Mike has been an attorney with Ryley Carlock & Applewhite since graduating from law school in 1983 and was elected a shareholder in 1989. He has served as Chairman of the firm's Executive Committe and as head of its Labor and Employment practice group.
He exclusively represents management in civil rights and employment-related litigation at both the trial and appellate levels, in the arbitration of collective bargaining agreement disputes, and in administrative proceedings involving the defense of statutory discrimination and retaliation claims, unfair labor practice charges, and wage and hour claims. He also assists employers in handbook and policy drafting, and with strike contingency and other planning.
Significant cases in which Mike has been involved include: (1) Halloum v. Intel Corp., 24 Individ. Empl. Rts. Cas. (BNA) 50 (2006), aff'd, 307 F. App'x 106 (9th Cir. 2009), in which he successfully defended the employer at trial and on appeal in one of the first cases ever tried under the anti-retaliation provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act; (2) Valdiviezo v. Phelps Dodge Hidalgo Smelter, 995 F. Supp. 1060 (D. Ariz. 1997), the first reported decision in which an Arizona court compelled an employee to arbitrate a statutory employment discrimination claim; (3) Moses v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 826 F. Supp. 1234 (D. Ariz. 1993), in which a federal court held that the statutory presumption against an award of attorneys' fees to prevailing employers in civil rights actions does not apply in cases involving the alleged breach of an employment contract; (4) Burris v. City of Phoenix, 179 Ariz. 35, 875 P.2d 1340 (App. 1993), in which the Arizona Court of Appeals refused to recognize a common law tort claim for wrongful failure to hire in violation of public policy; (5) Buffington v. Phelps Dodge Mining Co., 800 F. Supp. 951 (D.N.M. 1992), a case of first impression in which a federal court held that prejudgment interest cannot be recovered in cases arising under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; and (6) Espinoza v. Fry's Food Stores, Inc., 806 F. Supp. 855 (D. Ariz. 1990), the first reported decision holding that compensatory damages are not recoverable in an employment discrimination action arising under the Arizona Civil Rights Act.
In addition to the foregoing, Mike filed an amicus brief in the landmark Arizona Supreme Court case Demasse v. ITT Corp., 194 Ariz. 500, 984 P.2d 1138 (1999), where he argued that employers should be entitled to condition employment offers on their employees' agreement to arbitrate any subsequent breach of contract claims against the employer. Although the decision in Demasse is otherwise generally considered to have been detrimental to employers, the Court specifically distinguished its ruling from a federal court decision in another case in which Mike represented the employer, Moses v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 818 F. Supp. 1287 (D. Ariz. 1993), which held that an employee was precluded from filing suit against her employer as the result of her failure to comply with the terms of a grievance and arbitration procedure contained in an employee handbook.
Mike also coauthored an amicus brief submitted in support of the employer’s position in the Colorado Supreme Court’s landmark medical marijuana case, Coats v. Dish Network, 350 P.3d 849 (Colo. 2015), which upheld the employer’s right to terminate an employee who tested positive for marijuana even though the employee had ingested the drug for medicinal purposes during nonworking hours in accordance with Colorado law.
Mike received both his bachelor's degree and law degree with high distinction from the University of Iowa. During law school, he was elected to the Order of the Coif and received American Jurisprudence Awards for the top performance in his class in Torts, Evidence, Civil Procedure and Advanced Criminal Procedure. As an undergraduate majoring in accounting, he was elected to both the Beta Alpha Psi and Beta Gamma Sigma honor societies.
He and his wife Jeanine, who is also an attorney, have three children and one grandchild. They are all enthusiastic Arizona Diamondbacks fans and Mike was once a stellar Little League coach.
Mike is an editor and contributing author of the Arizona Employment Law Handbook (2d ed. 2004), which is the only comprehensive treatise addressing Arizona employment law, and of annual and cumulative supplements to Schlei & Grossman, Employment Discrimination Law (2d ed. 1983), which has been referred to as the "bible" of federal employment discrimination law. He is also a contributing author of another highly regarded employment law text published by the National Employment Law Institute, Employment-At-Will: A 1989 State-By-State Survey.
Mike has authored approximately 50 law review articles addressing labor, employment and litigation-related topics, including the first article ever published in the Phoenix Law Review. His articles have been cited as pertinent authority by academics and other lawyers, as well as by the Arizona Supreme Court, the Arizona Court of Appeals, and other federal and state appellate courts in Alabama, California, Florida, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico, and by employment-related administrative agencies such as the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.
Throughout its existence, Mike served as an editor of the Arizona Labor Letter, a monthly publication designed to keep Arizona employers apprised of legal developments in the field.
Some of Mike's recent publications include:
"Weeding Out Risky Employees: Little Guidance for Arizona in Landmark Medical Marijuana Ruling," 52 Arizona Attorney 38 (June 2016)
"Old MacDonald Hid a Farm: Examining Arizona's Prospects for Legalizing Industrial Hemp," 20 Drake Journal of Agricultural Law 361 (2015)
"Contemplating the Recognition of a Common Law Tort for Wrongfully Refusing to Hire Bankruptcy Debtors," 22 American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review 431 (2014)
"This is Unprecedented: Examining the Impact of Vacated State Appellate Court Opinions," 13 Journal of Appellate Practice and Process 231 (2012)
"The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act: A Pot Hole for Employers?," 5 Phoenix Law Review 415 (2012)
"Smoke -- and Mirrors... Employers and the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act," 47 Arizona Attorney 30 (July/August 2011)
Appointed by the Governor, Mike served on the Arizona Agricultural Employment Relations Board, a state agency charged with primary responsibility for enforcing the Arizona Agricultural Employment Relations Act. He also served as Chairman of that agency for a number of years. Additional memberships include:
- Arizona Industrial Relations Association, Member
- Arizona Town Hall, Member
Mike has been elected a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, a national organization established through an initiative of the Council of the American Bar Association's Section of Labor and Employment Law. The organization recognizes those attorneys who have distinguished themselves as leaders in the fields of labor and employment law, individual rights, collective bargaining and dispute resolution.
Mike is an AV-Preeminent Rated attorney by Martindale-Hubbell. Since 2006, he has been recognized as a leading national labor and employment lawyer by Best Lawyers in America. In 2015, Best Lawyers named Mike "Lawyer of the Year" in the area of Litigation - Labor & Employment. He has also been ranked by Chambers USA since 2004.