Christopher T. Cognato

Senior Attorney
Tel 215.864.8612
Fax 215.864.8999

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.

He also frequently represents and advises places of public accommodation on accessibility issues arising under Title III of the ADA and related federal and state laws, including counseling related to test-taking and other specific areas covered by the ADA.

Representative Matters

  • 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
  • Provides training on several topics, including prohibited harassment and discrimination, the FMLA, and ADA
  • Counsels national testing organizations regarding compliance with the ADA and other accessibility-related laws and regulations
  • Counsels non-profit organizations and provides advice on employment policies, handbooks, and practices
  • Works with startup and small businesses in creating employment policies and employment or independent contractor agreements

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.


Co-author, "D.C. Circuit Decision Clouds Joint Employer Battle," Ballard Spahr alert, January 15, 2019

Co-author, "Mayor Kenney Signs Philadelphia Fair Workweek and Minimum Wage Bills Into Law," Ballard Spahr alert, December 27, 2018

Co-author, "Consent Decree in BarBri Case Includes Compliance With WCAG Standards for Digital Content," Ballard Spahr alert, January 31, 2018 

Co-author, "U.S. District Court Invalidates Pending FLSA Rules," Ballard Spahr alert, September 5, 2017 

Co-author, "Federal Appeals Court Rules Mortgage Underwriters Owed Overtime for Work in Excess of 40 Hours in Workweek," Ballard Spahr alert, July 11, 2017

Co-author, "Managing Divisive Politics in the Workplace," Society for Human Resources Management, February 27, 2017

Co-author, "U.S. District Court Enters Injunction Preventing Enforcement of New FLSA Rules," Ballard Spahr alert, November 23, 2016

Co-author, "DOJ Continues ADA Web Accessibility Enforcement," Ballard Spahr alert, October 19, 2016

Co-author, "Pa. Superior Court Affirms Punitive Damage Award in Breach of Noncompetition Agreement," Ballard Spahr alert, September 21, 2016

Co-author, "Ninth Circuit Sides with NLRB in Divide over Employee Arbitration Waiver Agreements," Ballard Spahr alert, August 25, 2016

Co-author, "NLRB Instructs Regional Offices To Report Complaints Issued against Federal Contractors," Ballard Spahr alert, July 12, 2016

Co-author, "OSHA Issues Final Rules for Online Posting of Injury and Illness Data, Discouraging Retaliation," Ballard Spahr alert, May 16, 2016

Co-author, "Divided Supreme Court Allows Public Unions’ Agency Fee Collection to Continue," Ballard Spahr alert, March 30, 2016

Co-author, "Northwestern University Football Players Can’t Form Union, NLRB Says and Refuses to Determine if They Are Employees," Ballard Spahr alert, August 17, 2015

Co-author, "Federal Court Notes Flaws in EEOC Stance on Severance Agreements," Ballard Spahr alert, October 10, 2014

Co-author, "Calif. Supreme Court Sides Against NLRB, Finds Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements Enforceable," Ballard Spahr alert, June 27, 2014

Co-author, "Employee Benefits and the Unionized Workforce," chapter in ERISA: A Comprehensive Guide, 2011-2015 editions

Co-author, "Telecommuting May Be Reasonable ADA Accommodation for Some Workers, Sixth Circuit Holds," Ballard Spahr alert, April 29, 2014

Speaking Engagements

"Rise of the Gig Economy: Legal Issues All Companies Should Know About Flexible and Contingent Staffing,"The Future of Human Resources: Cutting Edge Issues for Every Employer, Ballard Spahr webinar, November 8, 2018

Speaker, "AI, Automation and the Workforce of Tomorrow – Today!" Ballard Spahr webinar, September 19, 2018

"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

Community Activities

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.

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)

New Jersey


D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals