Norvell, Hanna Fister

Hanna Norvell




Hanna Norvell represents employers in all matters regarding employees and represents business owners and operators in matters regarding accessibility for persons with disabilities, including the accessibility of buildings, public areas, parking lots, services, residential facilities, websites, and more.

Board Certified in Labor and Employment law, Hanna Norvell has represented employers since 1996 in matters related to:

  • employment decisions;
  • employee and management training;
  • internal or external investigations or audits;
  • employee and independent contractor classification, as well as joint employer (co-employer) or integrated employer issues involving staffing companies or affiliated companies;
  • allegations made by employees or independent contractors under various federal or state laws, including claims concerning compensation, hiring, promotion, termination, retaliation, harassment, discrimination (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Section 1981), Sabine Pilot and whistleblower claims regarding reporting of or refusal to perform alleged illegal conduct, wages and hours (Fair Labor Standards Act and other overtime and minimum wage laws), as well as public policy or contract-based claims;
  • disability accommodation (ADA and the interactive process), military leaves (USERRA), other leaves of absence, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), drug testing, medical exams;
  • layoffs, furloughs, voluntary separation or retirement programs or other staff reductions (including WARN Act),
  • unemployment compensation claims, workers’ compensation retaliation,
  • workplace violence or misconduct;
  • protected concerted activity (NLRB), employee privacy, employee social media use;
  • background checks, applicant testing, and other hiring screens and processes,
  • multi-state employer handbooks and policies and agreements, and
  • due diligence and representations or warranties regarding employment issues involved in mergers and acquisitions.

Hanna has extensive experience in drafting, enforcing, and litigating executive and other employment agreements, executive and other employee separation or severance agreements, executive compensation and benefits agreements, incentive, retention and severance plans, non-disclosure, non-disparagement, non-competition, non-solicitation and non-hire agreements, and in litigating claims of tortious interference, unfair competition, misappropriation of trade secrets and confidential information, alleged violations of the Texas Uniform Trade Secret Act (TUTSA), and other uniform trade secrets act statutes, breach of contract, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Hanna defends owners and operators of public accommodations (retailers, hotels, financial service providers, restaurants, stadiums, theaters, medical providers, website providers, and other businesses and commercial entities) in claims regarding equal access to facilities, services, products, reservations, tickets, websites, information, policy modifications, eligibility criteria, and providing effective means of communication including relay calls, interpreters, and other methods, brought under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and comparable state laws. Hanna also advises owners and operators of public accommodations regarding planning and designing for compliance with the ADA, including the 1991 ADAAG (ADA Accessibility Guidelines) and 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, comparable state and local guidelines, as well as the impact of accessibility issues on potential sales or purchases of public accommodations.

Hanna advises owners and managers, sellers and purchasers, of multi-family housing developments regarding Fair Housing Act (FHA) compliance and issues, including design and construction, discrimination, policy or practice reasonable accommodations, reasonable property modifications, and defends claims of Fair Housing Act violations, as well as assists with agency requirements, inspections, corrective actions, policy and form drafting, ADA and other accessibility requirements under state and federal laws.

Hanna's experience includes working with entities of various sizes and in every stage of development, from tiny start-ups to well-established global companies, in industries ranging from manufacturing to bio-technology to financial services to hospitality, retail and energy.

Hanna is Co-Chair of the Firm's global Labor & Employment Practice Group, and a member of the Firm's Board of Directors. She has served as a member on the Firm's Leadership Succession Committee, co-chair of the Firm's Women’s Initiative, Co-Chair of the Firm's global Consumer Product Retail and Franchise Industry Group, Co-Hiring Partner for the Houston Office, member of the Firm's Alternative Fee Arrangement Committee, and on the Houston office Hiring and Diversity Committees. She is a frequent speaker and writer on employment-related topics.

Hanna is well versed in the numerous issues stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak, such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), stay-at-home and related orders, and all of their impacts on employers, employees and independent contractors, including critical infrastructure and essential services determinations, paid and unpaid leave, layoffs, pay reductions, reduced hours, furloughs, downsizings, expanded unemployment, and their interaction with numerous local, state and federal laws and regulations. Many of these issues have significant interactions with employee benefits, tax, Small Business Administration, and other issues, where we collaborate closely with our colleagues experienced in those practice areas.

