Labour and employment in Colombia
A household name in the sector, Alvarez, Lievano, Laserna S.A.S’ practice is dedicated exclusively to labour and social security issues and is particularly noted for its strong track record in collective bargaining issues. The 40-strong team is led by four partners, with Claudia Liévano an expert in appeals before the Supreme Court, Felipe Álvarez Echeverri heading up the litigation department and Maria Lucia Laserna leading the legal audit area. Associate Andrea Catalina Ortega is also a key name. The team has been advising Bogotá Telecommunications Company regarding a collective bargaining with the company’s main trade union, and it also provides permanent legal advice to UNE EPM, which it also successfully represented in three arbitration procedures brought by a trade union. Other 2018 work highlights included advising Banco Colpatria regarding employment law matters in its merger process with Citibank. Additional clients include Latam Airlines, Organización Terpel, Unilever and Farmacias y Droguerías Cruz Verde.
Baker McKenzie S.A.S.’ labour and employment practice receives excellent feedback: it ‘exceeds expectations’ and is ‘by far’ one of the best ‘in terms of knowledge, practical solutions and response time’. Tatiana Garcés and Evelyn Romero lead the 13-strong team, which represented Gas Natural del César during an administrative investigation by the Ministry of Labour to determine if the company had illegally outsourced activities to an independent contractor. The team also advised Spectrum Brands on its acquisition by Energizer; the legal advice included structuring and analysing the best transfer method for more than 50 employees. Other 2018 mandates included assisting a European financial services company with the closing of a collective bargaining agreement. Other key practice figures include senior associates María Cecilia Reyes, and the recently hired Leopoldo Ruiz del Valle, who has almost 20 years’ experience. Associates Alexandra Silveira and Gabriela Delgado are also noted. Former senior associates Veronica Pelaez and Sebastian Salazar left for in-house positions at Cenit and Grupo Vanti, respectively. Clients include Honeywell, Sanofi, McKinsey Cisco and Nalco de Colombia.
Godoy Córdoba member of Littler Global
Godoy Córdoba member of Littler Global’s practice, which also partners with global firm Fragomen LLP on immigration issues, offers legal advice on all labour-related matters. Founding partner Carlos Hernán Godoy, Francisco Buriticá, Santiago Martínez and Federico Bernal -who was raised to the partnership in September 2019- are key members of the 53-strong team, one of the largest in the country. Recent mandates include advising Heineken subsidiary Central Cervecera de Colombia on the labour aspects of its opening a new brewery. The team also assisted Zurich Colombia with the labour issues arising from its acquisition of QBE. Other mandates for 2018 included advising Kimberly-Clark on the management of collective bargaining agreements for the company’s plants in Colombia.
Well-regarded boutique Lopez & Asociados Abogados displays ‘profound knowledge in all labour-related matters’ and boasts the largest employment practice in the country with 76 lawyers, including five partners. Juan Pablo López, Angelica Carrión and Alejandro Castellanos head the practice, with Rocío Lagos and Ana Rubiano also in key roles. The team recently represented Coviandes in an inspection process initiated by the nation’s Payroll and Pension Management Unit (UGPP), reducing by 94% the obligations initially imposed by the entity. The practice advised Nutresa on a protection-of-rights case before the Constitutional Court in which a union official claimed the right to due process, and the right of association and intimacy, after a disciplinary process stemming from statements made on a social media platform; the court declared that there was no violation of the right to privacy. Other notable mandates included assisting UT CAPITAL on reaching a collective bargaining agreement with two unions. Clients include Avianca, Citibank, Sodimac and Hotel Grand Hyatt. Since publication, both Lagos and Rubiano have been raised to the partnership, effective December 2019.
