Tom Green Delivers
Formerly to mailboxes, now for clients
Published in 2024 Kentucky Super Lawyers magazine
By Susan Wenner Jackson on December 28, 2023
Growing up in a single-parent home in the small town of McDonald, Ohio, Tom Green had few white-collar role models. Factory work and truck driving—those were the familiar career paths.
But he had a goal, inspired by a favorite teacher: to attend college and become a high school English teacher.
“I paid my own way, and as a result, it took me a little longer,” he says. “I finished up in my fifth year, and in the summer between my fourth and fifth years I secured a position at a nearby post office in Niles, delivering mail for the summer.”
When Green went back to school, he thought his mail-delivering days were over. But that fall, the postmaster at his hometown post office—where Green’s great-aunt worked—reached out to see if he could work part-time during the holiday season. Green figured he could make some extra money before starting his student teaching, the last step in earning his education degree.
Then, after Green graduated from Youngstown State University in March, the postmaster in nearby Girard offered him a job delivering mail, just to tide him over until teaching positions opened up later in the summer.
“I thought, yeah, sure, why not?” he recalls.
It lasted longer than he anticipated. Though he had enjoyed student-teaching, Green found it was hard to give up his post office gig for a lower-paying teaching role. He ended up working full time as a letter carrier from 1993 until 1999.
Green spent part of that time serving as a union shop steward for the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 385. He was tasked with enforcing the collective bargaining agreement at his branch on behalf of his fellow letter carriers.
In late 1998, a friend who noticed Green didn’t seem to be enjoying his job asked if he had considered going back to school. The friend thought law school would be a good fit. Green was 28—which meant he would have to work at the USPS another 27 years before he was eligible to retire. “That would have been like my whole lifetime over again,” he says. “It seemed like a long time.”
But he wasn’t sure he was cut out to be a lawyer. After finding out all he needed were a four-year degree and a passing LSAT score, he took the leap and applied to a few schools within driving distance. When an acceptance letter arrived from Cleveland State University College of Law, he turned in his mailbag.
In his second year of law school, he heard about an internship at a new Akron firm focusing on labor and employment law.
Kastner Westman & Wilkins turned out to be a good fit. Green clerked there, then joined as an associate in 2002. He’s now a shareholder and a state Bar-certified specialist in labor and employment law.
Though he represents employers in his practice, Green says his years spent as a blue-collar worker give him a unique perspective on workplace law issues.
“I’ve never met a lawyer who worked full time at the post office before going to law school,” he says with a laugh.
With the postal union, Green had to be on the lookout for violations of the collective bargaining agreement from an employee perspective. Today, his job is to help employers “stay compliant and out
of trouble,” as he puts it. He especially enjoys it when clients bring him their “people problems” to solve—each one a unique puzzle.
“It’s a real privilege to be called upon when a business has a problem or a difficult situation that they’re dealing with. And they say, ‘Let’s call Tom Green and see what he thinks.’ I still get a kick out of that.”
The COVID Challenge
For Green, the COVID-19 pandemic became a career-defining moment—a minefield for employers that morphed on a daily basis. From mask requirements to vaccine mandates, remote work to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the pandemic presented challenges for employers, who called on Green to help them deal with the new landscape.
“That was the first time in my career when clients—some with stay-at-home orders that varied state by state; in some cases, county by county—were calling at all times, including on the weekends. These orders could be issued on a Sunday morning. The client would hear of it, they’d read it over, and they’d say to themselves, ‘Are we allowed to open for business?’ And then they’d call me.
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