John Harper is a partner in the Labor and Employment Practice Group in the Houston office of Haynes and Boone, LLP and is Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. John represents employers in a wide range of labor relations and employment law matters. With respect to labor relations, John has litigated unfair labor charges on behalf of corporations before the National Labor Relations Board and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. He also has litigated numerous arbitration matters involving neutrality, contract interpretation and discipline and discharge issues. He has assisted companies in responding to union organizing drives by the Teamsters, the International Pipefitters and the Operating Engineers. He has worked with clients in administering and negotiating collective bargaining agreements and counsels employers on the development and implementation of positive employee relations policies and practices.
John has defended employers against discrimination claims, including class actions, under Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and also concerning claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), including collective action matters in state and federal courts and in arbitration. In addition, he has litigated ERISA denial of benefit and retaliation claims in U.S. district courts and before the Fifth Circuit. John has represented clients on claims under state tort laws, whistleblower laws, and in connection with unfair competition issues, including covenants not to compete, non-solicitation and non-disclosure agreements, and related claims.
John has spoken on and written about Fair Labor Standards Act, National Labor Relations Act, independent contractor and social media issues. He has conducted union-avoidance and anti-harassment training for employers.
John has been listed as a "Texas Rising Star" in Texas Super Lawyers, 2007-2014.
- Prosecution of unfair labor practice charge under section 8(g) of the National Labor Relations Act on behalf of a healthcare client.
- Defense of a Texas state law whistleblower claim on the ground of labor law preemption.
- Litigation of various unfair labor practice claims, including allegations under sections 8(a)(1), 8(a)(3) and 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act before administrative law judges, the National Labor Relations Board and the Fifth Circuit.
- Defense of claim against employer under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act.
- Advice and counsel in preparation for collective bargaining.
- Advice and counsel to companies regarding labor and employment law implications of business transactions.
- Defense and prosecution of arbitration claims arising under collective bargaining agreements, including discharge and contract interpretation issues.
- Defense, including a jury trial, of Fair Labor Standards Act collective action claims involving misclassification and off-the-clock work and retaliation claims.
- Defense, including a jury trial, of malicious prosecution claims against employers.
- Defense of various discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims arising under state and federal law in federal court, state court and arbitration.
- Prosecution and defense of various unfair competition claims, including litigation regarding restrictive covenants and tortious interference with business relations.
Selected Professional and Business Activities
- Member, College of the State Bar of Texas
- Member, Texas Bar Foundation
- Member, American Bar Association, Section of Labor and Employment Law
- Member, Houston Bar Association, Section of Labor and Employment Law
- Chairman, Houston Museum of Printing History
- Trustee, Houston Grand Opera
- Member, Texas Woman's University Foundation Board of Directors
Selected Publications and Speeches
- "EEOC Looks To Limit Severance Agreements With Litigation," guest article, Law360, March 18, 2014.
- "NLRB Roundup," co-author with Arthur T. Carter and Alex Stevens, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 39, No. 1, Summer 2013.
- "FLSA Litigation, The Billion Dollar Industry," Haynes and Boone Employment Law Update, August 14, 2012.
- "NLRB Developments: New Election Rules, Class Action Waivers and (Maybe?) Recess Appointments," co-author with Arthur T. Carter and Alex Stevens, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 38, No. 1, Summer 2012.
- "Carrots, Not Sticks, to Fend off Unions," Executive Counsel Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 2, April/May 2012.
- Editor, The Developing Labor Law (BNA), Chapter 14.
- Assistant Editor, The Developing Labor Law (BNA), Chapter 7.
- "Protected, Concerted Activity in the Age of Social Media," Center for American and International Law, May 2011, 2012.
- "Social Media: Managing and Harnessing an Unstoppable Trend," TexasBarCLE, November 2010.
- "Employees vs. Independent Contractors, Contingent Workers and Leased Employees," Center for American and International Law, May 2010.
- "Blogs, Social Networking Sites and the Impact on Employment," Texas State Bar College, July 2009.
Selected Representative Experience
Dennis Parkison v. Arkansas Best Corporation & ABF Freight System, Inc. (S.D. Tex. 2013)
Obtained summary judgment for national freight carrier in defense of Title VII reverse discrimination and breach of contract action brought by former manager. The former manager claimed that he was discriminated against because he is Anglo. He also claimed that his termination breached an employment contract with his employer. The court rejected both claims, granted summary judgment and dismissed the case with prejudice.