Brigard Urrutia’s endorsed practice covers all areas of the sector and is particularly noted for labour matters related to, or derived from, M&A deals – such as labour due diligence, pension schemes and collective bargaining. ‘Innovative and with a broad capacity for analysis’, Catalina Santos leads the 13-strong team, with senior associate José Alejandro Sierra and associate Camilo Mutis, who focus on litigation, also key group members. The firm successfully represented Atento in a second-instance court case seeking the dissolution and liquidation of a trade union. It also assisted Linde with due diligence in a transaction that involved the transferal of 1,500 employees. Other mandates included successfully representing Uber before the Ministry of Labour in an investigation into the legality of the business model – specifically in relation to the contractual situation of the company’s drivers. Clients include Iberia, Air France, Philips, Dell and Mattel.
Barranquilla-based Chapman & Asociados’ client base is nevertheless nation-wide. The 45-strong team offers ‘quick responses, creative solutions, and an interdisciplinary’ approach, with expertise on issues such as outsourcing, health immunities and unions’ protection. Charles Chapman (‘a very detailed and creative attorney’) and Mirna Wilches (‘updated with the most recent jurisprudence’), who are both very well regarded, co-lead the department, which has been representing the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) in a multi-faceted judicial process to prove the inexistence of a labour relationship between the institution and the “Community Mothers”, achieving a favourable result in the Constitutional Court. The team also successfully acted for Bancolomia in a protection-of-rights case against two judicial opinions that forced the bank to reinstate an employee. Other 2018 mandates included creating a specific strategy to respond to protection-of-rights actions brought by Electricaribe’s employees. Director of labour proceedings Heimy Blanco is also a key practice member. Other clients include Prodeco, Sura, Grupo Nutresa and Ecopetrol.
Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría’s practice group has ‘ample experience in handling delicate situations’ involving the client’s employees, ‘providing strategic advice about how to handle them’. Héctor Hernández and Carolina Porras -who was raised to the partnership in January 2020- co-head the six-strong department; (Porras ‘has profound knowledge and provides reliable advice’). In recent work the team successfully assisted Mondelez in over 15 rights-of-action claims and it is currently representing the company in eight different labour-court proceedings brought by 68 former employees claiming reinstatement to former positions with full rights. Other matters include advising Agrícola Automotriz on the negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement and Paesa regarding labour due diligence of the company’s compensation scheme, among other matters. Former principal associate Diana Zuleta moved to DLA Piper Martinez Beltrán. Other clients include Under Armour, Cinte, Abbott Laboratories and Chevron.
Recommended for its specific labour knowledge, but also ‘offering an integral vision and commercial orientation’, Posse Herrera Ruiz excels in handling large-scale personnel transfers and dismissals as a result of mergers and restructurings. ‘Strategic and committed’ Carolina Camacho leads the 12-strong team. The team is advising manufacturer Lucta on its negotiations with workers unions, a process which is now in arbitration; additionally, the team is assisting the company with its payroll due diligence process. In other work, the group represented Syngenta in several labour litigation claims brought by employees arguing they had been exposed to cancer-producing agents. 2018 highlights also include acting as adviser to Schindler in several complaints raised by its unions before the local authorities. Associate Camilo Bernal left the firm to move to Advocat Servicios Legales. Clients include Hino Motors, Unilever, Cencosud, Diageo and Grupo Bolivar.
Pilonieta Alvarez Abogados Laboralistas
Strongly recommended for its ‘depth of knowledge and experience’, Pilonieta Alvarez Abogados Laboralistas primarily serves the northern region of Santander and Colombia’s main cities from its base in Bucaramanga. Founding partner Eduardo Piloneta and Patricia Álvarez, both ‘outstanding lawyers’, head a 19-strong team, which recently acted for Telecom and Colombia Telecomunicaciones in a claim brought by 25 employees while Telecom was undergoing liquidation; the team achieved a favourable result before the Supreme Court. Other work included advising Merck in a conciliation process for resolving a claim which argued marketing services had been provided as part of an employment contract. Clients include Omnilife, Avícola el Madroño, Ayuda Temporal and Cemex.
Labour specialist Scola Abogados works ‘closely with the client, displaying depth of knowledge and going beyond expectations’. ‘Recommended’ figures Diego Felipe Valdivieso and Pablo Hernández Hussein co-lead the 20-strong team, which recently advised Allianz Seguros on a voluntary redundancy procedure for over 70 employees. The team also advised Clorox de Colombia with an organisational assessment regarding the management of the company’s labour strategy. Other mandates saw the group provide Seguridad Atlas with an assessment regarding its negotiation of collective agreements with eight unions. Other clients include Uber, Mitcham Industries, Transportes Vigía and Constructora Bolívar. Notably, as of January 2020, the firm has also opened an administrative law practice under the direction of Iván Carvajal.
Dentons Cardenas & Cardenas’ team is praised for its knowledge of local legislation and ‘quick, timely responses’. Lorena Arámbula heads the three-strong practice, which is advising a marketing company on labour risks derived from the hiring of personnel through outsourcing entities and independent contractor agreements. 2018 highlights include closing a collective bargaining agreement for a manufacturing company and advising a motor-parts company on the labour implications of a potential acquisition.
Acting principally for major Colombian and foreign companies, Gómez-Pinzón Abogados (GPA) handles litigation and social security-related matters as well as having experience in matters such as the structuring of employment agreements and compensation schemes. Led by senior associate Patricia Vergara, the four-strong department undertook the defence of Drypers Andina and Protisa Colombia in a suit brought by the family of a deceased employee, successfully reaching a compensation settlement and the clients’ full exoneration of any responsibility. Other 2018 mandates for the practice included organising the retirement plan of over 150 CODAD employees prior to the closing of its operations. Senior associate Mauricio Montealegre and associate Juan Sebastián Restrepo are also key names. Clients include Chemonics, Honeywell, Japan Tobacco International and PriceSmart.
The ‘experienced team’ at Holland & Knight provides practical advice on day-to-day labour matters including union-management and corporate immigration issues, as well as acting in litigation and administrative procedures before the relevant authorities. Vicente Umaña heads the eight-strong department, which was further strengthened with the arrival of senior counsel Isabella Gandini, who joined in early 2019 from Norton Rose Fulbright, where she formerly led the labour and employment practice. Recent work has seen the team advise Linde Colombia on day-to-day individual and collective employment matters; it also successfully assisted the company with a complex procedure before administrative authorities. Associates Carolina Castro and Camilo Garcia are also noted.
The well-regarded team at Lloreda Camacho & Co. is experienced in handling labour matters derived from M&A operations, as well as immigration issues and litigation, and has particular niche strength in the entertaining industry. ‘Capable attorney’ Enrique Álvarez leads the ‘quick and efficient’ three-strong team, which recently assisted Sealed Air and Diversey Colombia with a labour substitution process, handling all the deregistration and registration before Colombia’s immigration office, SIRE. Senior associate Marlen Quintero is also noted. Clients include Ocensa, Red Hat, Ixom and Levapan.
Boutique firm QUINTERO Y QUINTERO ASESORES provides ‘high-quality, specialised advice’ which covers the entire spectrum of labour law. The 22-strong practice group is experienced in collective labour negotiations and acting before the highest courts to obtain the repeal or nullification of court decisions. Both Ivan Quintero and Saida Quintero are ‘recommended’ for ‘providing comprehensive and accurate advice in all cases’. The pair co-lead a practice group which recently assisted Quala on the transfer of workers as part of the sale of its cleaning products division to Unilever in Colombia. The firm also successfully represented Caja de Compensación del Cauca (COMFACAUCA) in a court case regarding employees' rights during dismissal. Other clients include British American Tobacco, Menzies Aviation, Pepsico Alimentos, Pfizer and Promigas.
Baquero & Asociados S.A
Specialised in labour and employment, Baquero & Asociados S.A’s seven-strong practice is led by Guillermo Alberto Baquero. The team continues to advise Sintrenal, one of the largest Colombian unions with approximately 30,000 members, in the country’s first salary levelling case. It also successfully acted for Duflo in a reinforced labour stability case.
