Consolidated Freightways, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9114 (N.D. Ill. June 10, 1998) (retaliatory discharge)
  • Orphanos v. Charles Industries, Ltd., 3 Wage & Hour Cas. 2d (BNA) 924 (N.D. Ill. 1996) (FLSA and state wage payment laws)
  • Duncan v. Consolidated Freightways, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12964 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 7, 1995) (ADA, infliction of emotional distress)
  • Hawkins v. Toro Co., 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS (N.D. Miss. Feb. 2, 1995), aff’d, 66 F.3d 321 (5th Cir. 1995) (breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing)
  • Malik v. Ravenswood Hosp., 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2514 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 3, 1994) (Section 1981 race discrimination)
  • Oliver v. Brookfield, Inc., 1993 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9491 (N.D. Ill. July 13, 1993), aff’d, 19 F.3d 1436 (7th Cir. 1994) (race discrimination)

Steve has been rated AV® Preeminent by his professional peers through the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating system. This is a testament from peer legal professionals of the highest level of professional excellence and of unquestionable ethics.

Since 2014, Steve has been selected to the list of Illinois Super Lawyers. Only five percent of lawyers in Illinois are selected for inclusion to the Illinois Super Lawyers list, and are made on an annual, state-by-state basis.

Since 2013, Steve has also been listed in The Best Lawyers in America© in the field of Labor & Employment Law.

Steve has also been named a Leading Lawyer in the area of employment law by the Law Bulletin Publishing Company since 2003.

Steve is editor-in-chief of the Illinois Employment Law Letter, a monthly newsletter written to help Illinois employers stay current on state and federal employment law developments.

2018 Publications

  • Be Careful How You Word Your Job Ads, or Risk Violating Title VII July 26, 2018
  • Court Tells White Sox to Grab Some Bench as Team Strikes Out on CBA Preemption Play July 23, 2018
  • Screening Candidates with Too Much Experience a Potential ADEA Violation June 6, 2018
  • Vacation Pay Lawsuit Takes Excursion to Appellate Court and Back March 9, 2018

2017 Publications

  • Court Weighs Illinois Bus Driver’s Obesity as a Disability Under the ADA February 22, 2017
  • Illinois Court Takes Charge, Finds No Charge in Disability Case February 2, 2017

2016 Publications

  • New Illinois law bans noncompetition agreements for low-wage workers December 21, 2016
  • FLSA: Do Tipped Workers Have a Minimum Wage Claim? October 10, 2016
  • Illinois supervisor’s unfiltered comments put city in hot water August 17, 2016
  • New Chicago Ordinance Will Require Employers to Provide Paid Sick Leave June 22, 2016
  • Illinois Court finds Chicago eatery’s FLSA claims unappetizing May 26, 2016
  • New Overtime Rules May 18, 2016
  • Retaliation: 7th Circuit blows whistle on insubordinate workers February 16, 2016
  • University of Illinois gets schooled on offer letter requirements January 13, 2016

2015 Publications

  • CLIENT ALERT: Restrictive Covenants November 12, 2015
  • Termination: Caseworker’s claim she was forced out doesn’t play October 28, 2015
  • Racial discrimination or poor performance? The 7th Circuit must decide October 21, 2015
  • Employment agreements: Guaranteed employment term bores Illinois cylinder maker September 09, 2015
  • Racial discrimination: Lack of evidence for termination leads to claim July 13, 2015
  • FLSA: Illinois window-cleaning company sparkles in overtime exemption ruling June 03, 2015
  • When is a general contractor an ‘employer’ of subcontractor’s workers? May 08, 2015
  • EEOC issues long-awaited proposed regulations on wellness programs under the ADA April 16, 2015
  • Deductions from pay: Court curbs cab drivers’ wage claims April 13, 2015
  • Acceptable-use policy may render employer liable for ignoring e-mail threats March 16, 2015
  • 7th Circuit Court says FedEx’s workers’ comp policy absolutely improper March 11, 2015
  • Termination: Illinois Supreme Court Tips Scale for Employers February 03, 2015

2014 Publications

  • Illinois Supreme Court Reaffirms Employment-At-Will Has Only Narrow Exceptions December 15, 2014
  • New laws affecting Illinois employers take effect January 1 December 12, 2014
  • Illinois governor signs law prohibiting criminal history inquiries on job applications July 22, 2014
  • Race discrimination: Employer’s poor time records, documentation could cost them June 24, 2014

