Attorney John Houston Pope’s practice predominately involves the litigation of controversies, but he also counsels clients on lowering litigation risks and exposures.
John started his legal career in Florida, as a law clerk to a federal judge in Jacksonville, then moved to New York City, where he pursued a practice national in scope. In 2013, he obtained board certification from The Florida Bar in the area of Labor & Employment Law. From 2015 to 2022, he has been named to the New York Metro Super Lawyers list in the areas of Employee Benefits, Employment Litigation: Defense, and Appellate. He conducts his practice today out of the firm’s New York and St. Petersburg offices, residing in south Florida.
John regularly represents clients before federal and state courts in New York and Florida, among others, as well as administrative agencies. He has first-chaired jury and bench trials and conducted arbitrations. He has successfully argued appeals in the Appellate Division in New York and in the Supreme Court of Florida. John also has initiated actions on behalf of clients to manage controversies preemptively with former employees.
John’s practice covers the following:
- Representing management in all aspects of employment-related matters
- Representing plan sponsors and fiduciaries in the defense of claims brought under ERISA involving changes to plan benefit offerings, breach of fiduciary duty, and denial of benefits under pension and welfare benefit plans
- Litigating compensation issues, including the valuation of stock option awards, the entitlement to commission compensation under New York Labor Law, and the distinction between employees and independent contractors under wage and hour laws and benefit plans
- Advising and litigating issues arising under Florida’s noncompete statute, Fla. Stat. §542.335
- Litigating a wide range of media and First Amendment disputes, as well as commercial law cases
John’s extensive experience in employment law litigation spans a broad spectrum of issues, including promotion, termination, and harassment claims based on race, national origin, religion, sex, age, and disability; retaliation claims; whistleblower claims; wrongful discharge suits; and other employment-related torts. His cases have included single-plaintiff, collective, and class actions. He is well versed in the federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws, including the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws, the Florida Civil Rights Act, and the patchwork of county ordinances throughout Florida.
John’s ERISA litigation experience ranges from single-plaintiff claims for benefits to class action challenges concerning the administration and design of pension plans, welfare benefit plans, and voluntary incentive departure plans. He aggressively pursues strategies that focus and confine discovery, thereby containing client costs and obtaining early dispositive rulings. He also frequently advises clients on litigation-related risks involved in changes to retiree and other employee benefits.
John’s experience in litigating entertainment, media, and First Amendment issues is diverse. He has defended suits involving copyright and trademark infringement, defamation, the right of access to public records, and a reporter’s privilege not to reveal confidential sources. John also has litigated a variety of commercial cases, including breach of contract arising out of a business acquisition, accountant malpractice, securities fraud, and the refund of a multimillion-dollar accumulated earnings credit.
Having argued more than two dozen appeals before both state and federal courts and written more than 50 appellate briefs, John is a seasoned appellate attorney. Many of his cases have involved noteworthy rulings and have resulted in published decisions, including:
- Lauture v. IBM, 216 F.3d 258 (2d Cir. 2000) (employment discrimination; Section 1981)
- Adams v. Lucent Technologies Inc., 2007 WL 14593 (S.D. Ohio 2007) (age discrimination case brought by nearly 400 plaintiffs), aff’d, 284 Fed. Appx. 296 (6th Cir. 2008)
- Browne v. CNN America, Inc., 1999 WL 1084236 (S.D.N.Y. 1999) (ADEA, ADA, NYS & NYC human rights laws), aff’d, 229 F.3d 1135 (2d Cir. 2000)
- 32BJ North Pension Fund v. Nutrition Mgmt. Serv. Co., 935 F.3d 93 (2d Cir. 2019) (union pension fund could not unilaterally impose its rules on an employer that did not expressly agree to them)
- Chastain v. AT&T Corp., 558 F.3d 1177 (10th Cir. 2009), aff’g, 2007 WL 3357516 (W.D. Okla. 2007) (absolving transferor company of liabilities for benefit changes made by spin-off corporation)
- In re Lucent Technologies Death Benefit ERISA Litig., 541 F.3d 250 (3d Cir. 2008), aff’g 2006 WL 3437586 (D.N.J. 2006) (successful defense of decision to eliminate employee welfare benefit that represented $460 million liability to company)
- Bishop v. Lucent Technologies Inc., 520 F.3d 516 (6th Cir. 2008), aff’g 2007 WL 838945 (S.D. Ohio 2007) (breach of fiduciary duty litigation)
- Waksman v. IBM Separation Allowance Plan, 138 Fed. Appx. 370 (2d Cir. 2005) (Section 502 benefits denial)
- Sandberg v. KPMG Peat Marwick LLP, 111 F.3d 331 (2d Cir. 1997) (Section 510)
John’s commitment to the provision of pro bono services includes his longtime representation of Florida death-row inmate Tommy Zeigler, on whose behalf he has advocated since 1991. John appeared in a segment on A&E Investigative Reports Tenth Anniversary Show titled Death Penalty on Trial in which he discussed the case (A&E Television Networks, aired October 2001).
Prior to joining Epstein Becker Green, John was a law clerk to Judge Howell W. Melton of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida and a partner in a New York City-based litigation boutique firm.
John frequently speaks on employment-related topics.