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Hope A. Comisky

Hope A. Comisky is a partner in the Philadelphia office of Pepper Hamilton LLP. Ms. Comisky concentrates her practice in employment law advice and training. Currently, Ms. Comisky, who is a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, counsels clients in all aspects of employment law. In addition, she is the professional responsibility counsel for the firm, providing advice on all facets of the Rules of Professional Conduct and related issues.

Ms. Comisky also arbitrates and mediates employment and commercial disputes as a member of the American Arbitration Association’s panel of arbitrators and as appointed under the Alternative Dispute Resolution Program of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Recent cases representative of Ms. Comisky’s practice include:

  • Balmat v. CertainTeed Corporation (U.S.D.C., E.D. Pa. (2007), Third Circuit Court of Appeals (2009)) – Plaintiffs were seven individuals who were terminated from employment as a result of a travel and entertainment expense audit. They claimed that their termination was a pretext to deprive them of employee benefits and breached certain company policies. After extensive discovery, the Corporation (our client) filed a motion for summary judgment. The court heard extensive oral argument and then granted summary judgment in favor of the Corporation and against all of the remaining six plaintiffs (one plaintiff had withdrawn his claim prior to the summary judgment proceedings). The decision was affirmed by the Third Circuit.
  • Beatrice Waggaman v. Villanova University (U.S.D.C., E.D. Pa. (2008)) – Plaintiff was a tenured professor at Villanova who claimed that she did not receive a promotion to Associate Professor because of retaliation for her support of another faculty member who had sued for disability discrimination. The University (our client) defended on the basis that she did not meet the criteria for promotion at the time of her pertinent application (and any other time in the past) and that her testimony on behalf of her colleague was not a factor in the decision. There were numerous motions and extensive discovery, through which we were able to obtain documents relating to the plaintiff’s medical and psychological history, and to have a psychiatric examination performed. The court awarded summary judgment to the University. Plaintiff did not appeal.
  • David Bennett v. Saint Gobain Corporation (U.S.D.C., D. Mass. (2006), First Circuit Court of Appeals (2007)) – Plaintiff was an experienced lawyer in the corporate legal department. He filed a 15-count complaint claiming that he was terminated on account of his age and because he complained about age discrimination in violation of both state and federal law. He also alleged interference with contractual relations and other claims against his immediate supervisor, a Deputy General Counsel, and against the General Counsel of the Corporation. The Corporation maintained that the plaintiff was terminated based on the results of an investigation which revealed a good faith belief that he had harassed a co-worker in violation of state law. The individual defendants had additional defenses. After discovery, defendants (our clients) moved for summary judgment. The motion was granted. Plaintiff appealed. The First Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in its entirety.
  • Shams Inati, Ph.D. v. Villanova University (U.S.D.C., E.D. Pa. (2002)) – Plaintiff was a tenured professor at Villanova who claimed that she did not receive a promotion to the position of Full Professor because of retaliation for her previous request for accommodation of her disability (she is blind). The University (our client) defended on the basis that she did not meet the criteria for promotion at the time of her application, and that her request for accommodation, which had been granted and honored, was not a factor in the decision. There were numerous motions and extensive discovery, through which we were able to obtain documents relating to the plaintiff’s medical and psychological history, and to have a psychiatric examination performed. The case was then amicably resolved.
  • Shannon Doyle v. Hydro Nuclear Services (a division of Westinghouse Electric Corporation) (Department of Labor, Administrative Review Board (2000), Third Circuit Court of Appeals (2002), Petition for Certiorari Denied (2003)) – Complainant claimed that he was not hired for a position as a decontamination technician at a nuclear facility because he had exercised his rights under the Energy Reorganization Act, which protects whistleblowers. Complainant refused to sign a standard release permitting his former employers to supply information necessary for a required background check. He stated that he refused to sign the release because he had engaged in whistle-blowing activities at a prior job. Without the signed release, the respondent (our client) refused to hire him. After over 10 years of litigation, the Third Circuit recently reversed the Department of Labor and ruled that the requirement that complainant sign the release did not constitute a violation of the law.
  • Gordon Clifford v. Harleysville Insurance Group, Inc. (U.S.D.C., E.D. Pa. (2001)) – Plaintiff claimed that he was not selected for any of the five jobs for which he applied during a departmental reorganization because of his age. After discovery, the defendant (our client) filed a motion for summary judgment with respect to each of the five jobs in question. Just days before the trial was scheduled to begin, the court granted the motion in its entirety. Plaintiff did not appeal.

