Rick L. Etter
Rick is an experienced counselor and trial attorney who brings a practical, business-minded approach to litigation and litigation avoidance. Rick focuses on representing employers throughout the country in Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state wage and hour collective and class actions; restrictive covenant and injunction matters; and complex and single-plaintiff harassment, discrimination, and retaliation lawsuits. He also regularly represents employers in investigations and enforcement actions by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and state wage and hour compliance agencies; charges and complaints before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and state anti-discrimination agencies; labor arbitrations and unfair labor practice charges and other proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB); compliance reviews and enforcement actions by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP); and Title VI, Title IX, and Section 504 lawsuits and investigations by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR).
Rick works collaboratively with in-house counsel, human resources executives, and operations managers to understand the company’s business, culture, and needs; identify potential personnel-related problems; and develop and implement practical, forward-looking solutions. To this end, he conducts wage and hour and personnel practices audits; provides advice and counsel on disciplinary, hiring and firing, leave, and reasonable accommodation issues; conducts workplace investigations and trainings; drafts employee handbooks and workplace policies and procedures; and negotiates and drafts employment agreements and non-competition, non-solicitation, and confidentiality agreements. He continuously monitors these ever-evolving issues and is frequently asked to speak about them to clients, industry and trade associations, and human resources groups.
Rick represents financial services companies, health care providers, manufacturers, oil and gas service companies, restaurants, technology companies, transportation and logistics companies, and colleges and universities. He is a contributing author of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law’s wage and hour treatise, The Fair Labor Standards Act; and is called upon for his experience with and creative approach to complex wage and hour issues. The Legal Intelligencer selected Rick as one of 32 “2017 Lawyers on the Fast Track,” and Pennsylvania Super Lawyers® has recognized him as a Rising Star in Labor and Employment every year since 2011.
Representative Wage and Hour Matters
- Secured the dismissal with prejudice of all claims against a global telecommunications company in a putative nationwide collective/class action alleging that the company violated the FLSA and Pennsylvania wage and hour laws by allowing non-exempt service technicians to perform off-the-clock work on their computers and mobile phones.
- Obtained denial of conditional certification for a hospital operator in a putative FLSA collective action alleging that the hospital’s automatic meal break deduction policy caused non-exempt hospital workers to work off the clock.
- Represented a financial services company in a collective/class action (involving over 300 opt-in plaintiffs and over 1,000 class members) alleging the company violated the FLSA and the wage and hour laws of 10 states by permitting loan officers to work off the clock and applying offsets and chargebacks when calculating their earned commissions; secured summary judgment on the commission deduction claims.
- Represented a Fortune 200 financial services company in two consolidated nationwide collective/class actions (involving over 1,100 opt-in plaintiffs and over 3,000 class members) alleging that the company violated the FLSA and the wage and hour laws of 12 states by failing to pay loan officers pursuant to the terms of their offer letters, offsetting their base pay when calculating earned commissions, and permitting them to work off the clock; achieved settlement on very favorable terms (less than 10% of the alleged damages as calculated by plaintiff’s expert.)
- Represented a financial services company in a putative collective/class action alleging that the company violated the FLSA and Pennsylvania wage and hour laws by failing to pay overtime and performance-based incentives and bonuses to retail bank employees; filed a motion to dismiss that resulted in an agreement to limit the case to the named plaintiff.
- Represented a nationwide health insurer in a putative collective/class action alleging that the company violated the FLSA and Pennsylvania state law by misclassifying call center and customer service supervisors as exempt; successfully limited the case to the named plaintiff.
- Represented multiple financial service companies in threatened litigation alleging that the companies violated the FLSA and state laws by failing to pay registered representatives and advisors for time spent training, studying, and preparing for qualifying exams administered by FINRA (e.g., Series 6 and Series 7.)
- Represented an oil and gas services company in a U.S. Department of Labor enforcement action (brought on behalf of almost 900 workers) alleging that the company violated the FLSA by misclassifying landmen as independent contractors, paying them a day rate, and requiring them to work off the clock.
