Nelva J. Smith


Known as a fervent advocate for her clients, Nelva Smith is a labor and employment attorney whose wide-ranging experience makes her an extremely effective advisor for her clients. From general day-to-day counseling, to litigation, workers’ compensation, and safety and health issues, employers of all sizes rely on Nelva to guide them through the myriad challenges of labor and employment law. Nelva is diligent and aggressive in defending her clients’ interests and is experienced assisting clients in the automotive, aviation, construction, and manufacturing industries.

As a member of the firm’s Workplace Safety Team, she has defended employers in front of the Industrial Commission on a variety of issues that arise out of Ohio workers’ compensation matters, and she also has extensive experience in safety and health issues, with an emphasis on OSHA. She has presented on several occasions nationally on OSHA topics, and she has twice been a contributing editor to the national treatise on Occupational Safety and Health Law.

Nelva has experience defending employers in general employment litigation, charges before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, charges before the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, charges before the National Labor Relations Board, and defending OSHA citations, and she has also successfully handled wage and hour audits before a state government agency.

In addition, to her employment experience, Nelva is also on the firm’s Higher Education Team and actively represents several universities and colleges in the region against Title IX litigation. Nelva is a member of the Environment, Social, Governance (“ESG”) group, a group of attorneys with experience and knowledge about how ESG impacts all aspects of business.

Representative Experience

  • Defended OSHA violations for manufacturing clients in the aircraft and automotive industries resulting in reduced penalties and vacated citations
  • Defended a manufacturer in the rubber mixing industry in Ohio in one of the first sets of citations under the combustible dust OSHA National Emphasis Program (NEP)
  • Successfully represented rubber tire manufacturer in multiple OSHA citations involving combustible dust
  • Represented a large automotive component manufacturer in a workplace accident involving an extremity injury caused by hydraulic press, resulting in the OSHA citation being fully vacated
  • Represented a Missouri-based rubber mixing plant in multiple OSHA citations involving both machine guarding and combustible dust
  • Successfully negotiated multiple reduced penalties and vacated citations for an Alabama based chemical and large-scale rubber processing plant in matters involving hazard communication and personal protective equipment
  • Experienced in OSHA investigations and defense of OSHA citations throughout the nation
  • Advised financial services institution on “back to school” issues related to COVID-19
  • Advised national call center client on EFMLEA issues related to COVID-19 and employee leave
  • Represented higher education institution in claims in front of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission in defense of alleged racial and gender discrimination
  • Assisted healthcare client in matters involving alleged disability discrimination resulting in employee termination
  • Defended higher education institution against student filed racial discrimination complaint at the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights
  • Successfully defended accusation of willful citations for national restoration/construction company in Ohio for lead exposure
  • Regularly counsel clients on personnel matters involving hiring and firing, business organization, employee discipline, and civil rights
  • Defended North Dakota construction company in workplace safety matter involving fatality
  • Successfully defeated unsubstantiated unemployment claims for national call center
  • Advised Ohio based steel fabrication company on best practices to avoid OSHA violations
  • Counseled employers throughout Ohio in revising and updating employee handbooks in compliance with federal and state law
  • Investigated and prepared Position Statements in defense of unemployment claims
  • Assist employers throughout the state in revising and updating employee handbooks in compliance with federal and state law
  • Assisted in defense of an appeal to the Supreme Court of Ohio for a voluntary abandonment issue in the workers’ compensation field and was successful in providing a good result for the employer
  • Attended workers’ compensation hearings at the Industrial Commission throughout the state of Ohio

Licensed In

  • Ohio


  • J.D. Capital University Law School
  • B.A. Capital University


  • Columbus Bar Association
  • Ohio State Bar Association
  • American Bar Association
  • Certified, OSHA 10 Hour General Industry


  • The Best Lawyers in America®, Education Law (2024-Present), Litigation – Labor and Employment Law (2024-Present)