In addition, Ms. Comisky has handled many class/mass actions, including the following:

  • Miller, et al. v. MG Industries, Inc., et al. (U.S.D.C., E.D. Pa.) – Plaintiffs were not asked to participate in a management incentive plan which required large individual contributions but resulted in a significant pay-out when the business was sold. Plaintiffs alleged their exclusion was the result of age discrimination. Although a class was conditionally certified, the motion for class certification was later denied. The case is still pending.
  • Brenda Pollard v. Wawa, Inc. (U.S.D.C., E.D. Pa.) – Plaintiff applied for a position at a convenience store. She was hired, contingent on the results of a criminal background check. When those results were provided, she was fired. She sued for race discrimination under both disparate impact and disparate treatment theories. She also included class action allegations. The motion to dismiss the disparate treatment (intentional discrimination) class claim was granted. Left with only a disparate impact case for the class, and the likelihood of class certification for injunctive relief only, the plaintiff resolved her individual claim for a very reasonable amount.
  • Anderson, et al. v. Consolidated Rail Corporation (U.S.D.C., E.D. Pa., Third Circuit Court of Appeals) – Thirty individual age discrimination claims were filed under one caption. All of the plaintiffs claimed that they were laid off in connection with a reduction in force because of their age. Discovery for all claims was conducted jointly. The individual claims that survived summary judgment were listed for trial. The first trial resulted in a plaintiff’s verdict. The second trial, in which Ms. Comisky was lead counsel, resulted in a verdict in favor of the defense (our client). The remaining cases then settled. The propriety of the lower court’s decisions concerning the grant of summary judgment with respect to the age discrimination claims of certain of the plaintiffs was a question presented on appeal. The decision of the lower court was affirmed.
  • Black Grievance Committee v. Philadelphia Electric Company (U.S.D.C., E.D. Pa.) – Plaintiffs raised allegations of across-the-board race discrimination. Approximately 100 depositions were taken. Experts in statistics and labor economics were retained and reports were produced. On the eve of trial, the case was settled. Many class members objected to the settlement as insufficient. After a hearing, the settlement was approved by the court.
  • Kuhn, et al. v. Philadelphia Electric Company (U.S.D.C., E.D. Pa.) – Plaintiffs raised allegations of across-the-board sex discrimination in two departments. The claims as to one department were settled. The claims as to the Customer Accounts Department were tried in a non-jury proceeding spanning three weeks. Experts in statistics and labor economics testified. The court found in favor of the company on all claims.
  • United Research Laboratory v. AT&T (U.S.D.C., E.D. Pa.) – A customer raised class action allegations against AT&T in connection with decisions to collect certain charges. The court granted judgment on the pleadings in favor of AT&T before any class action discovery was commenced.

Ms. Comisky is a frequent lecturer on employment law and professional responsibility topics. She has been a speaker at the Northeast Regional Employment Law Institute for many years, lecturing on various topics including sexual harassment, defamation in the employment context and tort claims arising from employee terminations. Representative speaking engagements within the past several years include:

