Walker Morton LLP - Business Law Attorney

Built on Relationships and Integrity

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Robert Smeltzer
  • Partner

Direct:  +1 312-471-2907

Locations
1401 Branding Ave
Suite 300
Downers Grove, Illinois 60515

Map and Directions

30 years of federal and state court experience in all phases of labor and employment litigation, counseling and training, commercial litigation, and non-patent intellectual property litigation and counseling, including jury and bench trials, and appellate work, as detailed below.

In the labor and employment field, handles hundreds of Title VII, ADEA, ADA, FLSA, ERISA and FMLA matters before the U.S. EEOC, the Illinois Department of Human Rights, the Illinois Human Rights Commission, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, the U.S. Department of Labor, similar state agencies, and state and federal courts. Experience includes EEOC pattern and practice litigation. Regularly handles claims involving employee misclassification, unpaid wages, overtime, bonuses, commissions and/or expenses. Defends employers in cases involving allegations of negligent retention, hiring or referral, defamation, breach of contract. Also represents employers with collective bargaining agreements in labor arbitration proceedings and unfair labor practice charges before the NLRB, and conducts large-scale employee training.

In the commercial litigation field, regularly prosecutes and defends claims involving employee, officer, member, manager or shareholder breach of restrictive covenants (e.g. non-compete and non-solicitation agreements), trade secret misappropriation and related claims of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional interference with contract or business relations, unfair competition, consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices and defamation. Has extensive experience prosecuting and defending requests for temporary restraining orders, and preliminary and permanent injunctions, having handled more than 100 such matters in a variety of industries and served as national counsel for Fortune 500 companies in that regard.

In the intellectual property field, regularly prosecutes and defends trademark, trade dress and copyright infringement cases to trial, as well as related state law actions for unfair competition and common law infringement. Has prosecuted more than 100 trademark registrations before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as well as registrations before the Copyright Office. Qualified to handle appeals, cancellations and other proceedings before the TTAB.

REPRESENTATIVE CASES

Wage & Hour

Carletto et al. v. Quantum Foods, Inc., Circuit Court of Cook County: Represented the employer in defense of putative class action under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act claims seeking compensation for time spent donning and doffing equipment and gear. Successfully obtained dismissal with prejudice of state court action based on preemption under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. Successfully defended that dismissal on appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court and denial of petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Laborer’s Local 309 v. United Rentals Highway Technologies, FMCS arbitration: defeated union grievance that employer violated collective bargaining agreement by failing to pay employees in accordance with Illinois Prevailing Wage Act.

Discrimination

Commissioner Watts v. Bobak Sausage Co.,U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Chicago District Office: successfully defended and conciliated a pattern and practice charge of discrimination involving a class of African American and Hispanic workers, involving multiple possible affiliated employers and, potentially, a much larger class of affected applicants.

Earl Gray v. Bobbit Publishing Co., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois: obtained not guilty jury verdict for employer accused of age discrimination.

Rosman v. Highland Park Lincoln-Mercury, State of Illinois Human Rights Commission: achieved not guilty verdict for employer accused of age discrimination.

Sexual Harassment

Peinado v. Norwegian-American Hospital et al., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois: successfully defended doctor in sexual harassment and battery claim brought by a co-worker. By holding that Hospital could not be liable for the doctor’s alleged sexual harassment because of its prompt remedial measures, the Court also vindicated our original handling of the internal complaint of harassment on behalf of the Hospital.

Beverly v. Kaupas, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois: obtained summary judgment in a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit for our client, the Will County Sheriff’s office. The claim was brought by a corrections officer at the county jail and primarily implicated the actions of her direct supervisor. In entering summary judgment on the difficult Ellerth/Farraher affirmative defense, the Court found that the Sheriff was not liable for any sexual harassment because: (1) he promptly investigated and handled Plaintiff’s internal complaint of harassment; (2) Plaintiff unreasonably failed to avail herself of the Sheriff’s internal policy by failing to complain about the harassment sooner; and (3) Plaintiff did not suffer the loss of any tangible job benefit. As for the retaliation claim, the Court found notwithstanding the recent Supreme Court in Burlington Northern v. White, that the allegedly retaliatory conduct did not rise to the level of a materially adverse employment action. The published opinion can be found at 2008 WL 624045 (N.D.Ill. Feb. 29, 2008).

Restrictive Covenants/Trade Secrets/Breach of Employee Fiduciary Duty

Publicly Traded Company v. John Doe, et al., U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida: successfully obtained $1M+ settlement and new, five-year non-competes for a publicly traded company in its suit against two former employees/officers accused of violating their fiduciary duties, and restrictive covenants by competing during their employment. (Names withheld pursuant to confidentiality agreement).

Southwest Battery v. McSloy and ECE, Dallas County Texas, state court: successfully defended and negotiated a settlement of a trade secret misappropriation, breach of fiduciary duty, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and intentional interference with business relations claims against former employee and new employer.

Hub International Midwest Ltd. v. Rigdon, Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois: successfully obtained emergency TRO and preliminary injunction against a former sales executive who resigned and began soliciting former customers in violation of his restrictive covenants and with the aid of trade secrets. Later brought contempt charges against the former sales executive for violating the court-ordered restrictions.

Hub International California v. Kilzer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California: obtained TRO and preliminary injunction against a former employee for violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and for Trade Secret misappropriation. With forensic evidence proved employee had downloaded client lists and other trade secrets, and defragmented company hard drive to cover his pre-resignation activities.

