Paul E. Wagner
Paul E. Wagner
Shareholder, CFO, Ithaca
Formerly: Bartender
  • B.A., Government, Cornell University;
  • J.D., Cornell Law School.

I relish (pun intended) the Hospitality Industry. I supported myself through seven years of college and law school at Cornell University as a bartender at several local bars. That, along with my love of food and travel, is what ultimately drew me to the hospitality industry as an attorney, and later as an Adjunct Professor at Cornell’s Hotel School.

I grew up living in the United States, Canada, Liberia and Kenya, before returning to the U.S. to attend Cornell starting in 1982. I then worked on a refugee camp in southern Sudan (now South Sudan) for three summers during college. Since graduating from law school in 1990, my practice has been devoted to labor and employment law, primarily representing hotel and restaurant management companies and owners. My international background gives me a unique and valuable perspective in the hospitality industry, which draws its strength from cultural and ethnic diversity. The practice of labor and employment law in the hospitality industry requires as much sociology and anthropology as it does classic legal training, and I remain a dedicated student of these disciplines.

I have extensive experience litigating labor and employment cases in federal and state court, private and public arbitration, and administrative agencies including the EEOC, USDOL, NLRB, and numerous state and municipal agencies. Wage & hour class and collective action litigation represents a growing percentage of this work. I spend as much time counseling my hospitality clients to avoid litigation as I do aggressively representing their interests when claims are brought against them, focusing on training, leadership, compliance audits, and organizational design. I also counsel my clients in matters of traditional labor law, and represent their interests in union campaigns, collective bargaining, and related disputes. My labor practice extends outside the United States to include labor consulting in Canada, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

I am honored to be an adjunct professor at the Cornell Hotel School, a position I have held since 1998. I teach Hospitality Business Law, Employment Law and Labor Relations in the Hospitality Industry. The synergy between my law practice and my academic appointment the Cornell Hotel School – the premier hotel management program in the United States – is not only professionally enriching, but also makes me a more effective advocate for my clients.