  • “Ethics in Negotiations,” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the New York State Unified Court System, New York, NY, May 2, 2013 (co-presenter)
  • “PBA Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Update,” sponsored by the Pennsylvania Bar Association Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Philadelphia, PA, April 26, 2013 (co-presenter)
  • "Interactions with Prospective Clients – How to Do It Right,” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Philadelphia, PA, April 22, 2013 (co-presenter)
  • “Ethics in Employment Law – Attorneys Beware! This Could Happen to You!” Nineteenth Annual Northeast Regional Employment Law Institute, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Philadelphia, PA, April 16, 2013 (co-presenter)
  • “Insider Trading – What You Need to Know (And Not Know),” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Philadelphia, PA, December 11, 2012 (co-presenter)
  • “Communications by In-House Counsel with Third Parties – Can They Be Protected?” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Berwyn, PA, December 6, 2012 (co-presenter)
  • “Negotiating Ethics,” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Berwyn, PA, October 25, 2012 (co-presenter)
  • “Ethical Issues – Real World Examples – How Would You Decide? – Second Edition,” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, August 28, 2012, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Negotiating Ethics,” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, April 25, 2012, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Ethics in Employment Law – Attorneys Beware! This Could Happen to You!” Eighteenth Annual Northeast Regional Employment Law Institute, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, April 19, 2012, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Recent Developments: Attorney-Client Privilege, Work Product Privilege and Common Interest,” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, December 21, 2011, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Ethical Issues – Real World Examples – How Would You Decide?” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, August 9, 2011, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “What’s Your Status? Legal Risks of Social Media in the Workplace,” webinar sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, June 14, 2011, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Selected Ethical Issues in the World of Social Media,” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, April 28, 2011, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Comparative Legal Ethics – PA & NJ: You Mean They Are Different?” Seventeenth Annual Northeast Regional Employment Law Institute, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, April 27, 2011, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Selected Ethical Issues in the World of Social Media,” co-sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP and the Delaware Valley Corporate Counsel Association, April 7, 2011, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Ethical and Professional Boundaries in a Cyberworld,” panel for a conference entitled, “Emerging Issues in Cyberprivacy,” sponsored by Temple Political & Civil Rights Law Review, February 5, 2011, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Communications by In-House Counsel with Third Parties – Can They Be Protected?” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, December 21, 2010, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Ethics in Settlement Negotiations and Mediation,” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, July 29, 2010, Philadelphia, PA (course planner and moderator)
  • “PBA Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee Update,” sponsored by the Pennsylvania Bar Association Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, April 29, 2010, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Joint Representation and Common Interest Privileges – When Do They Arise and What Should You Do to Avoid Losing Their Protection?,” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, April 22, 2010, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “A View from the Bench: The Hows & Whys of Summary Judgment,” Sixteenth Annual Northeast Regional Employment Law Institute, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, April 13-14, 2010, Philadelphia, PA (co-moderator)
  • “Settlement Negotiation Ethics: Fair or Afoul of the Code,” Sixteenth Annual Northeast Regional Employment Law Institute, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, April 13-14, 2010, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “General Counsel Forum,” Ninth Annual Legal Malpractice & Risk Management Conference, certified for multistate Continuing Legal Education credit, March 3-5, 2010, Chicago, IL (panelist)
  • “Ethical and Practical Considerations in Internal Investigations and Special Committee Engagements,” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, December 10, 2009, Philadelphia, PA (course planner and moderator)
  • “Ethical Considerations for Lawyers with Respect to Communications, Marketing and Public Relations,” Philadelphia Bar Association 2009 Bench-Bar and Annual Conference, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, October 24, 2009, Atlantic City, NJ (co-presenter)
  • “Online Marketing and Pepper’s Internet Posting Policy (Managing Your Online Presence, Marketing in the Age of Twitter),” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, July 30, 2009, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Conflicts of Interest and Joint Representation,” sponsored by the Philadelphia Bar Association Professional Responsibility Committee, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, June 16, 2009, Philadelphia, PA (course planner and co-presenter)
  • “PBA Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee Update,” sponsored by the Pennsylvania Bar Association Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, April 29, 2009, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Recent Developments in Professional Responsibility,” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, April 27, 2009, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Ethical Issues in the Courtroom - A Judge’s Perspective,” Fifteenth Annual Northeast Regional Employment Law Institute, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, April 15-16, 2009, Philadelphia, PA (course planner and moderator)
  • “The Initial Attorney-Client Interview – Getting it Right from the Start,” sponsored by the Philadelphia Bar Association Professional Responsibility Committee, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, March 10, 2009, Philadelphia, PA (course planner and moderator)
  • “General Counsel Forum,” Eighth Annual Legal Malpractice & Risk Management Conference, certified for multistate Continuing Legal Education credit, March 4-6, 2009, Chicago, IL (panelist)
  • “A Re-enactment of an Informal Admonition,” sponsored by the Philadelphia Bar Association Professional Responsibility Committee, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, February 10, 2009, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Some Folks Never Learn – Controlling Your Sleuth,” 2008 Bench-Bar and Annual Conference, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, September 19-21, 2008, Atlantic City, NJ (co-presenter)
  • “Ethical Issues in Joint Representation,” sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, July 24, 2008, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Ethics and the Expert Witness: Conflicts of Interest and Other Ethical Issues in Expert Witness Retention,” The Brave New World of Medical Malpractice Litigation, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, July 23, 2008, Philadelphia, PA (presenter)
  • “Hello Technology – Meet the Attorney-Client Privilege,” Fourteenth Annual Northeast Regional Employment Law Institute, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, April 17-18, 2008, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Attorney Malpractice – When the Practice of Law Isn’t Perfect,” sponsored by the Probate and Trust Law Section, Philadelphia Bar Association, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, June 5, 2007, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Ethical Issues in the News: Pretexting and Corporate Affiliate Conflicts,” ALI-ABA program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Philadelphia, PA, December 14, 2006 (co-presenter)
  • “Ethical Issues Confronting Large Law Firms,” ALI-ABA program in ethics pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, August 31, 2006, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Conducting Criminal Background Checks,” Twelfth Annual Northeast Regional Employment Law Institute, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Continuing Legal Education program pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, April 27 28, 2006, Philadelphia, PA (co-presenter)
  • “Wal-Mart: A Class of 1 Million + Members? Current Trends in Employment Class Actions,” ALI-ABA program pursuant to requirements of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, January 18, 2006, Conshohocken, PA (co-presenter).

