Douglas Brayley is a partner in the employment, executive compensation and employee benefits practice and leads the firm’s employment litigation practice. Recently, Doug has been one of the key members of Ropes & Gray’s team advising clients on issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the areas of workforce planning and cost reduction strategies, workplace safety, paid leave entitlements, anti-discrimination, and disability accommodation. Doug is a frequent commentator on employment law topics and has appeared in publications and media outlets including The New York Times, CNN, and CNBC.
Doug regularly represents employers in complex employment litigation matters, including wage and hour class actions, discrimination matters, whistleblower actions, disputes concerning restrictive covenants and trade secrets, and arbitrations and lawsuits brought by highly compensated senior executives. He has litigated before courts, arbitrators, and administrative agencies. He has argued dispositive motions and appeals, and has served as trial counsel in both state and federal court.
Doug advises employers on a wide range of labor and employment matters, including non-compete and trade secret issues, workforce reorganizations, employee discipline and discharge issues, harassment and discrimination allegations, whistleblower allegations, employment agreements, wage and hour issues, and disability and leave issues. Doug also has experience representing employers in internal investigations, interviewing witnesses, assessing risks, and negotiating resolutions. He has represented employers in labor arbitrations and unfair labor practice charges. Doug advises on the employment law issues that arise in corporate transactions, including deal diligence, transition planning, and the drafting of various employment-related agreements. He has represented prominent private equity fund sponsors, portfolio companies, and publicly traded companies in mergers and acquisitions in a variety of industries.
As a Special Assistant District Attorney in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, Doug conducted ten jury trials and argued countless motions and other proceedings on behalf of the Commonwealth. Doug has also completed intensive trial skill training through the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.
Doug also maintains a robust pro bono practice. Representative matters include helping a Turkish father to regain custody of his children following a high-profile international abduction, briefing the U.S. Supreme Court on restitution for the victims of child pornography, briefing the federal Court of Appeals in support of transgender individuals seeking to serve in the military, and securing asylum status for a Cameroonian woman who had been persecuted for her religion.
Before joining Ropes & Gray, Doug served as a law clerk for Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Class Actions, Collective Actions, and other Complex Litigation
- Secured complete dismissal with prejudice of putative class action in Delaware bankruptcy court alleging unpaid overtime at transportation industry portfolio company, on behalf of prominent private equity fund.
- Successfully compelled individual arbitration of putative class action claims for allegedly unpaid commissions, on behalf of renewable energy company.
- Defended private equity sponsor against class action joint-employer liability claims relating to alleged WARN Act violations at medical testing portfolio company.
- Defended international education company against putative class action alleging misclassification and unpaid overtime under Massachusetts law.
- Successfully defended proposed wage and hour class action settlement against challenge from plaintiff objectors, in California state court.
- Defended hospital management company in three concurrent WARN Act lawsuits brought by labor unions and putative class of non-unionized employees, in Massachusetts federal court.
- Defended prominent non-profit organization in publicized litigation brought by former sub-contractor and two former employees alleging breach of contract and wrongful termination
Disputes with Highly Compensated Executives
- Defended e-learning company against federal lawsuit by former CEO, alleging entitlement to millions of dollars in equity.
- Defended national franchisor against claims by former Chief Financial Officer that she was owed millions of dollars in equity compensation.
- Won complete defense victory on behalf of leading global commercial property and casualty insurance company, following week-long trial over the claim of former executive that she was owed several million dollars in severance.
- Secured dismissal of claims by former corporate president that he had been wrongfully denied wages and severance totaling an eight-figure sum, on behalf of international medical device and supply firm.
- Obtained nuisance value settlement for investment management company in dispute with former sales executive over commissions and equity compensation.
Trade Secrets, Non-Competes and Unfair Competition
- Regularly advises clients in financial services, insurance, technology, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and other industries on non-compete compliance and enforcement.
- Represented insurance brokerage group in enforcement of non-compete and non-solicit against former co-owner who joined a national competitor.
- Represented information technology company in enforcing non-compete against former head salesman who left to join a direct competitor.
- Represented energy-sector data company in lawsuit enforcing confidentiality agreement and protecting against misappropriation of trade secrets by former employees who left to form a competitor using technology and resources taken from their former employer.
- Represented architecture and engineering firm in enforcing non-competition covenant against a former executive and shareholder who joined a rival firm.
- Advised medical device company on avoiding and mitigating liability for trade secret misappropriation in its hiring and management of a competitor’s former general manager.
- Represented three former high-ranking executives of a publicly traded company in connection with their claims of whistleblower retaliation under the Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank Acts.