- Represented a global oil services company in a putative collective/class action alleging that the company violated the FLSA and Pennsylvania and Ohio wage and hour laws by misclassifying field supervisors as exempt.
- Represented an oil and gas services company in a putative nationwide collective/class action alleging that the company violated the FLSA and Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia wage and hour laws by not properly calculating and paying overtime for field technicians who were paid a day rate.
- Represented an oil and gas company in a putative collective/class action alleging the company violated the FLSA and Pennsylvania wage and hour laws by paying a day rate to supervisors and field service workers.
- Represented a logistics company in a putative nationwide collective/class action alleging that the company violated the FLSA and Pennsylvania wage and hour laws by allowing hourly warehouse employees to perform work during their unpaid meal breaks.
- Represented a transportation finance company in a putative nationwide collective/class action alleging that the company violated the FLSA by misclassifying as independent contractors owner/operators who leased vehicles.
- Represented a national service provider in a putative collective/class action alleging that the company violated the FLSA and Pennsylvania wage and hour laws by misclassifying technicians as independent contractors and reducing their fees for faulty work and poor customer service.
- Represented a professional sports franchise and its owners in a putative collective/class action alleging that the company violated the FLSA and Pennsylvania and New York wage and hour laws by failing to pay interns; successfully limited the scope of the case to the named plaintiff.
- Successfully defended an oil and gas services company in a DOL investigation of the company’s wage and hour practices, including whether various categories of field workers were properly classified as independent contractors.
- Successfully defended a restaurant franchisee in a DOL investigation of the company’s wage and hour practices, including whether assistant managers were properly classified as exempt.
Representative Restrictive Covenant and Injunction Matters
- Defeated a medical center’s motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to prevent a breast surgeon from beginning her employment with a rival health care network, and obtained dismissal with prejudice of medical center’s claims that the surgeon violated the confidentiality, non-compete, and non-solicitation provisions of her employment agreement.
- Obtained injunctive relief for a global manufacturing company requiring a former salesperson to return all company confidential information after deposition and forensic examination revealed that he had taken confidential information and erased the hard drive of his computer.
- Defeated a graduate student’s motion for preliminary injunction seeking to require a private university to pay her a stipend and provide her with on-campus employment.
- Represented a pro bono inmate in an Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment prisoner right’s case; succeeded in securing client’s release to general population after spending more than 21 consecutive years in solitary confinement.
Representative Complex and Single-Plaintiff Matters
- Following a five-day trial, secured a favorable jury verdict (affirmed by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania) for a global mechanical and industrial manufacturing company on a former field sales manager’s claims that the company owed him $1.3 million for breaching his employment agreement and wrongfully terminating his employment while he was on an expatriate assignment in Singapore with his pregnant wife.
- Following a three-day trial, secured a favorable jury verdict for a private university on a former Ph.D. student’s claims that the university breached her contract and discriminated and retaliated against her in violation of Title VI and Title IX by removing her from the Ph.D. program for failure to meet academic standards one year after she reported being sexual assaulted by another graduate student.
- Following a three-day arbitration, secured judgment on the merits for a private educational institution on a 62-year-old former professor’s claims that he was selected for termination as part of a reduction in force because of his age.
- Obtained dismissal with prejudice for a financial services company on a high-ranking financial analyst’s claims that the company discriminated and retaliated against him, violated the FCRA and federal and state securities laws, and wrongfully terminated his employment because he reported suspected securities fraud.
- Achieved dismissal with prejudice for a private university on a visiting professor’s claims that the university discriminated against her because of her disability, age, and sex in violation of Title IX and the PHRA by failing to accommodate her ADD and depression and not renewing her contract.
- Obtained dismissal with prejudice for a heath care program on an executive assistant’s claims that the program failed to accommodate her asthma, harassed her because of her race, and terminated her employment because of her age, sex, race, and disability and in retaliation for reporting the alleged harassment.
