Thomas H. Wilson

Thomas H. Wilson Partner, Labor & Employment

Tom is an accomplished labor and employment lawyer with almost 30 years of experience counseling clients on matters impacting their business processes and objectives. As head of Vinson & Elkins’ Employment, Labor and OSHA practice, Tom is sought after by clients outside the United States for advice on their U.S. operations, and by U.S. clients for his direction on matters related to managing a global workforce. His representative reach spans Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia, including China.

Tom advises employers regarding union relations and assists them with collective bargaining negotiations and liability issues arising from union sponsored multi-employer pension plans. He represents clients in a variety of industries dealing with heavily unionized businesses, specifically refineries, chemical plants, and port operations. Tom has represented clients before the United States Supreme court, as well as state and federal courts and agencies.

Experience Highlights

  • Represented a property management company with agreements and work visas related to the placement of employees in Russia to establish and operate a university campus
  • Assisted an oil and gas exploration and production company in the UAE with retention of UK-based executives to work in Dubai
  • Represented a technology and social networking company in negotiating agreements related to employment in Europe and the Middle East
  • Assisting a U.S. gas producer with union negotiations involving a new workforce in West Virginia
  • Assisted an oilfield services client in negotiations and strategy related to union relationships in Singapore
  • Advised an energy client in its initial negotiations with several unions resulting from the purchase of gas terminals in New York and New Jersey
  • Assisted an offshore oil and gas exploration and production client with relocating operations from Houston, Texas, to Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Representing a steel manufacturing client in multiple proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board, arbitrations under collective bargaining agreements, and union negotiations

International Employment Issues

  • Represented a Belgian company sued in Texas state court by a Belgian employee alleging various contract and tort claims relating to stock options in the Belgian company’s U.S. parent; the Texas Supreme Court reversed lower court rulings that the case could proceed in Texas state court and dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction
  • Advised an international oil company on employment matters involved in disposition of a refinery in Aruba
  • Advised  a U.S. communications company on employment matters in the establishment and reorganization of businesses in India, Austria, and France


  • A publicly traded offshore drilling company in all aspects of its executive compensation and employee benefit matters
  • Advised a large hospital system and other clients regarding the legal issues raised by potential corporate campaigns by unions
  • Represented a port warehouse and short-haul trucking company on union matters in ports in California, New Jersey, and Ohio 
  • Represented a large supermarket portfolio in litigation related to the unfunded liability of union sponsored, multi-employer pension plans claiming damages of $64 million
  • Defended a large international cruise line against claims of denial of access by disabled passengers in cases in state and federal court; obtained the dismissal of the class certification petition in state court and eventually won summary judgment for the client in the state court litigation; in federal court, obtained a grant of motion to dismiss; and on appeal, the Court of Appeals chose an alternative reason for granting the motion to dismiss, which was then appealed by the plaintiffs to the United States Supreme Court; the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals, but effectively greatly limited the claims in the case to exclude any structural changes to the client’s ships

Emergency Response & Crisis Management

  • Represented a large petrochemical client on OSHA issues throughout the U.S. following catastrophic explosions at the client’s plants; currently handling litigation that contests OSHA citations, assisting client with compliance with a settlement agreement, and advising client concerning ongoing OSHA investigations
  • Recently tried several cases for a large meat packing company for OSHA citations, ranging from machine guarding to lockout requirements in Colorado, Minnesota, and California; obtained OSHA’s withdrawal of all citations before trial following a near fatal stabbing accident, obtained dismissal after trial of fall protection and personal protection equipment citations and citations concerning the availability of bathrooms

Mergers & Acquisitions

  • Representing Continental Airlines in the $3.2 billion all-stock merger with United Airlines, creating the world’s largest airline
  • Advised and negotiated on Labor and employment matters for Plains Pipeline Company in its purchase of pipeline assets in the U.S. and Canada
  • Advised Duke Energy on employment matters in purchase of Canadian company with assets in the U.S.


Contact Details


T +1.713.758.2042
F +1.713.615.5704
1001 Fannin Street
Suite 2500
Houston, TX 77002
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Tom's Practices

  • University of Tennessee, J.D. with high honors, 1985
  • Drake University, B.A. Journalism cum laude, 1982
  • Admitted to practice: Texas; United States Supreme Court; Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals; U.S. District Courts for the Eastern, Western, and Southern Districts of Texas
  • Chambers USA, Labor and Employment (Texas), 2006–2015
  • The Best Lawyers in America® (Woodward/White, Inc.) in labor and employment law, 2003–2006, 2015 and 2016, 2008–2016
  • Selected to the Texas Super Lawyers list, Super Lawyers (Thomson Reuters), 2003–2004, 2006–2015
  • Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Labor and Employment Law
  • Co-chair of the Media Law Resource Center (MLRC) Employment Committee
  • Editorial Advisory Board Member for the Practical Law Company
  • Member: American Bar Association, Committees on International Labor and Employment Law and OSHA, Labor Relations Advisory Committee; American Health Lawyers Association; Interamerican Bar Association
  • Elected to the National Executive Board of the U.S. Branch of the International Society for Labor and Social Security Law, 2009