An experienced “first responder” for companies facing serious worker safety issues; handles full range of labor and employment law matters, including advising clients with union issues.
Making a prominent addition to its labor and employment law bench, especially with regard to workplace safety compliance, Venable LLP announced that Nicole A. Smith, an experienced labor and employment attorney who often represents clients in major OSHA matters, has joined the firm as a partner in Washington, DC.
Ms. Smith arrives from DLA Piper, where she was the hiring partner for the firm’s Washington, DC office and led the firm’s domestic OSHA Practice.
Ms. Smith counsels clients on the full range of workplace matters, including discrimination claims, wage and hour issues, collective bargaining, unfair labor practice complaints, and union organization, as well as drafting executive agreements, in-house policies and procedures, and advising on workforce issues that arise from corporate mergers and real estate transactions.
A particular area of concentration for Ms. Smith is occupational safety. She has frequently represented companies in the aftermath of major workplace accidents, including industrial mishaps causing serious injuries and fatalities. Often among the first at the scene, Ms. Smith helps clients minister to grieving co-workers, even as she assists the client in preparing for and responding to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) imminent investigation. Her clients have included large employers in the power and energy sectors, as well as hospitality, electrical contracting, retail, real estate, and telecommunications.
In addition to helping clients navigate OSHA and other regulatory reviews after an accident, she proactively advises on ways to improve workplace safety, conducting national audits, training of staff, and leading compliance programs to institute best practices within organizations to minimize occupational hazards related to equipment, workplace conditions, employee fatigue, and other factors. She also works with in-house corporate departments to help spot unsafe conditions that could pose risks to M&A transactions.
“Nicole Smith brings a well-rounded L&E practice – she has worked closely in all areas of workplace law on behalf of leading employers who have both union and non-union workforces, as well as newer companies in the gig economy serviced by contract workers,” said Michael Volpe, chair of Venable’s national Labor and Employment Practice Group.
“Her adept work advising employers on OSHA-related risk and compliance is especially important,” Mr. Volpe added. “Even the most vigilant, employee-centric companies can be caught off guard by a workplace accident, which invariably draws the attention of OSHA and other safety regulators. If not properly addressed from the outset, OSHA reviews can cost substantial employee goodwill and reputational damage and expose businesses to civil and criminal prosecution. Nicole is highly skilled in this sensitive area of workplace law, and her experience as a ‘first responder’ during an OSHA crisis will be an invaluable asset to our clients.”
Ronald Taylor, head of Venable’s Maryland Labor and Employment Practice Group who regularly works on OSHA matters, added: “Nicole’s reputation proceeds her, and am thrilled to see her join us. She understands the urgency associated with workplace safety lapses and how OSHA investigations intersect with other areas of practice, including product liability, enforcement, privacy, and, increasingly, white collar defense. OSHA’s reach has expanded markedly in recent years, and having Nicole in our L&E group will provide great comfort to our many clients facing agency exposure in their operations.”
Ms. Smith said of her move: “Venable has a great reputation in labor and employment law – and Ron Taylor has helped build a terrific record for serious OSHA and workplace safety counsel.”
“The firm has a number of practice strengths that overlap well with my work,” she continued, “including its large roster of clients in the restaurant and hospitality industry, where businesses regularly face OSHA challenges. Similarly, Venable’s eminence in the government contractor space aligns well with my experience, as contractors recognize the high risk of debarment that can come from OSHA violations. Across the board, Venable’s L&E platform creates opportunities to expand my practice and the range of services I can bring to clients confronting workplace safety concerns.”
In addition to her labor practice, Ms. Smith volunteers as a board member and general counsel for the National Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. She is also a board member of the National Children’s Medical Center.
Ms. Smith received her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and her B.A. from McKendree College.