Precision Midwest v. Bennett et al., Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois: successfully defended former employee and new employer against former employer’s motion for TRO alleging breach of restrictive covenants and misappropriation of trade secrets.

Intellectual Property

Fasma v. Freeman, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois: successfully obtained a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) and preliminary injunction on behalf of the owner of the federally registered FREEMAN® trademark against the former owner, who had sought to use his surname and PHREE LABS trademark in advertising competitive cosmetic products. The TRO was obtained only a few days before the offending products were due to be shipped to the marketplace. The case subsequently settled on favorable terms for our client.

Bobak Sausage Company, Inc. v. Bobak Orland Park, Inc. et al., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois: successfully obtained a temporary restraining order on behalf of the owner of the federally registered BOBAK® trademark against family members who opened a competing grocery store under the name FRANK BOBAK FRESH MARKETPLACE.

St. Luke’s Cataract and Laser Institute v. Dr. James C. Sanderson, et al., U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida: successfully defended a month long trial of a copyright, trademark, Anti-Cybersquatting, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, unfair competition, conversion and dilution case involving a former employee’s use of the laserspecialist.com domain name and web site content. The primary count was for copyright infringement of the web site content. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty on the copyright count per our affirmative defense of Plaintiff’s fraud on the Copyright Office, an extremely rare occurrence. In addition, although the jury found for Plaintiff on other lesser counts, they only awarded $90,000 in damages when the demand was for $5M. The Court also awarded us over $500,000 in attorneys’ fees as the prevailing defendant under the Copyright Act.

Gwynn v. Rabco Leasing, Inc. et al., U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida: successfully defended and obtained a de minimis settlement of a trademark and copyright dress infringement action involving the alleged infringement of product designs and website content, as well as fraud. The case involved a former webmaster and employee who alleged that, as the creator of the www.hurricanepasstraders.comwebsite at issue, he was entitled to millions in dollars in profits from sales effected through the site.

Stylemark v. Achievia Direct, Inc., U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida: successfully defended and settled a trademark and trade dress infringement action involving sunglasses. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that: (1) the Defendant/insured’s use of the CARIBBEAN SUN mark infringed on its CARIBBEAN TRADERS® mark; and (2) the trade dress of the CARIBBEAN SUN infringed on the trade dress of its PACIFIC TRADERS® sunglasses. The case was settled on a favorable business basis by the Defendant/insured assigning the CARIBBEAN SUNmark to Plaintiff, then licensing it back in exchange for the payment of a royalty. This permitted the Defendant/insured to continue using a mark in which it had heavily invested, and the insurer only having to make a nominal upfront payment before the advent of oral discovery and the expenditure of significant attorneys’ fees.

WHS v. Asian-Atlantic, et al., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York: successfully defended and settled a $6M copyright claim in which there was strong evidence of infringement and copying, by demonstrating that Plaintiff’s rights to the registered design were uncertain.

Intermatic v. Dabmar, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois: successfully achieved voluntary dismissal with prejudice and without payment of any kind on behalf of a defendant light distributor in suit brought by industry giant Intermatic, which claimed defendant violated its trade dress rights in landscape lights.

Safford v. Playing Mantis et al., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois: successfully negotiated favorable settlement on behalf of plaintiff/driver who alleged infringement of a drag racing car he designed and built after a toy company replicated the car for sale as a collector’s miniature.
Contract

Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC v. Amtrak, U.S. District Court of Colorado: obtained $1.2mm verdict against Amtrak for breach of an oral contract after a one-and-a-half-week jury trial.

Private Employee v. Private Employer, Circuit Court of Cook County: obtained $2mm settlement from a private employer for enforcement of an oral stock agreement that the employer denied having made immediately prior to its sale.

[1]Have also handled matters on a pro hac vicebasis in the state courts of Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Kansas, Ohio, New York and Texas, as well as federal courts in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, New Jersey and Ohio.

Bar Admissions

  • Illinois, 1991
  • U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois, 1991
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 7th Circuit, 1994
  • U.S. District Court Central District of Illinois, 1995
  • U.S. District Court Western District of Michigan, 1995
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of Wisconsin, 1996
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit, 2003
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 11th Circuit, 2008
  • U.S. District Court District of Colorado, 2011
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit, 2019

Honors and Awards

  • 2013-2021 Illinois SuperLawyer®
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV® Rated (Preeminent) (highest rating)
  • 2016-2021 Leading Lawyer
  • Chicago Daily Law Bulletin “Forty [Attorneys] Under 40 to Watch” (2005)
  • Avvo® rated 9.5 (Superb)
All honors based on peer reviews, with attorneys from the nominee’s own firm not eligible to participate.

Education

  • University of Cincinnati College of Law, Cincinnati, Ohio
    • J.D. - 1991
    • Honors: University of Cincinnati Law Review
    • Honors: Paxton & Seasongood Advocacy Award
    • Honors: American Jurisprudence Prize in Corporations
    • Honors: American Jurisprudence Prize in Civil Procedure
    • Honors: American Jurisprudence Prize in Advocacy
    • Honors: Dean's List
  • Miami University, Oxford, OH
    • B.S. - 1987
    • Major: Media Management
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Office Location

1401 Branding Ave
Suite 300
Downers Grove, Illinois 60515

Phone:
312-471-2900
Fax:
312-471-6001
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