Recent Publications

Best Lawyers in America© 2024

Fox Swibel is proud to announce twenty-one attorneys have been named in the 2024 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America©, the oldest, most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession, accounting for over a third of our attorneys. Please ...
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Illinois Supreme Court Scans BIPA Menu, Orders Big Fines

Image Source – Shutterstock   Illinois employers who use employees’ fingerprints, face scans, or other biometric identifiers to enable workers to access timekeeping, payroll, IT, or other systems have long been on notice that the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act ...
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New Illinois Law Mandates Paid Leave for Employees

Image Source – Shutterstock The Illinois Paid Leave for All Workers (PLFAW) Act was passed by the Illinois legislature in January and was signed into law by Governor Pritzker on March 13, 2023. Effective January 1, 2024, it will require ...
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7th Circuit Clarifies That Discouraging Leave May Violate FMLA

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit (which covers Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin) wrestledwith the question of whether an employer can violate the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by discouraging an employee from exercising rights under ...
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Best Lawyers in America© 2023

Fox Swibel is proud to announce sixteen attorneys have been named in the 2023 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America©, the oldest, most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession, accounting for over a third of our attorneys. Please ...
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OOO: While You Were Out, Chicago Called to Tell You About New Anti-Harassment Obligations

Summertime often means summer hours and time out of the office.  As such, some employers may have missed that the City of Chicago recently amended its sexual harassment ordinance to expand the definition of “sexual harassment,” to impose new policy ...
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2022 Ushers in Sweeping Restrictions on Non-Competition and Non-Solicitation Agreements

For those employers looking to think, talk and worry about something besides COVID-19, we have just the topic: the Illinois Freedom to Work Act.   In August 2021, Governor Pritzker signed into law an amendment to the Act that imposes new ...
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Best Lawyers in America© 2022

Fox Swibel is proud to announce that ten attorneys have been named in the 2022 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America©, the oldest, most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession. Please join us in congratulating our Best Lawyers ...
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Illinois Bias Law Now Covers Criminal Convictions

Image Source - ShutterStock Illinois employers now have yet another law to navigate. The state human rights statute now bans discrimination based on a candidate’s or employee’s criminal conviction unless the employer can show a “substantial relationship” exists between the ...
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Lack of Secrecy Dooms Employer’s Suit to Stop Form Sales Reps’ Use of Customer Lists

Image Source - ShutterStock The Illinois Trade Secrets Act (ITSA) prohibits misappropriation of trade secrets and allows recovery of attorneys’ fees in suits to enforce the Act. A recent decision by the Appellate Court of Illinois is a cautionary tale ...
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Illinois Supreme Court Adopts Religious Ministerial Exemption

Image Source - ShutterStock We’ve written about court decisions applying judicial doctrines under the First Amendment to bar some types of employment claims against religious entities. The Illinois Supreme Court has now weighed in. Extracurricular activities We have already told ...
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Illinois Supreme Court Confirms Retaliatory Discharge Applies Only to At-Will Employees

Image Source - ShutterStock More than 40 years ago, the Illinois Supreme Court first recognized the tort of retaliatory discharge as an exception to the general rule that an “at-will” employee is terminable at any time and for any or ...
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First Amendment Doesn’t Protect Religious Employers From Hostile Environment Claims

Image Source - Shutterstock Over the years, courts dealing with employment discrimination suits against churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations have carved out an exemption that bars claims by “ministerial” employees challenging the employer’s hiring and firing decisions. The rationale ...
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State Bias Law Changes Don’t Stop for Pandemic

Image Source - Shutterstock With so much attention on COVID-19 and its impact on workplace issues, employers may have lost track of some important changes affecting Illinois employers in 2020. Some of these changes took effect on July 1. Let’s ...
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DOL Updates Guidance on Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Image Source - Shutterstock In the days since the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law on March 18, 2020, employers and advocacy groups have raised a number of questions about how the law will be interpreted ...
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President Signs COVID-19 Legislation That Will Impact Employers’ Leave Polices

Image Source - Shutterstock The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law by President Trump on March 18, 2020, includes a number of provisions that will directly impact employers, in addition to public health measures. Here are the key ...
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COVID-19 Legislation Will Impact Employers’ Leave Polices

Image Source - Shutterstock The Emergency Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) passed The U.S. House of Representatives early Saturday, March 14, 2020, and includes a number of provisions that will directly impact employers, in addition to public health ...
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Conservatory Worker’s Claim Fails to Uproot Employment-At-Will Doctrine

Image Source - Wikimedia Commons Illinois, like almost every other state, adheres to the centuries-old doctrine of employment at will, which means that either an employer or an employee may terminate their relationship at any time, without notice and without ...
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