Representative Experience

Title VII & Related Tort Claim Experience (Discrimination, Harassment, Retaliation, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Claims)

  • Defeated class certification and obtained dismissal of 25-plaintiff race discrimination lawsuit against manufacturing company.
  • Defended, litigated and resolved various Title VII and comparable state law lawsuits and complaints regarding alleged conduct, comments, assaults, practices, hostile work environment, pornography, inappropriate e-mail or internet usage, and other forms of alleged harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
  • Obtained numerous summary judgment dismissals in federal and state courts of race, age, and gender discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims filed against various clients in several industries, including energy, manufacturing, and technology.
  • Obtained Rule 12 (b)(6) dismissal with prejudice of all claims against employer, including claims of defamation, tortious interference, intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract, public policy violations, negligent retention/supervision and negligence.
  • Resolved class-wide disparate impact race discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  • Handled as first and second-chair various trials and arbitrations of discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims.
  • Conducted or supervised internal investigations of numerous harassment, discrimination, whistleblower, and retaliation claims, including those based on sex, race, age, nationality, religion, FMLA leave, disability, and other protected categories.
  • Trained client managers as well as all client employees on best practices for compliance with Title VII, including drafting new policies and implementing ongoing training.
  • Advised regarding the internal handling of responses to employee complaints and charges of discrimination.
  • Resolved race discrimination litigation initiated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • Obtained dismissals of hundreds of charges of discrimination, harassment and retaliation brought to the EEOC or comparable state or local agencies.

Trade Secret, Non-Competition, Non-Solicitation Experience

  • Prosecuted numerous claims for several companies in the oilfield services, manufacturing, retail, consulting, financial services, software, development, insurance and healthcare industries regarding misappropriation of trade secrets, violation of the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA) or comparable statutes in other states, tortious interference with employee relations or business relations, and breach of contract (non-disclosure, non-competition, non-solicitation, non-disparagement, or other restrictive covenant provisions) against competing companies and former employees.
  • Defended claims by former executives and employees regarding allegedly unenforceable or overbroad non-competition and non-solicitation contractual provisions.
  • Drafted agreements for, and counseled clients in several states regarding, enforceability of non-compete, non-solicit, and non-disclosure covenants in several industries, including energy, oilfield services, computer software, retail, medical, manufacturing, and more.
  • Conducted multi-state internal investigations for clients concerning appropriate use of confidential and trade secret information belonging to client, as well as that of other companies.
  • Counseled clients regarding appropriate hiring decisions regarding applicants with non-disclosure, non-solicitation and non-competition agreements benefiting former employers.

ADA Public Accommodations, Fair Housing Act Experience

  • Serve as national defense counsel for all ADA lawsuits concerning accessibility of accommodations for a large national hotel chain.
  • Defended various clients nationwide in hundreds of lawsuits and administrative complaints from private litigants, state agencies, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Justice, regarding equal access for persons with disabilities in residential facilities and public accommodation facilities and services of all types, including commercial websites, restaurants, theaters, hotels, stadiums, outdoor concerts and festivals, car washes, museums, retail stores, parking lots/structures, medical and office buildings.
  • Defended and counseled public accommodations regarding equal access issues involving relay calls, websites, customer presentations, policies, eligibility criteria, and effective means of communication for retailers, medical providers, financial services companies, government entities and more.
  • Counseled and assisted multiple national retail, hospitality, housing, financial services, and other companies regarding ongoing ADA, FHA, and state law issues and compliance with the 1991 ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, Fair Housing Act Design Manual and other safe harbors, Texas Accessibility Guidelines, regulations promulgated by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), and comparable guidelines in California, Florida and multiple other states.
  • Counseled clients regarding ADA and FHA obligations in agreements for sale or lease or management services and as a part of due diligence involved in acquisitions and sales of multi-family housing facilities, joint venture agreements, and other day to day operational issues.
  • Counseled public accommodations and residential facilities on altering and designing current and new construction to be compliant with all applicable accessibility laws, including conducting inspections and ongoing plan review.