Pre-Acquisition Labor Law Advice and Counsel
Counseled private equity fund concerning purchase of unionized industrial maintenance contractor with numerous national and local agreements that was engaged in providing specialized services at electrical and nuclear generating facilities, refineries and chemical plants, concerning labor law successorship, single employer and joint employer issues, scope and jurisdiction of labor agreements, and impact of transaction on affiliated non-union portfolio companies.
Collective Bargaining and Strike Planning
Representation of large mining and natural resource company concerning collective bargaining negotiations covering five locations, seven unions, and approximately 2,200 employees. The work consisted of assessment of agreements, identification of negotiations priorities, coordination of planning, preparation of legal portion of strike contingency plans, leadership of company’s negotiations team, and serving as chief spokesman in negotiations with the unions.
Guidance Concerning Duty to Bargain and Labor and Employment Law Compliance
Provided strategic advice and counsel to electrical generation and distribution company operating with coal, oil and gas-fired generating facilities in six states regarding sale and closure of facilities, retiree health insurance, increased cost sharing of health insurance, use of independent contractors and subcontractors for bargaining unit work, and handling and litigation of arbitrations concerning contract interpretation, reservation of rights language in benefit plans, contracting out, and terminations of employees.
Union Elections and Related Unfair Labor Practices
Successful represented hospital in NLRB-conducted election in RN unit. Hospital prevailed by a 2-to-1 margin with a bargaining unit of nearly 800 employees. Successful defense of numerous unfair labor practice claims arising out of union campaign, relating to alleged unlawful discharges, interference with employee rights and challenges to solicitation, distribution and access policies. Provided follow-up advice and counsel, supervisory and management training.
Grievance Arbitrations Under Collective Bargaining Agreements
Handled substantial numbers of labor arbitrations under collective bargaining agreements involving discharge and discipline, skilled wage rates, subcontracting, leave of absence and contract interpretation.
03/18/2014 - Law360 Guest Article: EEOC Looks To Limit Severance Agreements With Litigation
On Feb. 7, 2014, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a suit against CVS Pharmacy Inc. claiming that a severance agreement containing common cooperation, nondisparagement and covenant-not-to-sue provisions "constitutes resistance to the full enjoyment of rights secured by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 "because the agreement interferes with an employee's right to file a charge or cooperate with an investigation.
08/08/2013 - Texas Tech Law Review Guest Article: Employment Law
This article analyzes recent Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ labor and employment law opinions from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012. During this period, the appeals court addressed, in large part, a host of discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation claims under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
02/18/2013 - NLRB Roundup: A Year in Review, and a Look Ahead
The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) began 2013 as it began 2012, facing questions regarding whether a quorum of its members had been constitutionally appointed.
05/18/2012 - NLRB Halts Implementation of New Election Rules: Vote on NLRB Election Rules Lacked Quorum, Judge Rules
On May 15, 2012, a federal district court judge for the District of Columbia struck down recent changes to the National Labor Relations Board’s representation election procedures, which were intended to streamline the Board’s representation election process.
05/18/2012 - Law360 Guest Article: Property Owners Lose When 'Occupiers' Win
Marking the beginning of May 2012,several labor organizations and other groups engaged in mass demonstrations across the U.S. These demonstrations are focused in large part on social justice issues, such as youth unemployment and alleged substandard wages for workers in the “99 percent."
And, of course, some of the protestors engage in a host of activities ranging from peaceful handbilling to trespassing on private property.
05/04/2012 - Law360 Guest Article: Property Owners Lose When 'Occupiers' Win
Marking the beginning of May 2012, several labor organizations and other groups engaged in mass demonstrations across the U.S. These demonstrations are focused in large part on social justice issues, such as youth unemployment and alleged substandard Wages for workers in the "99 percent."
04/20/2012 - Update: NLRB Suspends Implementation of Notice Posting Rule Pending Legal Challenges
On April 17, 2012, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a decision enjoining the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or the “Board”) from implementing a controversial rule requiring employers to post a notice informing employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).
03/07/2012 - Update: Court Upholds NLRB Adoption of Notice Posting Rule But Limits Sanctions
On March 2, 2012, a federal district court in Washington, D.C. upheld the National Labor Relations Board’s authority to adopt a proposed regulation requiring employers to post a notice informing employees of their federal labor law rights.
02/03/2012 - NLRB Roundup Part 3: New Election Rules, Class Action Waivers and (Maybe?) Recess Appointments
The National Labor Relations Board has had a busy few weeks. This alert discusses new developments.