Speaking Engagements

  • Presenter: S&J: “Tri State Update: Cannabis in the Workplace” – August 4, 2021
  • Presenter: Ohio Chamber: “OSHA and Employer Vaccination Programs” – June 24, 2021
  • Presenter: ARPM: “From the Legal Perspective: PPE and Vaccinations in the Workplace” – May 26, 2021
  • Trainer: Ohio Department of Higher Education: “Title IX Investigator Training” – January 12, 2021
  • Presenter: PIOGA: “Navigating Employer Legal Responsibilities through the COVID-19 Pandemic” – November 12, 2020
  • Presenter: ARPM: “Limits on How OSHA can Cite Employers for General Duty Clause Violations Using Industry Consensus Standards in a COVID-19 World” November 2020
  • Presenter: Ohio Chamber: “Back to School – Rights and Responsibilities of Employers and Employees, with Additional COVID-19 Updates” – September 16, 2020
  • Panelist: The Risk Institute: “Multi-Generational Mashup” September 2019
  • Presenter: ARPM: “The Relationship of OSHA Proposed Penalty Cases and the Lockout/Tagout and Machine Guarding Standards” July 2019
  • Presenter: AICUO: “#MeToo Movement Updates and Handling No Contact Orders” June 2019
  • Presenter: “OSHA Inspection Issues,” March 2019
  • “OSHA, Outside Consultants, and Business Development: A Podcast with Bentley Tolk,” Legal Marketing Launch, November 2018
  • Presenter: “Performance, Unemployment and Wage & Hour Issues in Ohio: What Happened to Employment at Will?,” November 2018
  • Presenter: “Overview of OSHA Inspections,” November 2018
  • Presenter: “Ten Management Mistakes to Avoid – OSHA and Workers’ Compensation Update,” August and September 2018
  • Presenter: “Update on Labor Law Issues Under the Trump Administration,” July 2018
  • Presenter: “Workplace Highs and Lows: OSHA, the ADA, and Medical Marijuana,” July 2018
  • Presenter: “OSHA Compliance in the Healthcare Industry – Regulations Companies Must Comply With But Are Always Forgotten,” June 2018
  • Presenter: “OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) Standard,” April 2018
  • Presenter, “HIPAA Best Practices for HR: Ensuring Confidentiality of Medical Information,” February 2018
  • Presenter, “Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace: Marijuana and Other Considerations,” February 2018
  • Presenter, “Medical Records Law in Workers’ Compensation Claims: Know What You Can Release,” January 2018
  • Presenter, “Preparing For and Dealing With Campus Protests,” AICUO, October 2017
  • Presenter, “Machine Guarding and Lockout/Tagout-Related OSHA Penalties So Far in The Trump Administration,” Ohio Chamber, September 2017
  • Presenter, “Are You In A Confined Space, OSHA Requirements for Confined Space in General Industry and Construction,” Ohio Chamber, July 2017
  • Presenter, “The New Landscape of the Department of Labor and OSHA in the Trump Administration,” Ohio Hospital Association, June 2017
  • Presenter, “Top Ten Management Mistakes to Avoid,” Pataskala Chamber of Commerce, June 2017
  • Presenter, “Recordability, Reportability, and Compensability,” Ohio Chamber, May 2017
  • Presenter, “OSHA Primer,” ABA Occupational Safety and Health Committee Midwinter Meeting, March 2017
  • Presenter, “Medical Records Law in Workers’ Compensation Claims: Know What You Can Release,” January 2017
  • Presenter, “Finer Points of OSHA Recordkeeping and Recordability,” Ohio Chamber, October 2016
  • Presenter, “Department of Labor New Overtime Rules with OSHA Bonus,” St. Clairsville Chamber of Commerce, September 2016
  • Presenter, “Safety Incentive Programs Under 11(c) of the Federal OSH Act,” Ohio Chamber, September 2016
  • Presenter, “Hot Wage and Hour Issues,” OSBA, September 2016
  • Presenter, “The Ever-Changing Landscape of FLSA Wage & Hour Issues,” Sterling Education, September 2016
  • Presenter, “Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio – NLRB,” AICUO, June 2016
  • Presenter, “OSHA’s Multi-Employer and U.S. Department of Labor Joint Employee Doctrines,” Ohio Hospital Association, June 2016
  • Presenter, “Train Your Supervisors and Managers About Your Ohio Workers’ Compensation Program,” Ohio Chamber, May 2016
  • Presenter, “OSHA Primer,” ABA Labor & Employment Law Section Midwinter Meeting, March 2016
  • “Are You In Compliance? Be Prepared! FLSA Rule Changes and OSHA Penalty Increases Will Happen in 2016,” Ohio Chamber, December 2015
  • Presenter, “The Million Dollar Question: Are They Independent Contractors or Employees? What the Fair Labor Standards Act Could Cost Your Company,” Ohio Chamber, November, 2015
  • Presenter, “Fair Labor Standards Act/Wage and Hour Critical Issues,” Sterling Education, September 2015
  • Moderator, “Combustible Dust: When is a hazard really a hazard? What is the real potential for explosion/deflagration?,” ABA Labor & Employment Law Section Midwinter Meeting, March 2014
  • Presenter, “Wage Issues for Workers’ Compensation,” 2011
  • Chapter Editor, Occupational Safety and Health Law Treatise, Third and Fourth Edition

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