Cavelier Abogados’ practice provides comprehensive legal advice on strategic issues regarding the management of employees, in particular legal obligations regarding expatriate staff and the updating and maintenance of companies’ obligations as regards health and safety, environmental and workplace quality requirements. Martha Bonett heads a seven-strong team of which Eliana Arellano is also a key member. Clients include Grupo Novum, Dolce Gabbana and Daimler.
Tannus & Asociados
‘Reputable boutique’ Tannus & Asociados is highly specialised in immigration matters, assisting companies with establishing their presence in Colombia, and undertaking audits, due diligence, training and procedures before the various competent entities. Founding partner Rodrigo Tannus heads the team, which is currently assisting Red Clay and Wildlife Works with setting up their operations in the country.
CMS Rodríguez-Azuero's practice handles contracts, workplace regulations, hirings, dismissals, retirement plans and the labour aspects of M&A transactions, as well as contentious matters. The team is currently advising on the termination of an employment relationship and analysing alternatives regarding a key position in the subsidiary of an international company. Associate María Paula Romero is the name to note.
Contexto Legal Abogados
Based in Medellín, Contexto Legal Abogados’ five-strong practice is led by Guillermo Villegas Ortega, who has over 25 years’ experience in the field. Recommended for its ‘knowledge and reputation’, the team is experienced in collective negotiations and the labour aspects of M&A transactions, as well as in litigation and representation before relevant administrative bodies. Recent work saw the team successfully represent Euroceramica in proceedings for the disbandment of a union. Clients include Moldes Medellín, Calderas JCT and Laboratorio Médioc Echavarría.
New entry to the rankings DG&A-Abogados is recommended for bringing personalised attention and possessing an ‘interdisciplinary’ four-strong team. Led by Adriana Martínez, who has over 15 years’ experience in the sector, the practice handles disciplinary processes, contract law and collective relations, as well as contentious matters and appeals to obtain the repeal or nullification of court decisions. The practice group provides permanent legal advice regarding litigation and business issues to IBM, while other highlights include advising Termobarranquilla on its negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement. Clients include Banco Popular, Grupo Chia and Outsourcing.
The labour team at DLA Piper Martinez Beltrán is led by practice director Diana Zuleta, who has over ten years’ experience, following her January 2019 arrival at the firm, which also hired associate Diego Durán. Recent matters saw the pair advise VICE Colombia on the structuring and implementation of a collective retrenchment plan for a significant number of the company’s employees. The practice group also assisted Nielsen with both day-to- day matters and the hiring of new national and foreign staff members.
Established in 2016, Garrigues’ practice focuses on litigation and compliance. Led by senior associate Carlos Silva - and with key support provided by Ignacio Londoño - the team assisted Rothenberger with the assessment and implementation of the best contractual structure for the company’s operations in the country. Other recent mandates included assisting Rizzani de Eccher with obtaining approval from the Ministry of Labour for the collective dismissal of over 200 employees.
M&P Abogados is a mid-size firm with a four-strong labour practice led by the ‘excellent’ José Darío Acevedo, who is specialised in labour and social security matters, as well as immigration, and who is supported by Juan Fernando Rico on the litigation front. The practice has provided ongoing advice to Fleischmann over the last six years regarding all labour, social security and immigration matters, as well as representing the company in different contentious and administrative processes. Recent mandates include assisting Franquicias y Concesiones Restcafe with reassessing social security and payroll tax matters and developing employees’ benefit policies.
The labour practice at Muñoz Tamayo & Asociados handles all aspects of labour and employment law, with a particular niche in sports-related employment matters. With over 21 years’ experience in the sector, Joe Bonilla heads an eight-strong practice, which provides permanent advice to football club Azul & Blanco Millonarios FC, among other clients, including representation in the labour courts. Other clients include Soldaduras West Arco, Aucerna and Avant Capital.