Marlén Cortez Morris Partner
Marlén litigates complex matters from inception through appeal. Her deep litigation experience includes the enforcement of contract and intellectual property rights, as well as the defense of claims for breach of contract, business torts, violations of franchise registration and relationship laws, state consumer protection violations and employment law violations, including vicarious and joint employment liability.
Marlén defends franchisors and employers against wage and hour class and collective actions arising under federal and state laws and claims for wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment and retaliation arising under various federal, state and local laws. In addition, she is experienced with the enforcement of restrictive covenants and unemployment compensation benefits claims.
A critical aspect of Marlén’s practice involves counseling and litigation prevention. Understanding the complexities of labor and employment law and franchising, she works closely with clients to provide strategic guidance on joint employment, vicarious liability and labor and employment law issues arising in the franchise relationship, corporate transactions and due diligence initiatives. Marlén is well-versed in auditing and advising on franchise training materials, operations manuals, technology systems and contracts with franchisees and third-party vendors, as well as in preparing employment policies, handbooks and agreements.
Marlén is committed to clients and her dedication to achieving client goals is manifest in her tireless work ethic. Marlén can and will serve as a formidable advocate when needed. However, she also takes pride in helping clients avoid or mitigate litigation and is valued for her balanced approach on striking the right outcome to meet her clients’ objectives in a timely and efficient manner.
Before joining Barnes & Thornburg, Marlén was a partner at Cheng Cohen LLC in Chicago, where she represented franchisors, licensors and distributors on a broad spectrum of commercial disputes involving trademarks, trade secrets, covenants not to compete and joint employment liability claims. She also regularly advised clients on labor and employment law compliance and best practices for navigating joint employment issues.
Professional and Community Involvement
Member, American Bar Association Forum on Franchising
Member, American Bar Association Section of Labor and Employment Law
Topic and Article Editor, American Bar Association Franchise Law Journal
Diversity Institute Board member, International Franchise Association
Member, Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois
Member, Hispanic National Bar Association
Junior Leadership Board member, National Immigrant Justice Center
Board of trustees member, Hispanic Lawyers Scholarship Fund of Illinois
“Top Lawyers Under 40,” Hispanic National Bar Association, 2018
“Alumnus of the Year,” University of Illinois College of Law’s Latina/o Law Students Association, 2018
“Franchise Legal Player,” 1851 Magazine, 2018
“Rising Star,” Employment and Labor, Illinois Super Lawyers, 2016-2017