Ms. Comisky has published many articles on employment law and other topics, including several articles in The Labor Lawyer (now known as the ABA Journal of Labor & Employment Law), the law journal of the American Bar Association’s Section of Labor and Employment Law. Representative articles include:

  • “The ‘Perceived As’ Theory of Discrimination in Pennsylvania” (co-author), HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law (July 27, 2012)
  • “Don’t Be a Twit – Avoiding the Ethical Pitfalls Facing Lawyers Utilizing Social Media in Three Important Arenas – Discovery, Communications with Judges and Jurors, and Marketing,” 20 Temple Political & Civil Rights Law Review 297 (Spring 2011)
  • “Gold Mine or Disaster? The Dilemma of Receiving Evidence Outside the Discovery Process,” Bloomberg Law Reports (April 7, 2011)
  • “Successfully Negotiating to a Win-Win Situation,” Negotiating Employment Disputes, Aspatore Books (2007)
  • “The Law of Criminal Background Checks” (co-author), Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Winter 2006)
  • “Employers May Consider Applicant’s Bankruptcy History in Making Hiring Decisions” (co-author), Business Law Section Newsletter, Pennsylvania Bar Association (Fall 2005)
  • “Fitting a Square Peg Into a Round Hole,” The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers Newsletter, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Summer 2005)
  • “Temporary Workers May Get ‘Two Bites’ at Recovery Under the Employment Discrimination Laws” (co-author), 20 The Labor Lawyer 1 (2004)
  • “Guidelines for Successfully Engaging in the Interactive Process to Find a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Americans with Disabilities Act,” 13 The Labor Lawyer 499 (1998)
  • “Beware of the Alleged Harasser – Growing Lawsuits by Those Accused of Sexual Harassment,” 12 The Labor Lawyer 277 (1996).

Ms. Comisky serves on the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, the CLE arm of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. She is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected for inclusion on the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers list every year since its inception.

Ms. Comisky also is active in community affairs. She is former chair of the board of trustees of the Center for Literacy and currently serves as a member of its executive committee. She served for many years as a member, executive committee member and officer of the board of Federation Early Learning Services (previously Federation Day Care Services). Ms. Comisky is a past president and an honorary trustee of The Philadelphia School and a past member of the board of directors of the Women’s Law Project. She also served on the board of directors of Philadelphia Futures. Most recently, Ms. Comisky was elected to the board of directors of the Anti-Defamation League of Eastern Pennsylvania.

Ms. Comisky received her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Immediately after law school graduation, she served as a law clerk to the Honorable Joseph L. McGlynn, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Ms. Comisky is admitted to practice in Pennsylvania, New York and the District of Columbia, and before the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Middle Districts of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the First, Third, Sixth and Seventh Circuits, and the United States Supreme Court.



Education
B.A. 1974 Cornell University; Phi Beta Kappa
J.D. 1977 University of Pennsylvania Law School

Clerkships
1977-78 Law Clerk to Hon. Joseph L. McGlynn, Jr., U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Bar Admissions
Admitted to practice in Pennsylvania, District of Columbia and New York


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