Distinguished Career Service Award

Spring 1999

In Spring, 1999, Leonard Grossman was among a number of recipients of the Department of Labor's Distinguished Career Service Award. Here is a slightly modified version of the basis for that award.

As an attorney in the Office of the Solicitor for over 20 years, Mr. Grossman has handled cases for almost every agency within the Department of Labor. His primary involvement has been in cases and programs under the Employment Standards Administration, including but not limited to Fair Labor Standards Act.

Mr. Grossman was hired in 1979 as a GS-11 General Attorney after ten years of teaching in the Chicago Public Schools and a year of private practice. He followed the standard progression, becoming a GS 12 in 1980. Beginning in these early years he became involved in the Regional Farm Labor Coordinated Enforcement Committee, which provided a basis for significant work in later years. In that role and others, Mr. Grossman has frequently represented this office as a speaker at public hearings and conferences throughout the Midwest.

* Estate of Dorfman - Within months after becoming a GS-13 in 1981 Mr. Grossman became involved in a number of significant matters. The most visible of these were the Special Litigation Division's ERISA cases involving the Central States Teamsters Pension and Health and Welfare Funds. Mr. Grossman served as local counsel for these proceedings, which involved countless courtroom appearances over the next two years - an average of more than one a week during the period.

Closely related to the District Court cases was his successful effort to retain Allen Dorfman's million dollar cash bond for creditors, preventing it from bypassing probate, after Dorfman was murdered, and returning directly to the individuals and corporation who loaned him the money. This unusual litigation involved countless depositions and unusual discovery techniques. The successful trial and appeal of the State court matter, both of which were handled by Mr. Grossman, preserved the asset for the eventual resolution of the Department's ERISA litigation. Estate of Dorfman, 138 Ill. App. 3rd 646, 486 N.E. 2d. 310 (1985).

During the course of his employment he has obtained a number of significant published decisions which have advanced the interests of the Department. Some of these are highlighted in the narrative which follows.

* Secretary v. Lauritzen, 624 F. Supp. 966 (E.D Wisc. 1985) and 649. F. Supp. 16 (E.D. Wisc. 1986), 835 F.2d 152 (7th Cir. 1987) (Cert. denied 488 U.S.898.) This case was a significant milestone in the extension of Fair Labor Standards coverage to migrant laborers.

The Lauritzen case established that migrant workers an employees and not independent contractors in the face of a contrary decision in the 6th Circuit. The original complaint had been referred by Legal Action of Wisconsin to the Wage and Hour Division in Madison, Wisconsin. With their cooperation, the cooperation of Texas Rural Legal Aid, and investigators in the Wage and Hour Division in Texas, he was able to coordinate extensive discovery in Texas and Wisconsin and to obtain the cooperation of witnesses who never would have testified under other circumstances. Only by obtaining the cooperation of individuals at all levels was it possible to achieve the significant victory obtained in this matter in the face of adverse precedent and motivated opposition represented by the same attorneys who had prevailed in the 6th Circuit. Mr. Grossman won a number of motions for partial summary judgment in this matter in the District Court and worked closely with the attorney from the NSOL in successfully defending an appeal to the Seventh Circuit.

While the matter was pending before the Supreme Court (which ultimately denied certiorari), Mr. Grossman became aware of a rumor that Lauritzen was once again violating the child labor and minimum wage laws. The next day he notified Wage and Hour and initiated an investigation task force. Within a week he presented a motion for contempt, with supporting affidavits, to the Court. The following Tuesday, a hearing was held in district court, utilizing the services of a court appointed interpreter. The hearing could not be concluded that day. The next day the defendant agreed to pay the back wages involved and established an entirely new record keeping system as well as several thousand dollars in agency costs. (It should be noted that haste was necessary because the season was virtually over, within days all of the employees would have left the Midwest for Texas and it would have been impossible to prosecute the matter. The settlement was achieved within 12 days of originally learning of the violations.)

In 1987, Mr. Grossman became a GS-14 Trial Attorney. Shortly thereafter he filed Secretary vs. Dill.

* Secretary v. Dill et al., 696 F. Supp. 401 (N.D.Ind. 1988). This case broke a log jam of opinions and litigation over coverage of the FLSA in the in-home carpet cleaning industry.

Mr. Grossman persuaded the agency that this case was the appropriate one to resolve a longstanding dispute over how to tackle this question and succeeded through discovery and effective briefing in persuading the Court to resolve this issue which was creating problems throughout the country.

* Secretary v. Morefield Construction Co., et al. 745 F. Supp. 1231 (E.D. Mich. 1990) This case was the first in the Sixth Circuit to clearly establish interstate commerce coverage based solely on the intrastate purchase of goods and materials originating in other states.

In the face of the defendant's adamant insistence that it purchased all of its materials and supplies from local sources, Mr. Grossman conducted extensive discovery which led to the foregoing decision on partial summary judgment. On the eve of trial his aggressive pursuit of this matter persuaded the defendant to enter into a consent judgment calling for $100,000.00 in back wages.

* Secretary v. Curtins, 30 Wage and Hour Cas. 1380 (BNA), available on Lexis (D. Minn, 1992). This case appears to be the first published decision which establishes traditional interstate commerce coverage solely on telephone conversations.

Once again, Mr. Grossman was able to combine discovery and writing skills to obtain a valuable precedent. This case involved the use of telephone records to establish the extensive involvement of all of the defendant's employees individually in interstate commerce.

In recent years, Mr. Grossman played a major role in this office's information management matters relating to computers and online communications and was directly involved in developing the recommendations which were implemented for an upgrade of our computer operations.


In the ten years since receiving this award Mr. Grossman has litigated in additional areas, including handling significant OSHA matters.

Mr. Grossman officially retired from the Office of the Solicitor after almost 31 years on January 2, 2010.

Leonard A. Grossman
Len @ Lgrossman dot com

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Updtated 12/26/2009