Executive Compensation, Separation, Due Diligence, and Employment Agreement Experience

  • Negotiated and drafted numerous executive employment agreements, executive compensation plans, incentive and retention plans and agreements, and executive separation/severance agreements for companies involved in various industries including energy, manufacturing, retail, banking, oilfield services, healthcare, insurance, accounting, real estate, and software.
  • Advised and counseled employers on the use of arbitration agreements for some or all potential employment-related claims.
  • Reviewed, analyzed, and summarized pertinent aspects of thousands of employment agreements as part of due diligence for an acquisition of certain healthcare companies.
  • Performed nationwide due diligence for numerous sales and purchase agreements involving companies in the energy, oilfield services, manufacturing, insurance, healthcare and other industries, including issues involving non-disclosure and non-competition obligations, employment agreements, employee claims, employee compensation, employee classification, and employee safety.
  • Obtained summary judgment dismissal of former executive's financial "whistleblower" (Sabine Pilot) claim against energy company which involved the interpretation of his executive compensation terms.
  • Defended high profile fraud and breach of contract claim brought against energy company by former executive.
  • Defended "for cause" dismissal decisions for several employers in breach of contract claims.
  • Handled numerous nationwide layoffs, voluntary separation plans, WARN Act notices, and furloughs for clients in a variety of industries.

Wage and Hour (FLSA) and Employee Classification Experience

  • Defended multi-plaintiff and collective action claims for unpaid overtime and misclassification of employees in numerous industries, including oilfield services, retail, healthcare, and construction.
  • Defended various clients in U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) investigations covering numerous statutes the DOL enforces, including issues of joint employer status, minimum wage and overtime, misclassification of exempt employees, child labor, misclassification of independent contractors, Service Contract Act, Davis Bacon Act, and more, including oilfield services, retail, healthcare, and manufacturing industries.
  • Counseled numerous clients on wage and hour compliance including minimum wage, overtime, breaks, donning/doffing time, travel time, work from home or from smartphones, off the clock hours, Affordable Care Act changes, exemptions from overtime, independent contractor status, HR training, job descriptions, time recording and pay-related policies, internal audits, and collective action litigation.

FMLA/GINA/ADA Experience

  • Counseled, trained, and assisted various employers regarding handling employee medical issues, accommodations and leaves  in compliance with overlapping duties under FMLA, ADA, GINA and workers compensation.
  • Defended employers in several FMLA lawsuits and Department of Labor investigations regarding both FMLA interference and retaliation claims.
  • Counseled clients regarding the interactive process and responding to numerous types of job accommodation requests under the ADA, and provided extensive Human Resource department training and policies regarding accommodations.
  • Assisted employers with policy and form revisions required by GINA.
  • Obtained judgment as a matter of law in FMLA lawsuit and defended appeal to Fifth Circuit. Judgment we obtained later became part of revised FMLA regulations.

Professional History

  • Partner, Locke Lord LLP
  • Co-Chair, Firm's global Labor & Employment Practice Group

Professional Affiliations and Recognitions

  • Named, The Best Lawyers in America, Employment Law/Management (2013-2020)
  • Selected by peers as a "Texas Rising Star" (2004-2009, 2011)
  • Member, State Bar of Texas
  • Member, Houston Bar Association, Labor & Employment Section 
    • Council Member (2008-2010)
  • Member, Houston Bar Association Gender Initiative Task Force (2008-2010)
  • Member, Women's Energy Network (2008-2011)

Community Leadership

  • Former Board member, Avondale House, a non-profit institution assisting individuals and families affected by autism
  • Former Board member, Lighthouse of Houston, a non-profit institution assisting visually impaired and low vision individuals
  • Former member, Junior League of Houston
  • Middle School Sunday School Small Group Leader, First Presbyterian Church, Houston, Texas, former elementary and pre-school small group leader
  • Wife and mother of three active children involved in school and church activities, volleyball, football, lacrosse, dance, hunting, fishing, spending time in the Texas Hill country and more

Board Certifications

  • Labor and Employment Law by Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 2001