John counsels employers with both unionized and non-union workforces on every aspect of the employment relationship, including discipline and termination issues, medical leaves of absence, wage and hour compliance, workplace safety concerns, drug/alcohol in the workplace and in conducting internal investigations. John offers guidance regarding non-discrimination laws and addresses claims of discrimination based upon race, sex, national origin, age, religion and other protected characteristics.
John serves as a resource for clients involved with claims of sexual or other discriminatory harassment and provides practical guidance responsibly to address and resolve such claims.
He has significant experience assisting employers in accommodating persons with disabilities and otherwise complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
He defends claims of unlawful retaliation based upon employees pursuing civil rights claims.
John also provides guidance to clients on a regular basis as to rights and obligations under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
He has appeared in appellate courts throughout Ohio, as well as before the Sixth Circuit and D.C. Courts of Appeals in federal cases.
John assists employers in drafting and promulgating restrictive covenants designed to avoid unfair competition, such as non-compete, non-solicitation and confidentiality agreements. He appears in court to obtain temporary restraining orders and other injunctive relief as to former employees who violate these restrictive covenants.
He regularly handles administrative proceedings before the Wage & Hour Office, the OFCCP regarding affirmative action obligations, OSHA, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He defends employers and management representatives sued in court by former employees claiming “wrongful termination” on a variety of grounds.
John’s experience representing employers with unionized work forces includes extensive involvement with the National Labor Relations Board, including counseling employers in representation elections and as to unfair labor practice charges. He has extensive first chair experience negotiating labor contracts for several employers involving many different unions, including the Teamsters, UAW, IBEW and the Steelworkers Union.
John regularly counsels employers as to contract administration and interpretation and successfully has arbitrated many grievances involving both disciplinary actions and contract interpretation.
John advises clients as to a wide variety of issues that arise in the workplace on a daily basis, including discipline/termination and leave-related issues which arise with little advance notice. He recognizes that immediate responsiveness is critical to best serve in-house counsel, human resources professionals and management representatives.
John drafts and revises employment contracts and personnel policies, including those concerning non-discrimination, the FMLA, electronic communications, and confidential business and technical information.
John regularly conducts in-house training sessions for management and supervisors to assist them in complying with the wide array of laws impacting the workplace. John is a frequent speaker at Calfee’s regular half-day Labor and Employment seminars and at the firm’s “Workplace Breakfast Series” sessions.
He serves as a member of the firm’s Practice Planning & Growth Committee (formerly known as the Executive Committee).
Since 2014, John has been recognized for his work by Chambers USA in Labor & Employment in Ohio. Most recently, John was ranked in the Chambers USA 2021 Guide in Band 4. “[John] provides outstanding service and great advice,” said one source interviewed by Chambers USA researchers, along with another source who mentioned John was “very knowledgeable.” In Chambers USA 2020, John was described by a client as "extremely professional, knowledgeable and a good resource in each and every case we pursue. He is proficient at putting together a case that is sound, logical and meets the needs of the company."
He also has been selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© (2013-2022) in the areas of Employment Law – Management and Labor Law – Management. He is ranked by Benchmark Litigation as a “Labor & Employment Star – Midwest" (2019-2022). He has an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell and is listed in Cleveland’s Top-Rated Lawyers Guide.
Honors & Recognitions
- Chambers USA, Labor & Employment, Band 4 (2014-2021)
- Benchmark Litigation, Labor & Employment Star – Midwest (2019-2022)
- The Best Lawyers in America©, Employment Law – Management and Labor Law – Management (2013-2022)
- Martindale-Hubbell, AV Preeminent rating
- Cleveland’s Top-Rated Lawyers Guide
J.D., University of Virginia School of Law, 1986
B.A., cum laude, Harvard University, 1982
"The collaboration with John Cernelich and Jason Dejelo has yielded excellent results in our three-year history of working with Calfee, Halter & Griswold. The time and attention to detail in preparing for and facilitating the arbitration process on behalf of our company by John and Jason has provided further confirmation and clarity around historical contract language, which has been in place for decades. This has helped our company continue to operate efficiently and has promoted positive employee engagement with our local union leadership and the workforce. We look forward to continued success in our relationship with Calfee."
– Calfee client, as reported by U.S. News – Best Lawyers® in the 2020 “Best Law Firms” rankings report