Christopher T. Cognato advises public and private employers on a range of labor and employment issues and represents them in litigation and administrative proceedings. He also assists in performing internal investigations, including in matters where harassment and other forms of discrimination are at issue.
His litigation experience includes cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and the National Labor Relations Act. He frequently helps clients develop employment policies, including those related to hiring, firing, disciplinary practices, employee leave, and reasonable accommodations. Chris has advised clients in connection with collective bargaining negotiations and has assisted in representations before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. This includes defense of alleged unfair labor practice charges and participation in representation cases.
- Conducts internal investigations into allegations of harassment, discrimination, and misconduct
- Reviews and drafts executive employment contracts and separation agreements
- Assists employers in conducting wage and hour audits
Pro Bono Experience
Chris's active pro bono practice includes drafting employee handbooks for nonprofits and providing regular counseling on a wide range of employment issues.
He also assists indigent immigrants obtaining employment authorization in the United States. For the past several years, he has worked with the Penn Law chapter of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project to help Afghan and Iraqi nationals obtain refugee or immigrant status in the United States.
He also represents claimants applying for Social Security benefits in administrative proceedings, and has helped indigent clients obtain copies of their birth certificates and with filing change of name petitions. Chris also represents veterans in pursuing their claims for benefits before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
"Testing Accommodations: Legal Challenges and Practical Solutions in 2021 and Beyond," Association of Test Publishers – Innovations in Testing, April 28, 2021
"Managing Divisive Politics in the Workplace," Ballard Spahr webinar, April 5, 2017, and Ballard Spahr CLE program, April 25, 2017
"The Future is Now: ADA Accessibility Lessons for Today and Beyond," Association of Test Publishers – Innovations in Testing, March 7, 2017
"Accommodating Test Takers: Hot Developments, Case Studies, and Practical Tips," The Association of Test Publishers, Innovations in Testing, March 22, 2016
Board Memberships & Community Service
Before joining the firm, Chris was an extern at Constitution High School, a civics and social studies magnet school founded in 2006 through a partnership with Ballard Spahr, the National Constitution Center, and the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History. Chris continues to be active in mentoring and other activities at the school. He is a volunteer for the Philadelphia Bar Association's Advancing Civics Education (ACE) program, working with other lawyers to develop and present lessons at Constitution High regarding civics and the American legal system.
He is an active member of the Devon Preparatory School, University of Notre Dame, and Villanova University School of Law alumni communities.
Co-author, "Managing Divisive Politics in the Workplace," Society for Human Resources Management, February 27, 2017
Co-author, "Employee Benefits and the Unionized Workforce," chapter in ERISA: A Comprehensive Guide, 2011-2015 editions
Villanova University School of Law (J.D. 2009)
Managing Editor, Villanova Law Review
Order of the Coif
University of Notre Dame (B.A., cum laude, 2005)
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals