Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland Employment Law Attorney
MATTHEW D. BESSER is a champion for the rights of individuals in employment discrimination, constitutional, and civil rights cases. An experienced and accomplished negotiator, litigator, and appellate lawyer, Matt is devoted to securing justice for people when their rights are violated by the powerful.
A host of organizations have recognized Matt for his skill and integrity as an advocate for the public good. U.S. News’ The Best Lawyers in America named him the 2022 Cleveland Lawyer of the Year in employment law representing individuals. That publication has named him to its list of the “Best Lawyers” in Cleveland for employment law every year since 2016. Matt also holds the esteemed “AV Preeminent”® rating from attorney rating service Martindale-Hubbell, which signifies the highest level of professional excellence and ethics as rated by his peers in the legal field. Super Lawyers Magazine named him to its Cleveland “Super Lawyers” list in the field of employment law representing individuals eight years in a row as well. It previously named him to its “Rising Stars” list in employment law in 2012 and 2013. In 2013, the Ohio State Bar Foundation honored Matt with its Community Service Award for Attorneys 40 & Under, District 12.
Before founding Bolek Besser Glesius, Matt practiced for several years at one of the most prestigious defense firms in the state of Ohio, representing corporations of all sizes. Before that, he worked as a law clerk on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit for Judge Richard L. Nygaard. And since 2019, Matt has been an Arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association, presiding over all types of employment cases. These experiences give Matt’s current clients a unique advantage in civil rights and employment cases: he knows how defendants and judges think.
As an advocate, Matt regularly negotiates favorable settlements for clients, helping them resolve their cases fairly so they can get their lives back on track. He is also an energetic trial lawyer, eager to passionately fight for his clients’ causes before judge and jury when necessary. A cerebral appellate lawyer, Matt has authored many briefs and successfully argued numerous cases before the Ohio and federal courts of appeal. In 2020, the Ohio State Bar Association awarded him with its Best Ohio Supreme Court Brief Award. He has helped train the next generation of lawyers as well. For several years, Matt served as an adjunct law professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, teaching appellate advocacy.
Some of Matt’s recent legal highlights include:
- Winning the very first case in the nation to hold that the Fourth Amendment protects students from unreasonable video searches of their homes before remote testing. Hailed as a “landmark,” the case earned extensive media attention nationwide and has been called a “decisive victory for digital privacy advocates.”
- Along with Cathleen Bolek, winning a $2 million verdict in a sex discrimination and breach of contract case on behalf of a female attorney denied partnership at her former law firm.
- Along with Cathleen Bolek, winning a unanimous $986,605.21 verdict in a Cuyahoga County age discrimination trial against one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturers. Our client was a longtime sales representative fired because of perceptions about his age, despite his high sales and being adored by his customers.
- Winning a $1,000,000 arbitration award in an employment contract dispute between our client and her former employer.
- Representing a father and his two sons in a whistleblower and wrongful termination case when their employer fired all three after one of them reported a manager for a major safety violation. The loss of all their jobs at the same time financially and emotionally devastated the family. After protracted litigation, depositions, and discovery, Matt helped the family settle their case and restore their dignity and financial security.
- Litigating a religious discrimination case on behalf of a woman who was forced by government officials to attend prayer services against her will and contrary to her religious faith. The case garnered international media attention and resulted in the government entity in question changing its procedures to ensure such violations are never repeated.
- Having a tainted jury verdict in an age discrimination case vacated on appeal, after the eventual jury foreman lied his way onto the jury during jury selection and then participated in a split verdict.
- Pursuing a free speech retaliation case on behalf of a county employee who was fired after she reported her elected official boss for using public resources to support his reelection and pressuring his employees to donate to his campaign. During the case, Matt secured an important legal victory for the right of plaintiffs to obtain investigation documents about criminal wrongdoing by their government employers. Not long after that, the case favorably resolved.
- Successfully litigating one of the first fair housing discrimination cases in Ohio involving the rights of individuals with mental health disabilities to have assistance animals. After Matt’s client was sued by her condominium association for requesting an accommodation for her disability, Matt counter-sued on her behalf and won, resulting in a landmark victory for the rights of individuals with disabilities.
- Representing a corporate executive against a major international corporation, defended by one of the world’s largest law firms, in a complex contract and employment case involving a novel area of Ohio law. After extensive litigation, Matt helped the client defeat summary judgment, obtain partial summary judgment in favor of the client, and then resolve the case.
Matt is dedicated not only to justice for his clients, but to making the legal system more just for all. He is President-Elect of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, and in 2024, Matt will become the first civil rights lawyer to serve as CMBA President. Matt is also a member of the National Women’s Law Center’s TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund. In addition, he is General Counsel of the ACLU of Ohio and a member of its Board of Directors.
Matt is a frequently invited speaker in the field of employment law, and enthusiastic volunteer in the legal community. He has served on the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association Board of Directors. He is also a past Chair of the CMBA’s Certified Grievance Committee, which investigates and prosecutes ethical misconduct by attorneys. And he is a former member of the CMBA’s Judicial Selection Committee, which evaluates judicial candidates and educates the public about their qualifications. On the statewide level, Matt is a former member of the Ohio State Bar Association Council of Delegates, which considers legal reforms to the Ohio Revised Code and then advises the Ohio Legislature.
Matt graduated summa cum laude from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, where he received awards for the top grade in Trial Advocacy, Civil Litigation, Disability Discrimination, and Evidence. He also received the Donald S. Teller Memorial Award for the student note contributing most significantly to The Ohio State Law Journal. He is an avid Buckeyes and Browns fan, and takes every chance he can to go fly fishing. Matt lives in the east side suburbs with his wife and two young sons, and is a member of Park Synagogue.
- The Ohio State University, Michael E. Moritz College of Law, Columbus, Ohio
- J.D., Summa Cum Laude, 2004
- Law Journal: The Ohio State Law Journal, 2002 – 2004
- The George Washington University, Washington, District of Columbia
- B.A., 2001
- Major: History
- Northwestern University School of Professional Studies
- Certificate in Mediation, 2022
Areas of Practice
- Employment Discrimination
- Age Discrimination
- Disability Discrimination
- Pregnancy Discrimination
- Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Violations
- Wage & Hour Violations
- Sexual Harassment
- Wrongful Termination
- Retaliation & Whistleblower Cases
- Restrictive Covenants & Non-Compete Agreements
- Employment Contracts Severance Packages
- Executive Compentation
- Race Discrimination
- Constitutional Law
- LGBT Rights
- National Origin Discrimination
- Religious Discrimination
- Sex Discrimination
- Freedom of Speech
- Americans with Disabilities Act
- Employee Rights
- Employment Contracts
- Complex Litigation
- Appellate Advocacy
- Federal Appellate Practice
- Federal Trial Practice
- State Appellate Practice
- State Trial Practice
Honors & Awards
- Best Ohio Supreme Court Brief Award, Ohio State Bar Association, 2020.
- The Best Lawyers in America, Employment Law – Individuals, Cleveland, 2016 – present.
- 2022 Cleveland Lawyer of the Year, Employment Law – Individuals.
- Super Lawyer in Employment Law, Super Lawyers Magazine, 2014 – present.
- Rising Star in Employment Law, Super Lawyers Magazine, 2009, 2012, 2013.
- “AV Preeminent”® rated, Martindale-Hubbell.
- Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award, Federal Bar Association Northern District of Ohio Chapter, 2022.
- Ohio State Bar Foundation, Community Service Award for Attorneys 40 & Under, District 12, 2013.
- The Donald S. Teller Memorial Award, 2003.
- The Judge Joseph H. Harter Memorial Award for Excellence in Trial Advocacy, 2004.
Professional Associations & Memberships
- Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association:
- President-Elect, 2023 – present
- Board of Directors, 2019 – 2022; Executive Committee, 2020 – 2021
- Certified Grievance Committee, Chair, 2019 – 2020; Vice-chair, 2017 – 2018
- Judicial Selection Committee, 2012 – 2023
- Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee, 2011 – 2014
- ACLU of Ohio:
- General Counsel, 2021 – present
- Board of Directors, 2019 – present
- American Arbitration Association, Employment Arbitrator
- National Women’s Law Center, TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund
- Ohio State Bar Association, Council of Delegates
- Ohio State Bar Association, Leadership Academy, 2011
- Cleveland Employment Inn of Court
- Ohio Employment Lawyers Association
- Democratic National Committee, Member, Standing Platform Committee, 2008
- Northeast Ohio Chapter of the American Constitution Society, Member, Executive Committee, 2009 – 2013
- Did you say “Sail” or “Sale?” Why Miscommunication Derails Negotiation, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal, September 2022.
- When can you (or your opponent) appeal that horrible (or great) order compelling discovery? Cleveland Academy of Trial Lawyers Newsletter, Spring 2017.
- Google Mistrials: What the Legal System Can do to Keep the Internet Out of the Jury Box, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal, November, 2010.
- The Use of Sex-Stereotyping Claims by LGBT Employees in Ohio, Ohio Lawyer Magazine, January, 2010.
- May I Be Recused? The Tension Between Judicial Campaign Speech and Recusal After Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, Ohio State Law Journal, 64 Ohio St. L.J. 1197 (2003).
Classes & Seminars
- Employment Leave Policies & Practices: The Intersection (and Clash) of Employer and Employee Expectations, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, 2023.
- Avoid the Coin Flip: Winning Your Case with Jury Selection, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, 2021.
- The Art of Persuasion, New Lawyer Bootcamp; Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, 2021.
- Elite Appellate Writing for the Rest of us: Using the Techniques of top Supreme Court Advocates in your Practice; Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, 2017.
- Quick But Wrong: How Instincts Cause Lawyers to Make Bad Decisions, Ohio State Bar Association, Midwest Labor & Employment Law Conference, 2016; Ohio Association for Justice, Winter Convention, 2016.
- Seven HR Mistakes Every Plaintiff’s Attorney Hopes Your Client Makes, Ohio State Bar Association, Annual Convention, 2015.
- The Claims You’re Missing, Ohio State Bar Association, Midwest Labor & Employment Law Conference, 2015; Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, Annual Labor and Employment Seminar, 2015.
- How to Lose Your Ticket: Mishandling Client Funds, Case Western Reserve University School of Law New Lawyer Training Seminar, 2014, 2015.
- Social Media for the Federal Employment Litigator, Federal Bar Association Northern District of Ohio Chapter, 2013 Federal Labor & Employment Law Seminar.
- Social Media at Trial, Ohio State Bar Association, Midwest Labor & Employment Law Conference, 2013; Ohio State Bar Association, Annual Convention, 2012.
- Emerging Issues in FMLA Litigation, Ohio Association for Justice, Annual Convention, 2013.
- Discovery of Social Media, Ohio Association for Justice, Annual Convention, 2012.
- Why Social Media is a Nightmare for Attorneys and What to do About it, Ohio Employment Lawyers Association, Annual Seminar, 2012.
- Social Media and the Law, Cleveland Employment Lawyers Association, Annual Seminar, 2011.
- Prop 8 and the Future of Same-Sex Marriage, Panel Moderator, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, January, 2011.
- Recent Developments in Employment Discrimination, Dayton Bar Association, 2010.
- Appellate Practice, Case Western Reserve School of Law, 2008 – 2009, 2016 – 2019, Adjunct Professor.
- ADA Titles II & III: Public Accommodations and Services, CLE Presentation, 2008.
- Determining if an Individual is ‘Qualified’ Under the ADA, CLE Presentation, 2007.