- Helped national health care system to secure dismissal with prejudice of whistleblower’s 80-page qui tam complaint alleging False Claims Act violations, as well as to obtain unprecedented monetary sanctions against the relator’s counsel for misconduct.
- Represented bio-sciences organization against allegations of supposed financial mismanagement raised by outgoing employee.
ERISA / Employee Benefits Litigation
- Defended international medical device and supply company against ERISA claims by former high-level executive relating to alleged interference and breach of fiduciary duty in the administration of an executive severance plan.
- Defended university endowment against claims by former-high level employee for breach of fiduciary duty and fraud in connection with rollovers from a “top hat” deferred compensation plan.
Trials, Arbitrations, and Appeals
- Nearly a dozen first chair appearances in labor grievance arbitrations on behalf of renowned health care and educational clients.
- Defended large asset manager in bench trial of discrimination claim. Presented direct and cross exams and gave opening and closing arguments.
- Argued before D.C. Court of Appeals in appeal involving employment discrimination law and administrative law.
- Argued before Massachusetts Court of Appeals on compelled arbitration under the Massachusetts Arbitration Act.
- Represented petitioner in week-long federal bench trial under Hague Convention on Child Abduction, which ultimately succeeded in reuniting a Turkish father with his daughters, who had been abducted from his custody several years earlier. Presented direct exam and argued dispositive motion.
- Argued before the federal First Circuit Court of Appeals in appeal involving interpretation of the Hague Convention and the U.S. International Child Abduction Remedies Act.
- Lead investigator in internal inquiry by Board of Trustees of prominent educational and cultural institution into executive compensation irregularities.
- Lead investigator in internal inquiry by bio-sciences organization into faculty member’s allegations of mistreatment by administration.
- Investigated highly sensitive #MeToo allegations against incoming Managing Partner of independent investment manager.
- Represented private university in investigation of highly publicized misreporting of admissions statistics.
- Represented prominent educational and cultural institution in internal investigation into highly publicized misconduct by senior employee.
- Investigated allegations of serious misconduct by CEO of private equity portfolio company and negotiated separation from employment.
- Investigated allegations of misconduct by head of sales department at biotech company.
- Represented public school committee in inquiry by Department of Education Office of Civil Rights into alleged racial bullying at high school.
- Quoted, “Why Corporate America is Worried About Affirmative Action,” The New York Times (June 30, 2023)
- Quoted, “Affirmative Action Ruling Could Place Target on US Corporate Diversity Programs,” Reuters (June 30, 2023)
- Quoted, “Supreme Court Upholds Pennsylvania’s Personal Jurisdiction Law,” SHRM (June 27, 2023)
- Quoted, “No Consensus From Supreme Court in Personal Jurisdiction Case,” SHRM (November 17, 2022
- Quoted, “Superior Court Judge Wades into Murky Waters of Therapy Records Privilege,” Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (May 13, 2022)
- Quoted, “Despite Supreme Court Ruling, Some Employers Will Still Require Vaccinations,” Barron’s (January 14, 2022)
- Quoted, “Businesses are whipsawed again as the Supreme Court blocks OSHA’s vaccine mandate,” The New York Times (January 13, 2022)
- Quoted, “Whiplash on U.S. Vaccine Mandate Leaves Employers ‘Totally Confused’,” The New York Times (December 20, 2021)
- Quoted, “Boeing joins other federal contractors in dropping its vaccine mandate.,” The New York Times DealBook (December 17, 2021)
- Co-author, “4th Circ. Ruling Offers Guidance On Scope Of WARN Act,” Law360 (December 14, 2021)
- Quoted, “Frequently Asked Questions About the Biden Administration’s Vaccine Mandate,” The New York Times (November 4, 2021)
- Co-author “Tending the Garden: Two Perspectives on Reforming the Patient-Psychotherapist Privilege in Employment Discrimination Litigation,” Boston Bar Journal (Nov. 3, 2021)
- Quoted, “Companies face pressure to act on vaccine mandates even as they wait for clear rules,” The New York Times (Oct. 8, 2021)
- Quoted, “What’s Delaying Vaccine Mandates?,” New York Times DealBook (October 7, 2021)
- Quoted, “President Biden Announces Sweeping New Vaccine Mandates,” WBEZ Chicago (September 10, 2021)
