Marlén is a commercial litigator and labor and employment lawyer who represents franchisors in courts, alternative dispute resolution venues, and before government agencies nationwide. Her extensive litigation experience includes the enforcement of contract and intellectual property rights and the defense of claims for breach of contract, business torts, violations of franchise disclosure and relationship laws, state consumer protection law violations, vicarious liability, and joint employment. Below are some representative matters:
- - Won summary judgment for franchisor in a case arising out of the termination of two franchises for failure to comply with the franchisor’s mandatory menus and promotional programs, involving counterclaims for fraud, breach of contract and the duty of good faith and fair dealing, declaratory and injunctive relief, the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, and tortious interference.
- - Co-chaired arbitration resulting in a defense victory for the franchisor where the franchisee sought damages in excess of $1 million.
- - Defeated a franchisee’s wrongful termination state lawsuit against the franchisor and obtained an award of attorneys’ fees and costs, then sued the former franchisee in federal court for trademark infringement and violation of a non-compete and won preliminary injunction, motion for contempt sanctions, an award of attorneys’ fees and costs, and dismissal of all counterclaims with prejudice.
- - Lead counsel for franchisor in multiple federal lawsuits brought by franchisees. Marlén briefed an appeal to the Seventh Circuit and secured a stay of the litigation while the appeal was pending.
- - Obtained favorable settlements for a franchisor in two federal cases where the franchisees claimed breach of contract, fraud, and franchise disclosure violations and sought millions in damages. After taking their depositions, the franchisees settled for nominal amounts.
- - Secured dismissals of various charges of discrimination and harassment brought against franchisors by employees of their franchisees before federal and state agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Marlén also helps clients on a broad range of labor and employment issues. She has successfully defended wage and hour class actions arising under the Fair Labor Standards Act and state law and claims arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and other statutes. In addition, Marlén has enforced employers’ non-competes, litigated unemployment compensation benefits claims, up to appeals, and represented management in traditional labor disputes, including in proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
An important part of Marlén’s practice involves counseling and litigation prevention. Understanding the complexities of labor and employment law and franchising, she works closely with clients to provide strategic guidance on joint employment, vicarious liability, and labor and employment law issues arising in the franchise relationship, corporate transactions, and due diligence. She is well-versed in auditing and advising on franchise training materials, operations manuals, technology systems, and contracts with franchisees and third party vendors, in addition to preparing employment policies, handbooks, and agreements.
Prior to joining Cheng Cohen, Marlén practiced at Winston & Strawn LLP in Chicago representing clients in a wide range of complex commercial litigation and labor and employment matters. She also was part of a team that successfully represented a pro bono client on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in the criminal conviction being vacated.
Marlén is a member of the American Bar Association’s Forum on Franchising and Section of Labor and Employment Law, the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, and the International Franchise Association. She serves on the IFA’s Diversity Institute Board and is a topic and article editor for the ABA’s Franchise Law Journal. Marlén also is active in her community. She serves on the Junior Leadership Board of the National Immigrant Justice Center and provides pro bono representation to Spanish-speaking clients in various immigration matters.