Monthly Feature: Get to Know... Terry O'Neil

March 1, 2018

As a labor and employment attorney, Terry O’Neil negotiates labor contracts for our schools with teacher unions and for municipalities with unions representing police, fire, sanitation workers and transportation personnel.  His work at the negotiating table, which includes ensuring that the process is fair and financially feasible, impacts every citizen’s daily lives and taxes.  Terry is known to say, “If financially an employer can’t afford something, or it isn’t sustainable, then the employer should not agree to it.” 

Terry’s practice at Bond includes collective bargaining, arbitration, unfair and improper labor practices, employment discrimination, class actions, and wage and hour matters.  He has represented more than 20 school districts and regularly handles “high profile” disciplinary proceedings, including an Education Law Section 3020-a case with what then was the highest fine ($100,000) in the State’s history.  

Municipality and school district clients have come from across the state and on Long Island, including Nassau and Westchester Counties, Long Beach, Buffalo, Hempstead, Garden City, Bronxville, Scarsdale and the William Floyd School District. 

Terry’s renown in the labor and employment world is not confined to the public sector or even to the New York metropolitan area. He has represented businesses and companies in negotiations and litigation throughout the United States and has experience in the printing, recording, service, restaurant and higher education industries. Terry is currently labor counsel to Pace University.

Terry is a cum laude graduate of St. John’s University and the School of Law where he was a Thomas More scholar and served as Publications Editor of the St. John’s Law Review. Terry eventually returned to St. John’s Law as an adjunct professor for many years, teaching Public Sector Labor Law.

Terry received an offer from a “white shoe” New York City law firm upon graduation. He turned it down because he didn’t think it would be a good fit. “There wasn’t much mobility. Every attorney wore a white shirt; and they never took their jackets off in the office. I didn’t even own a white shirt at the time, and to this day you will never see me wearing a jacket in my office.”

Terry instead joined the Mineola, Long Island labor and employment law firm, Rains, Pogrebin & Scher, where he launched his career and stayed for 34 years.  As the Taylor Law had just been enacted, it was an auspicious time to begin work in public sector labor law. “Public sector labor is very different than the private sector in that it contributes to the greater public good; from taxpayer savings to ensuring citizens get the services that are necessary to conduct their daily lives.”

His reputation in the public sector was made early on when Long Island’s Uniondale school district retained him.  He later represented Nassau County’s largest school district, negotiating the first health insurance contribution by a teachers’ union in 20 years.  “The union fought hard, knowing if they agreed, the rest of the districts in Nassau would have to follow suit.  They were right. Now most teachers contribute 20 percent or more towards health insurance in Nassau County.”

Never one to rest on past accomplishments, Terry’s dynamism includes prodigious publishing and speaking engagements. He has published numerous texts on labor law in law reviews and labor law journals. He frequently speaks at the NYS Conference of Mayors, NYS School Boards Association, NYS Bar Association, among others.

He was one of eight editors of the first text on Public Sector Labor Law published by the New York State Bar Association and he co-authored with E.J. McMahon an in-depth analysis of 40 years of the Taylor Law and its effects in New York State entitled, “Taylor Made: The Cost and Consequences of New York's Public Sector Labor Law.” 

Listed for more than 10 years among The Best Lawyers in America, in 2017  and 2018 Terry was named “Lawyer of the Year Employment Law—Management, Long Island”, by that organization. Martindale-Hubbell® has rated him AV Preeminent Rated, its highest rating. Terry is regularly recognized on the New York Super Lawyers list.  In 2016, Terry was recognized for “Leadership in Law” by Long Island Business News, the region’s business weekly and on numerous occasions was named among the Who's Who in Labor Law.

Terry is a member of the Executive Board, Labor and Employment Law Section of the New York State Bar Association.

Terry continues to be in demand around New York State and the United States as municipalities and school districts try to negotiate sustainable contracts and avoid strikes.