The world’s largest retailer has hired a top labor and employment lawyer as it prepares for potential new legal challenges emerging as a result of the coronavirus.
Alexander Passantino, co-chair of the wage-and-hour litigation practice at Seyfarth Shaw in Washington, has joined Walmart Inc. as a senior director for U.S. labor and employment compliance. Walmart and Seyfarth, one of the largest labor and employment law firms in the country, both confirmed the move, which had not been announced publicly.
Walmart said in a job posting for the employment compliance position that Passantino now holds that it’s responsible for overseeing compliance and ethical matters related to state and federal laws and regulations, as well as “drafting and updating policies and standard operating procedures with input from leadership.”
Passantino joined Seyfarth in 2009 from rival labor and employment firm Jackson Lewis, where he spent a half-year following his departure from the Labor Department. During his three years working for the federal government, Passantino served as acting and deputy administrator of the Labor Department’s wage and hour division during the second administration of President George W. Bush.
Passantino did not respond to a request for comment about his appointment. His new gig did jokingly draw praise from one Big Law practice leader in Stefan Passantino, chair of the government relations, political law, and public policy practice at Michael Best & Friedrich.
“We are indeed related as distant cousins and traced common ancestors back to Sicily,” wrote Stefan Passantino, who returned to private practice in Washington last year after serving in the Trump administration, in an email to Bloomberg Law. “Alex’s success is entirely due to his ability to overcome association with me.”
Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S., has brought on 25,000 new employees within the last week as panicked shoppers emptied store shelves, according to Bloomberg News. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company has a large law department led by chief legal officer Rachel Brand and general counsel Karen Roberts, neither of whom responded to requests for comment about Passantino’s hire.
A Walmart spokesman told Bloomberg Law that Passantino is a senior director with a tier I designation—the highest at the company is tier II—and will work closely with other in-house employment compliance specialists, reporting to Jan Sturner, senior director II for U.S. labor and employment compliance at the company. Last year Walmart made some high-profile additions, including recruiting former Jones Day partner Kerri Ruttenberg in Washington as chief counsel for litigation.
Littler Mendelson, a key labor and employment rival to Seyfarth, has been the firm most often turned to by Walmart for litigation work. Littler has handled nearly 6% of Walmart’s litigation caseload since 2007, a percentage that has held steady in more recent years, according to data gathered by Bloomberg Law.
Earlier this month, Walmart created an emergency leave policy for workers due to the spread of Covid-19. Bloomberg News recently reported that the company, which has invested heavily in e-commerce and health care, could be one of the few to benefit from the coronavirus crisis.
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