- Secured summary judgment for university and university president on a former associate professor’s claims of age, race, and religious discrimination; intentional infliction of emotional distress; breach of contract; and defamation stemming from the university’s decision to deny her tenure.
- Procured summary judgment (affirmed by the Third Circuit) for a manufacturing company on a former production line employee’s claims of disability discrimination, FMLA retaliation, and failure to accommodate where neither the employee nor his physician could identify with specificity a return-to-work date.
- Achieved summary judgment (affirmed by the Third Circuit) for a manufacturing company on a chief technical officer’s claims of age discrimination after his employment was terminated because of his dictatorial management style.
- Secured summary judgment (affirmed by the Third Circuit) for an automotive dealership on a service technician’s claims of failure to accommodate and race and disability discrimination where the dealership eliminated the employee’s position while he was on an approved medical leave.
- Obtained summary judgment for a health care services provider on a hospice worker’s claims of FMLA interference and retaliation after her employment was terminated as part of a corporate restructuring while she was on FMLA leave.
- Secured summary judgment for a medical devices manufacturing company on a former sales representative’s claims that the company failed to accommodate her depression and mood disorder and terminated her employment because of her sex and disability.
- Procured summary judgment for a global telecommunications company on a customer service employee’s claims of retaliation and disparate impact race and sex discrimination stemming from the employee’s indefinite suspension following her arrest and indictment for fraud.
- Prevailed on summary judgment for a private college on a former public safety employee’s claims that she was sexually harassed and discriminated against because of her race and sex after her employment was terminated because she failed to properly investigate a student complaint.
- Obtained summary judgment for a global telecommunications company on two former call center employees’ claims that the company failed to accommodate their mental disabilities and then terminated their employment because of their disabilities.
- Represented a global specialty chemicals company against a temporary employee’s claims that she was sexually harassed by her female supervisor and denied a permanent position in retaliation for reporting the alleged harassment.
- Represented a university and its administrators in a Title IX claim brought by a male student disciplined for sexual harassment because of inappropriate comments made to a female student.
Highlights & Recognitions
- Named as one of 32 "2017 Lawyers on the Fast Track" by The Legal Intelligencer
- Selected for inclusion in Pennsylvania Super Lawyers® Rising Stars, Labor and Employment, 2011-2017
Memberships & Affiliations
- American Bar Association, Member of Labor and Employment Law and Litigation Sections, and Young Lawyer Division: Labor & Employment Law Committee
- Federal Bar Association, Member of Labor and Employment Law and Federal Litigation Sections
- Allegheny County Bar Association, Member of Labor and Employment Law and Civil Litigation Sections
- Pennsylvania Bar Association, Member of Labor and Employment Law and Civil Litigation Sections
- Society for Human Resource Management
- National Association of College and University Attorneys
Civic & Charitable Organizations
- Humane Society of Harrisburg Area, President of the Board of Directors, 2012, Member of Board of Directors, 2010-2012
- Fredricksen Library, Member Board of Directors, 2012
- United Way of Capital Region, Member of Bridges Society, 2012
- United Way of Allegheny County, Member of Bridges Society, 2016-2018
Non-FBT Publications and Events
Contributing author, “The Fair Labor Standards Act,” ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law, 2017
BLR’s Master Class on the Family and Medical Leave Act, December 7, 2017
- “FLSA Compliance and Enforcement: Emerging Issues,” PBI’s Employment Law Institute West, November 17, 2016
- “FLSA: Wage and Hour Update,” Pittsburgh Human Resource Association, September 15, 2015
- “Cutting-Edge Issues in Wage and Hour Law,” Pittsburgh Human Resource Association, February 25, 2015
- “10 Practical Ways for Employers to Avoid Risk in Handling FMLA Leave,” PBI’s Employment Law Institute West, November 12, 2014
- “FLSA: Cutting Edge Issues in Wage and Hour Law,” Reed Smith Employment Law Boot Camp, April 30, 2013
- “Dealing With the Problem Employee,” Pennsylvania Bar Institute, August 21, 2009