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A Q&A Conversation With Rick Fanning

November 7, 2023

Labor and Employment Senior Counsel Rick Fanning has had an eventful start to his Clark Hill career since joining the firm in May. 

Fanning’s work in collective bargaining has had him focused on the United Auto Workers’ negotiations with the “Big Three” Detroit automakers. He recently discussed his practice and what he and the Clark Hill automotive and labor and employment teams can do to help clients in collective bargaining matters.  

To get started, can you first share what brought you to Clark Hill this year?

The firm has an excellent reputation, and I can remember when it was purely a Detroit firm and its growth and expansion have been tremendous. I knew our Detroit Member-in-Charge Maria Dwyer from earlier in our careers and she has always been such a champion for the firm and continued to tell me to work at Clark Hill. We finally had that conversation and I joined shortly after.

How do you describe your legal practice?

I focus on labor and employment with a greater emphasis on labor relations at the moment. I assist clients during collective bargaining, with grievance and arbitration matters, and interpreting bargaining agreements. I also counsel clients in union and non-union settings on all matters of employment compliance. I like to say that I work with the alphabet soup of employment law, Title VII, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Michigan’s Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act, all of those things. 

What makes me unique is that I spent six years in an HR executive position for a large organization, so I can also bring the point of view of an HR leader. I’ve been a client and have received legal advice. With that background, I can approach matters in a more meaningful way so that the legal advice I give is also a practical solution the client can implement. If I describe a solution that’s appropriate for a large international company to an auto supplier with two locations, that might not be workable, and I wouldn’t have helped them.  

How is your practice incorporated into the automotive industry team?

Right now, I’m mostly working with a lot of our automobile clients. They’re often unionized and they often have needs that require an answer that addresses collective bargaining agreements and other laws like FMLA, ADA, and worker’s compensation. The employer needs to comply with all of those and they need to comply perfectly every time. I help clients through those situations in ways that maintain and hopefully improve their union-management relationships.  

What can you and your group offer to clients in collective bargaining situations?

We want to be the best partner we can with clients by understanding their needs and what their capacities are. We want to help them move forward in ways that benefit them and are legally compliant. Oftentimes, it’s understanding that you can go in and get a win, but you could also damage the relationship a company may have with its unions. After I’ve done my work, the next day the company’s HR team needs to work with the union, and I want to make sure that’s still a compatible environment. 

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