Barbara Rittinger Rigo focuses her practice on representing management in a wide range of labor and employment matters, including:
- Trials for race, gender, age, disability and national origin discrimination claims
- Family and Medical Leave Act litigation
- Wage and hour class actions
- Trade secret law
She defends clients in all types of industries, including transportation, hospitality and pharmaceutical, in state and federal courts, as well as before administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and state and federal departments of labor. Barbara focuses a large part of her practice on counseling employers on day-to-day compliance with local, state and federal statutes, such as:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Title VII
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)
- Wage payment collection laws
- Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN)
She is a frequent speaker on those and other topics. She also drafts and reviews employer policies and employment and severance agreements for clients spanning numerous industries.
Barbara is a member of the Discrimination Commission for the Township of Haverford. She is also a member of Littler Mendelson’s Diversity Advisory Committee. Prior to joining Littler, she was an associate at two large firms in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. In law school, she was a senior editor of the Dickinson Law Review.
Q: What path led to your career as an Employment and Labor Attorney? What qualities make someone excel in your field?
BR: I always wanted to be a lawyer, probably because my dad is a lawyer. A lot of people fall into law because they don’t know what else to do, but becoming a lawyer was always my goal. I became involved with employment and labor law, because I was into Constitutional law, but it’s really because I have the most interesting cases. Every day, my work is like the Jerry Springer show. I love the interesting human stories and freak shows. I love people claiming that something crazy happened and then deconstructing their story to find out what actually happened.
I think for labor and employment, unlike a corporate lawyer, practicality is a key trait. Being able to listen and figure out what is important. A lot of times the things that people focus on aren’t really important to their lawsuit, so I help them understand what is important and come to a resolution they can live with. To be successful as a lawyer, being responsive is also incredibly important. I hope that my clients feel like they can talk to me and that I’m quick to respond. I also like to prove my point. It’s an annoying trait in a kid (as my mom tells me and as I deal with every day with my kids) but it’s a good trait in a lawyer. I don’t think my nature would be suited to a less adversarial profession.
Q: How do you juggle the demands on your time? What brings you balance?
BR: I’m really lucky that I work with people who respect my need for balance, and I have throughout my career. My husband, Steve, travels a lot. My colleagues were really supportive and respected my ability do this job in a flexible way, even if it wasn’t the way everyone else does it. But what goes along with that is that you have to be prepared for people to think you’re less dedicated and not let it bother you. I really like my work; I love doing what I do. I’m really lucky to have had mentors that supported me and gave me the flexibility to keep doing this job. And when the job was less flexible than I wanted because of a trial or other work obligations, I’m lucky to have a husband, parents, family and babysitters (who are like family) who helped pick up the slack when I needed it. Otherwise it never would have worked.
Smart phones also changed my life so that I can have the balance to work from anywhere, including being on top of work when I’m with my kids or volunteering at their school. I try to be home for dinner every night. Even if I have more work to do, I do it after the kids are in bed. I always wanted to be part of my kids’ education, volunteering, taking the kids to school. My regular schedule was that I took my kids to school so I could connect to them and that world and then go to work. I want their teachers to know who I am. I’m lucky to have a job where I can come in a little late.
Q: What advice would you give to an earlier version of yourself?
Part of our development at work includes personality tests. They really are dead on. Through this test they had us take at work I could see that I hit the roof quickly with stress, but I come down quickly too. Over time I’ve learned how to not hit the roof as much. I probably wasted a lot of time being frustrated. I’ve learned that it’s important not to take things so personally.
Q: What is the most rewarding thing you’ve done?
BR: My kids. There’s nothing else that matters to me as much as them and their accomplishments. They’re not perfect, so working through their problems is rewarding too.
Q: Life is beauty and pain. Tell me about the role of pain in your life.
BR: I have that Irish-Catholic guilt that says that things can always be worse, and I am so blessed. I feel so lucky. Certainly sometimes life gives you problems and pain and I look at it like pain makes you stronger, because you have to push through it. No one ever solved a problem by staying in bed. I like to push through problems to try to solve them, and if I can’t, I try to look at the positive and how blessed I am to have what I have. I do complain and I’m sarcastic, but I still have to push thru it- and I always try to.
Q: How does being Irish-Catholic shape your view of the world?
BR: I think it’s just about community- whatever community or communities you choose. For me, in part, it’s my religion. Whatever your religion, I hope it impacts you to strive to be a better person and to do the right thing. I’m not always perfect, but it gives me some kind moral compass. Every religion gives you that, so it doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as you have something that guides you to do the right thing or be a better person.
Q: What question did I miss? What else should I know about you?
BR: One thing that I think about a lot is that if I had the chance to do it all over again would I do the same thing? I’m sure I would. Staying at work wasn’t the easiest choice after having kids, but I’m grateful that I made that choice and grateful for the people who helped me make it. A lot of people look back on their careers and lives and wish they had done things differently, but I think I’d do the same things again. I’d maybe just try to have had more fun doing it. And yelled less….