- Quoted, “Vaccine mandates expanding among US companies,” The Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan) (August 2021)
- Quoted, “After Months of Avoiding the Vaccine Issue, Companies Begin to Mandate,” The New York Times (August 3, 2021)
- Quoted, “What To Know About Workplace Rights During COVID,” WBEZ Chicago (August 3, 2021)
- Quoted, “Delays, More Masks and Mandatory Shots: Virus Surge Disrupts Office-Return Plans,” The New York Times (July 23, 2021)
- Quoted, “Offices divided? As workers return, some businesses will treat the unvaccinated differently,” The Chicago Tribune (July 22, 2021)
- Quoted, “E.E.O.C. Says Companies Can Mandate Vaccines, but Few Push Ahead,” The New York Times (June 1, 2021)
- Quoted, “Legal storm brews over mandatory vaccinations as firms weigh ‘carrots and sticks,’” Financial News (May 25, 2021)
- Quoted, “Offices Are Reopening. Here’s What Your Employer Can Require,” Ignites (May 24, 2021)
- Quoted, “New Mask Rules Are Tricky for Business,” The New York Times (May 14, 2021)
- Quoted, “Health Advocate or Big Brother? Companies Weigh Requiring Vaccines,” The New York Times (May 7, 2021)
- Quoted, “Can Companies Require Vaccination, and Should They?,” The New York Times (May 7, 2021)
- Quoted, “Asset Managers Grapple with Legal Consequences of Office-Return Plans,” FundFire (March 18, 2021)
- Cited, “Challenges of “Return to Work” in an Ongoing Pandemic,” The New England Journal of Medicine “Special Report” (June 18, 2020)
- Co-author, “6 Ways Lawmakers Could Address COVID-19 Liability For Cos.,” Law360 (May 1, 2020)
- Quoted, “Keeping Up with Professional Development During the Pandemic,” Society for Human Resource Management (April 13, 2020)
- Co-author, “#YouToo? Workplace Harassment Risks for Private Equity Funds and Other Active Investors and Corporate Affiliates,” Bloomberg BNA’s Corporate on Bloomberg Law (May 30, 2018)
- Co-author, “U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements,” Ropes & Gray Alert (May 24, 2018)
- Quoted, “Can an Executive Employment Agreement Excuse Bad Behavior?” HR Daily (November 1, 2017)
- Quoted, “Can an Employee Waive the Right to Bring a Sexual Harassment Claim?” HR Daily (October 26, 2017)
- Co-author, “US DTSA Creates Powerful New Federal Civil Remedies,” Intellectual Property Magazine (September 2016)
- Co-author, "Case Study: Nat'l Association For The Deaf V. Netflix," Law360 (July 13, 2012)
- Co-author, "Good Business: A Market-Based Argument for Law Firm Diversity," 34 Journal of the Legal Profession 1 (2010)
- Featured, “Should employers require Covid-19 vaccinations?” CNBC (June 2, 2021)
- Featured, CNN Newsroom with Pamela Brown (May 22, 2021)
- Presenter, “Employment Litigation Under the FFCRA: Leave Claims and Employment Rights,” Strafford Webinar (March 31, 2021)
- Presenter, “Coronavirus: Legal Aspects of the Public Health Response, and What Employers Should Be Doing Now,” Ropes & Gray Webinar (March 5, 2020)
- Presenter, “Trying a Systemic Discrimination Case: Jury Selection, "Me Too" Evidence, Witnesses, Argument, Preserving Error,” Strafford Webinar (December 4, 2019)
- Presenter, “What Employers Need to Know About the New Massachusetts Law Restricting Non-Competition Agreements,” Ropes & Gray Webinar (September 5, 2018)
- Presenter, “Gender Pay Equity Developments and Trends,” Ropes & Gray Webinar (July 18, 2018)
- Presenter, “The Defend Trade Secrets Act: Lessons for Employment Counsel from DTSA Filings and Court Rulings,” Strafford CLE Webinar (November 14, 2017)
- Speaker, “The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016: Implications for Employment Counsel,” Strafford Webinar (June 29, 2016)
- Presenter, “Massachusetts Sick Time Law: Are You Prepared?” New England Employee Benefits Council (January 2015)
- Presenter, “Hot Issues in Employment Discrimination,” CAPLAW National Training Conference (June 2013)
- Presenter, “Social Media: Employment Law Implications,” Navigating Key Legal Risks of Social Media (August 2012)
- JD, magna cum laude, Harvard Law School, 2009; Sears Prize (highest second-year grade average); Best Brief, Ames Moot Court Competition Finals; Supreme Court Litigation Clinic
- BA (Economics & Political Science), Highest Distinction, Indiana University, 2006; Phi Beta Kappa; Herman B Wells Scholar
Admissions / Qualifications
- Massachusetts, 2010
- Supreme Court of the United States, 2013
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, 2013
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, 2010
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 2018
- U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, 2011
- Best Lawyers in America (2023-2024)
- Legal 500 (2018-2020, 2023)
- Massachusetts Super Lawyers Rising Star (2016-2023)