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Paul E. Starkman

fax +1 312.517.7574

Paul Starkman’s employment law practice is dedicated to solving employers’ workplace issues through counseling, litigation, and assisting in transactions. He represents large corporations, mid-sized companies, not-for-profits, family and closely-held businesses, and start-ups in a variety of industries with their employment problems. Paul works with business owners, executives, boards of directors, in-house counsel, and HR to keep them ahead of the curve on changing employment laws.

In addition to providing creative and proactive strategies to improve employment practices and avoid disputes, Paul provides training on harassment prevention, legal compliance, and diversity and inclusion. He also handles wage-and-hour reviews, employment practices audits, and sensitive internal investigations, including those involving #MeToo harassment, executive malfeasance, and pay equity issues.

In line with his executive compensation practice, Paul counsels clients on executive onboarding and separations, drafts and negotiates executive agreements and compensation arrangements, non-competition/non-solicitation agreements, and exit packages and separation agreements. When not helping companies with their C-suite, Paul helps the C-Suite with employment matters. This includes employee discipline and terminations, requests for reasonable accommodations, and compliance with leave of absence laws.

His work is geared to keeping employers out of courts but that is not always possible. When necessary, Paul litigates on behalf of employers in federal and state employment lawsuits and arbitrations across the country. He handles class and collective actions, injunction proceedings, and other workplace litigation involving wage and hour issues, discrimination and harassment claims, and employment torts. He regularly represents clients seeking to enforce and defend against post-employment restrictive covenants. He also handles complex cases involving internal data breaches and trade secret misappropriation.

Paul assists his clients with the employment issues that arise in mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations, faltering companies, and other employment-related transactions, as well as disputes involving contractors, consultants, partners, shareholders, and directors.

A frequent lecturer for bar associations and professional organizations, Paul is regularly interviewed by TV and radio stations. He is often quoted in national publications such as Forbes, Law360, American Lawyer, Business Insurance, and InsideCounsel. He has published numerous articles on employment law issues and regularly posts on employment-related blogs and websites. Paul was an author of Employment Arbitration: Law and Practice (West).

Paul helps organizations assess and manage the risks related to instituting programs intended to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in workplaces, including effective ESG-related considerations. His leadership in this space includes authoring an article entitled “DEI Initiatives and Discrimination Litigation” published by Bloomberg Law in May 2023 and presenting a Clark Hill webinar entitled “How the Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Ruling Affects Employers’ DEI Efforts” in September 2023.


J.D., DePaul University College of Law, Chicago, Illinois, 1984
B.A., University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, 1980


Named a Leading Lawyer in Chicago by Leading Lawyers℠ (2012- 2024)

Named among The Best Lawyers in America® for Litigation-Labor and Employment (2023-2024) Employment Law – Management by Best Lawyers (2024)

Named Illinois Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters (2023-2024)

Named a Notable Leader in Employment and Labor Law by Crain’s Chicago Business (2023)


American Bar Association, Employment Rights and Responsibilities Committee, Current Co-Chair, Past Chair of the At-Will and Employment Subcommittees and Social Media Liaison

College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, Fellow (inducted 2007)

Illinois State Bar Association Labor and Employment Committee

Society of Human Resources Professionals

State Bar Licenses


Court Admissions

U.S. District Ct., N.D. of Illinois
U.S. District Ct., N.D. of Illinois Trial Bar
U.S. District Ct., C.D. of Illinois
U.S. District Ct., S.D. of Illinois
U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit

Representative Transactions and Litigation

  • Counseled large and mid­-sized corporations and negotiated the departures of top-­level corporate executives.
  • Drafted and negotiated numerous employment agreements and executive compensation plans for incoming and current CEOs and C-Suite executives of mid-­ and large-­sized private and public companies and non­-profit organizations.
  • Prevailed on behalf of a national retailer in complex trial court and appellate litigation involving employment tort claims arising from an employee’s computer fraud.
  • Obtained summary judgment that was affirmed by the Seventh Circuit in favor of a large telecommunications company client, in a case involving federal and state law claims of disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, and retaliatory discharge.

Representative Clients

  • Representative clients who have come to Paul for assistance on employment and labor matters include: media and retail companies, national banks, a national commercial real estate company, national recycling companies, food processing companies, electronic trading and investment organizations, national and regional law firms and professional services providers.

Employment Litigation

  • In a commercial defamation action against a recycling certification organization, Paul prevailed in federal district court and in the Seventh Circuit on attempts to defeat the action based on state anti-SLAPP statutes and Constitutional grounds.
  • In an unfair labor practice action brought by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against a locomotive manufacturer, Paul was able to persuade a federal district court in Iowa to deny the NLRB’s petition for interim reinstatement and injunctive relief.
  • In a wage and hour class and collective action filed against a Chicagoland restaurant chain, a federal district court granted a motion to dismiss filed by Paul and dismissed claims for failure to pay tipped employees proper overtime and violations of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collections Act.
  • In federal litigation involving a Chicago-area bank, the court granted Paul’s motion to dismiss a defamation claim based on a final written warning and an alleged wrongful termination involving a bank executive.
  • In Illinois state court litigation, Paul obtained the dismissal of shareholder derivative claims as well as claims seeking declaratory judgment for breach of employment agreements and improper termination of the company president of a large retail telephone distributor.
  • In two federal cases, Paul first obtained the dismissal of class claims, and then was awarded summary judgments in favor of a global home-goods retailer on discrimination and retaliation claims brought by former warehouse workers.
  • In other federal court employment litigation handled by Paul, the Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of a national retailer in a case involving malicious prosecution and false arrest claims brought by a former data analyst who, immediately prior to his resignation, deleted a large number of computer files from the company’s computer systems.