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Sean Becker

Sean Becker Partner, Labor & Employment

Sean is the head of the Vinson & Elkins' Employment, Labor & OSHA practice.  He is board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and advises clients regarding all phases of the employment relationship.  His practice incorporates day-to-day advising, employment litigation, and transactional matters. He regularly provides counsel with respect to employee non-competition and non-solicitation matters, including the structuring of restrictive covenant regimes, and the defense and pursuit of non-competition and unfair competition-related claims. 

Sean manages employment-related matters for multiple private equity clients, and has litigated a range of complex matters in venues across the country, including disputes relating to employment contracts, class actions, ERISA, and wage-related claims. He has also managed the labor and employment aspects of hundreds of acquisitions, divestitures, and other transactions, and he regularly negotiates and drafts executive employment agreements, severance agreements, and other employment-related contracts. 

Experience Highlights

  • (S.D. Tex.); (5th Cir.) — Obtained summary judgment and Fifth Circuit affirmation of summary judgment on behalf of an international oil company in consolidated ERISA benefits litigation brought by former executive employees
  • (S.D. Tex.); (5th Cir.)  — Obtained dismissal and Fifth Circuit affirmation of putative class action ERISA claim on grounds of Railway Labor Act preemption
  • (Multiple jurisdictions) — Obtained successful outcomes in pursuing and defending matters relating to alleged employee non-competition, non-solicitation and unfair competition
  • (Tex. Dist.) — Defeated application for temporary restraining order against our clients, an executive and the start-up company with which he was affiliated, and obtained the prompt dismissal of the underlying breach of contract lawsuit after successfully challenging the enforceability of the non-competition clauses at issue
  • (Iowa Dist.) — First chair of Iowa state court trial in which the application of employer’s drug testing policy was challenged, and employee’s requests for reinstatement and damages following positive tests were denied. Obtained affirmation of decision in case of first impression argued before the Iowa Supreme Court
  • Obtained directed verdict on a former chief executive’s wrongful termination claim and a successful resolution of breach of contract claim after three-day arbitration
  • Obtained summary judgment on all aspects of age discrimination, promissory estoppel, and misrepresentation claims in arbitration brought by a former employee of an international well services company
  • Riverstone Holdings in the $9.5 billion formation of Talen Energy Corporation, one of the largest independent power producers in the U.S., through a Reverse Morris Trust spin-off of PPL Corporation’s merchant power generation business and the concurrent combination thereof with Riverstone’s merchant power generation business and associated debt financings

Transactions

  • Omega Protein in its $500 million sale to Cooke, a global seafood company based in Canada
  • Select Energy Services in its $1.3 billion merger with Rockwater Energy Solutions
  • MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates in its $3.6 billion merger with DigitalGlobe, creating a leading provider of satellites, earth imagery, geospatial data solutions and analytics
  • Sunoco Logistics Partners LP in its $20 billion merger with Energy Transfer Partners in a unit-for-unit transaction
  • Riverstone Holdings in the $3.75 billion acquisition by its portfolio company, Fieldwood Energy LLC, of Apache Corp.’s assets in the Outer Continental Shelf of the Gulf of Mexico
  • C&J Energy Services in its $2.86 billion merger with Nabors’ completion and production business to create a leading diversified completion and production services provider
  • TPG Capital in its $1.8 billion acquisition of natural gas properties in Wyoming’s Jonah field from Encana Corporation
  • Eagle Rock Energy Partners in the $1.325 billion contribution of its midstream business to Regency Energy Partners
  • Huntsman Corporation in its $1.1 billion acquisition of the performance additives and titanium dioxide businesses of Rockwood Holdings
  • St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System in its $1 billion transfer to the Catholic Health Initiatives
  • Riverstone Holdings in its $400 million acquisition of three coal-fired generating plants located in Maryland from a subsidiary of Exelon Corporation
  • The Carlyle Group in the acquisition of the North American power generation assets of Cogentrix Energy, including five coal and solar power projects and a development pipeline of gas and renewable projects, from The Goldman Sachs Group

Trial Court & Administrative Litigation

  • (N.J. Super.) — Obtained summary judgment in case of first impression in New Jersey state court litigation that addressed the interpretation and reach of a state “mini-WARN” law
  • (S.D. Tex.) — Obtained summary judgment on all aspects of Americans with Disabilities Act discrimination, retaliation, and harassment claim brought by a staffing services employee against a national manufacturer
  • (S.D. Tex); (E.D. Tex.); (Cal. Super.) — Represented a national company in its successful defenses of putative class action or collective action wage and hour claims

Arbitration

  • Obtained summary judgment on all aspects of age discrimination, promissory estoppel, and misrepresentation claims in arbitration brought by a former employee of an international well services company

Labor Negotiations & Labor Counseling

  • Negotiated clients’ collective bargaining agreements with employee unions
  • Successfully defended a large hospital system against allegations of unfair labor practices investigated by NLRB
  • Advised a client with regard to legal issues related to the successful defense of representation petition

Contact Details

Houston

T +1.713.758.2646
F +1.713.615.5129
sbecker@velaw.com
1001 Fannin Street
Suite 2500
Houston, TX 77002
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Sean's Practices

  • Harvard Law School, J.D. cum laude, 1998
  • Harvard College, B.A., Government magna cum laude, 1994
  • Admitted to practice: Massachusetts; Texas; United States Supreme Court; U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit; U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit; U.S. District Court for the Northern, Southern, and Western Districts of Texas; U.S. District of Court for the District of Massachusetts
    • Chambers USA, Labor and Employment (Texas), 2016-2018
    • Selected to the Texas Super Lawyers list, Super Lawyers (Thomson Reuters), 2012–2017
    • The Best Lawyers in America©(Woodward/White, Inc.), Litigation - Labor and Employment, 2017
      • Board Certified: labor and employment law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization
      • Member: American Employment Law Council
      • Member: Employment Rights and Responsibilities and Equal Employment Opportunity committees, Labor and Employment Section, American Bar Association; Pro Bono College, State Bar of Texas; Labor and Employment Section, Houston Bar Association
      • Planning Committees, University of Texas 15th,16th, 17th 18th, 19th and 20th Annual Labor and Employment Law Conferences, 2010–2015