Photo of Jeffrey A. Risch


University of Tulsa College of Law, J.D., 1998, highest honors

Illinois State University, B.S., 1994

Jeff’s practice is entirely devoted to management-side labor and employment law. He takes enormous pride in advising and defending the foundation of our economy: employers. Every day he arises with a passion to aggressively and responsibly represent clients in a broad range of industries.

In his practice, Jeff handles both employment and traditional labor matters. Such matters include: countering various union tactics; navigating government audits; defending discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination claims; avoiding employee wage and hour controversies; complying with prevailing wage and minimum wage laws; litigating employment contract disputes and unfair competition controversies; upholding independent contractor and contingent workforce relationships; and negotiating collective bargaining agreements.

Jeff’s legal knowledge is accompanied by his understanding of his clients’ industries, which include construction, banking, manufacturing and food processing, healthcare (particularly long term care), and transportation, among others. Jeff participates in various trade and professional associations devoted to his clients’ diverse industries. He is passionately committed to helping employers stay up-to-date with legal developments and trends unique to their industry.  

Jeff has many years of both private practice and in-house counsel experience. He represents employers throughout the U.S. and has taken several prominent cases successfully through arbitration, administrative hearing, trial, and, when necessary, appeal. Jeff advises employers with the purpose of providing them the most efficient avenue to effectively manage. A prolific author and presenter, Jeff is often asked to speak on trending topics in the labor and employment arena by clients and educational providers around the country. He literally wrote the book on Labor & Employment Law for Illinois employers through the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. If you have ever been lucky enough to see Jeff present, you know you are in excellent hands in any negotiation or a courtroom!

A former manager and current business owner, Jeff understands and relates to the objectives of his clients. He applies his passion for business and employers in his work as chairman of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Employment Law & Litigation Committee, chapter labor counsel for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Illinois, chapter labor counsel for the Northern Illinois Building Contractors Association, and chapter labor counsel to the Finishing Contractors Association of Illinois.

As chair of the firm’s expansive management-side Labor and Employment Practice Group, Jeff oversees a team providing comprehensive counsel to employers across the country. As a member of the firm’s Executive Committee, Jeff helps to set the strategic vision for the firm and ensures that each of the firm’s clients receives the best possible experience working with SmithAmundsen.


  • Selected to The Best Lawyers in America© in Employment Law - Management: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
  • Recognized as "40 Illinois Attorney Under 40 to Watch" by the Law Bulletin: 2010
  • Selected to the Illinois Super Lawyers list: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
  • Selected to the "Top 100: Illinois Super Lawyers" list: 2017, 2018
  • Selected to the Illinois Super Lawyers "Rising Stars" list: 2012
  • Selected by the Leading Lawyers Network as a "Leading Lawyer" in management side employment law

Memberships & Involvement

  • Member: SmithAmundsen Executive Committee
  • Illinois Chamber of Commerce: Chair, Employment Law Council; Chair, Employment Litigation Committee; Chair, Employment Law Committee; Lead Attorney, HR Audit Task Force; Board Member
  • Chapter Labor Attorney, National Labor Advisory Board: Associated Builders & Contractors of Illinois
  • Chapter Labor Counsel, Member: Northern Illinois Building Contractors Association
  • Chapter Labor Counsel, Member: Finishing Contractors Association of Illinois 
  • Board of Directors: Marklund 
  • Member: Illinois State Bar Association; Oklahoma Bar Association; HR Illinois Advisory Board; Valley Industrial Human Resource Association
  • Labor Law Advisor: Midwest Truckers Association; Illinois Lumber and Material Dealers Association


  • Successfully obtained denial of motion for class certification ‎in contentious wage and hour class action lawsuit involving home healthcare workers. District court found the purported class representative was not adequate due to evidence of dishonesty concerning his own time reports. Aggressive discovery strategy and effort led to proof that the former employee was working for multiple employers at same time; committing time fraud.
  • Lead negotiator in key union contract negotiation for national food processing company after change in ownership. Secured multi-year agreement whereby material operational changes were implemented as well as a maximum rate progression that included wage caps for certain workers beyond market rates due to prior legacy, out-of-control, contracts.

  • Obtained Summary Judgment dismissal on Racial Bias claims pursued against manufacturer under Title VII and Section 1981 in the immediate wake of the 7th Circuit’s Ortiz decision.
  • Successfully represented two separate franchise owners against union organizing petitions filed by a Chicago based Teamsters local union under the NLRB’s “Ambush Election” Rule, where the vote count initially appeared unanimously for the union. After careful strategic planning under a “joint employer” analysis under the NLRA, both franchises were combined into one unit for the final vote, which ultimately resulted in the union being voted down.
  • Successfully represented concrete manufacturer against laborers' organizing petition of the company's "working foremen" upon demonstrating at the NLRB that the workers at issue met "supervisory" status under the NLRA; and, therefore, are exempt from being represented by a union.
  • Defeated a Laborers local union in its organizing efforts directed at a Nursing Home facility whereby the election was held by mail-in ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic. Worked carefully through the delivery of key messaging and educational materials to inform the voting unit on the “good, bad and ugly” of becoming part of the union.
  • Secured judgment for regional banking client accused of terminating an employee after she applied for and took leave allegedly due to domestic violence. After a multiple day evidentiary hearing at the Illinois Department of Labor, in the first contested case arising under Illinois' Victim's Economic Safety & Security Act (VESSA)‎, it was determined that the leave was obtained under false pretenses and abused. Underlying decision upheld by Illinois' appellate court (2nd District).
  • Secured reversal of the New Jersey Department of Labor's 7-figure tax assessment against a national publishing company’s business model that relied on engaging thousands of independent contractors. Following a multiple day trial, spanning several months, the Office of Administrative Law determined the individuals at issue were bona fide independent contractors under the notorious A-B-C Test.
  • Obtained summary judgment dismissal in favor of high profile clients accused of tortiously causing a new business to suffer $25M in alleged "lost profits" and an additional $75M in other damages by navigating and advancing arguments pursuant to Illinois' New Business Rule.
  • Obtained arbitration award denying former sales person's claim of $500,000 in unpaid commissions and interest against national medical product distributor, and ultimately determined that the employer owed her $0 following multiple day arbitration proceeding.
  • Secured restraining order and injunction against school district for unfairly trying to sway construction work away from the lowest bidder (a non-union contractor) and give it to the 2nd low bidder (a union contractor).
  • Successfully defended a construction contractor under the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act where the carpenters union pursued a private lawsuit alleging that “shop work” should be included as prevailing wage work. Circuit court dismissed matter and appellate court (3rd District) upheld the dismissal on appeal.
  • Successfully established new business plan for large regional General Construction Contractor to effectively establish and utilize both union and non-union subcontractors on same job sites throughout the Greater Chicagoland area. 

News & Press Releases


Contributing Author, SmithAmundsen's Labor & Employment Law Update, a labor and employment advisory blog.

Contributing Author, Illinois Chamber of Commerce's Chamber Dispatch, an HR advisory blog.


Presentations & Events