Overview

Megan C. Eckel is a litigation attorney in Holland & Knight's Atlanta office who focuses her practice on defending companies and fiduciaries throughout the United States in complex Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) disputes as well as labor and employment matters.

Ms. Eckel represents employers in single-plaintiff, collective action and class action litigation involving race, sex, color, disability, and age discrimination and harassment; wrongful termination; retaliation; wage and hour laws, including classification and termination pay issues; and unfair labor practices. Ms. Eckel has also defended employers in employment-related investigations conducted by local, state and federal government agencies, including the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), U.S. Department of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

Ms. Eckel's discrimination practice covers state and federal law in a variety of different industries, including education, government, healthcare and the financial sector. In addition, she represents employers in restrictive covenant litigation, including suits for breaches of confidentiality and violations of non-solicitation covenants, as well as plant closing and mass layoff laws.

In addition, Ms. Eckel is proficient in a wide gamut of electronic discovery (e-discovery) practices from preparing for anticipated e-discovery to the managed review and ultimate production of electronically stored information (ESI).

Prior to joining Holland & Knight, Ms. Eckel was a labor and employment attorney and previously worked as a paralegal for an international law firm. Ms. Eckel has extensive experience with local, state and federal court systems, including a three-week state court trial concluding in a $30 million-plus jury verdict in favor of the client, two high-profile celebrity cases, multiple single-plaintiff defense victories at summary judgment and appellate proceedings. Based on Ms. Eckel's vast experience working her way from a paralegal to an associate, she is able to bring a wealth of knowledge to help bring a case to an efficient and successful end.

Experience

  • Defending a putative class action lawsuit filed against the plan sponsor of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), its board of directors and other alleged fiduciaries accused of violating Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) in connection with the termination of the ESOP in 2017, the redemption of the ESOP's stock in 2017, the distribution of benefits to ESOP participants and the sale of the plan sponsor's assets to a private equity group; in particular, plaintiffs allege that the valuation used in purchasing the company stock held by the ESOP was too low and that the ESOP's participants suffered millions of dollars in damages as a result of defendants' actions; case is in the early stages of litigation.
  • Defending a lawsuit filed by the secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) against the plan sponsor of an ESOP, as well as its board of directors and selling shareholders, alleging violations of ERISA in connection with the formation of the ESOP and sale of stock in the plan sponsor to the ESOP; in particular, the DOL alleges that the independent trustee engaged to represent the ESOP in connection with the sale of the stock to the ESOP failed to perform sufficient diligence and relied upon a flawed stock valuation in violation of its ERISA fiduciary duties when it approved the stock transaction at a price that the DOL alleges was tens of millions of dollars too high and that the ESOP was damaged as a result; the DOL further alleges that company's board of directors violated ERISA by allegedly failing to monitor the independent fiduciary and by enabling and otherwise participating in the trustee's breach of ERISA fiduciary duties; case is in the early stages of litigation.
  • Defending client against the trustees of a large, multi-employer pension plan (Plan) alleging that the client violated ERISA and breached the parties' Investment Management Agreement (IMA) when it invested approximately $115 million of Plan assets into proprietary funds managed by the client; the Plan's trustees also assert that the client violated the most-favored nations provisions of the IMA when it failed to apply more favorable management and performance fee terms to the Plan's investments; the trustees are seeking in excess of $8 million for alleged harm to the Plan; the client denies any violations of ERISA or the IMA and contends that the investment of Plan assets into the client's proprietary funds was done with the approval and direction of the Plan's trustees; the client filed a counterclaim against the Plan's trustees on the grounds that any alleged violation of ERISA was done with the full knowledge and consent of the trustees and, as such, the trustees should be held jointly and severally liable with the client for any alleged harm to the Plan; a five-day arbitration hearing was held in December 2019, and a ruling is expected by fall 2020.

  • Defended nationwide Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action and Ohio state law class action. Plaintiff alleged that client unlawfully deducted 30 minutes from each employee's time for lunch, even if the employee worked through lunch; unlawfully rounded time entries up or down to its advantage; and engaged in other improper time keeping practices. The lawsuit was filed in May 2018. After significant discovery, it was learned that plaintiff had lied on his application, had committed identity theft to cover up his criminal history, and had engaged in other misconduct. As a result of those discoveries, plaintiff's counsel agreed to dismiss the case with prejudice. The putative class included approximately 4,000 current or former employees.

  • Defended dozens of single and multiplaintiff cases alleging race, sex, age, and disability discrimination or harassment, as well as retaliation from both an agency level as well as in federal court.
  • Defended a data center against single plaintiff claiming Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) interference and retaliation. During discovery, it was uncovered that plaintiff had posted pictures skiing internationally during his alleged "FMLA leave." Just before company was scheduled to take plaintiff's deposition, plaintiff's counsel agreed to dismiss the case with prejudice.
  • Drafted two out of eight dispositive motions and successfully obtained summary judgments for both on behalf of a school district in an age discrimination class action brought by former teachers.
  • Assisted with a one-week federal district court trial wherein the client, a global package delivery and supply chain management company, was accused of race discrimination by a then-current employee. Jury entered verdict in favor of client.

  • Represented material packaging company in a case involving theft of trade secrets and unfair competition brought by the company against three former employees who had joined a direct competitor. Company alleged that the defendants stole the company's trade secrets, violated the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and committed other unlawful acts under Georgia and Texas law. After significant discovery, the parties were able to agree to an permanent injunction without having to go forward with a full hearing.

Credentials

Education
  • Georgia State University College of Law, J.D.
  • University of Florida, B.S., Business Administration
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • Georgia
Court Admissions
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia
  • Supreme Court of Georgia

Publications