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A Better Partnership

Karen J. VanderWerff

Partner | Email

  • Grand Rapids

    t. +1.616.752.2183

    f. +1.616.752.2500

    m. +1.616.481.7687


Karen VanderWerff focuses her practice on employment and occupational health and safety law and specializes in assisting businesses that have experienced a catastrophic event. A former forensic scientist, Karen handles investigations into workplace catastrophes, fatalities, discrimination and harassment. She also counsels and represents employers on labor and policy matters, including state and federal health and safety compliance, EEOC complaints and employee misconduct.


  • DePaul University J.D. 1991 with honors
  • Michigan State University B.S. 1983 with honors


  • 1991, Michigan

Bar Associations

  • State Bar of Michigan

Teaching and Lecturing

  • Adjunct Professor, Grand Rapids Community College. Instructed and tested students on job safety and health requirements in the workplace


  • Investigated and successfully mitigated liability in numerous workplace catastrophes, including explosions, fatalities and release of hazardous substances
  • Leads clients through post-catastrophe interactions with federal, state and local government agencies, including National Transportation Safety Board, Michigan State Police, Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services, local police and fire departments and others
  • Conducts internal investigations and handles personnel issues in post-catastrophe phase; directs media interaction
  • Audits safety and health programs of employers with goal of increased worker safety, decreased workers’ compensation costs and minimal citation exposure
  • Drafts policies to comply with state and federal OSHA laws
  • Successfully represents employers in complaints filed with government agencies and boards, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, National Labor Relations Board, Department of Civil Rights, Consumer and Industry Services, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, etc.
  • Testified as an expert in ballistics with Illinois State Police (1983-1990)

Honors & Awards

  • Member, DePaul University Law Review
  • Order of the Coif


Speaking Engagements

  • "New Twists on Some Old Issues: Discrimination, Retaliation, Harassment, Hiring and Wage & Hour Compliance," Warner 2022 HR Seminar In-Person Event, May 4, 2022, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "What Employers Need to Know About the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard," Warner Webinar, November 10, 2021
  • "Legal Developments in Human Resources," Association for Human Resources Management Panel, November 10, 2021, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "Employment Law Issues for Marijuana Businesses: Top 10 Tips to Minimize Employment Risks," Cannabis Law Seminar - Industry Insights and Trends From the Legal Perspective, September 30, 2021, Lansing, Michigan
  • "New COVID-19 Rules and Requirements for Michigan Employers," Warner Webinar, November 10, 2020
  • "COVID-19 and MiOSHA," Warner 2020 HR Executive Panel, October 7, 2020
  • "Labor and Employment Update: Preparing the Facility for Operations after COVID-19," Warner Webinar, April 29, 2020
  • "Labor and Emloyment Panel," Warner 2019 HR Executive Panels, September 13, 2019, Traverse City, Michigan
  • "Recreational Marijuana and Drugs in the Workplace," Warner Human Resources Seminar, May 7, 2019, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "Labor and Employment Panel, Warner 2018 HR Executive Panels, September 20, 2018, Traverse City, Michigan
  • "Myth or Truth: Labor & Employment Panel," Warner Labor & Benefits Executive Panels, November 17, 2017, Traverse City, Michigan
  • "Safety & OSHA Issues," Warner Human Resources Seminar, May 23, 2017, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "Managing an Evolving Workforce" and "Wage/Hour and FLSA Issues," Warner Labor & Benefits Executive Panel, October 21, 2016, Traverse City, Michigan
  • "Workplace Investigations," Warner Human Resources Seminar, June 9, 2016, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Labor & Benefits Executive Panel, Warner Seminar, October 7, 2014, Midland, Michigan
  • "EEOC Cracking Down on Discrimination," Warner Human Resources Seminar, April 20, 2015, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Labor and Employment Panel, Labor and Benefits Executive Panel-Government Enforcement Initiatives, September 23, 2014, Midland, Michigan
  • “Workplace Investigations,” Warner Human Resources Seminar, April 22, 2014
  • “HR and Benefits Executive Panel,” Warner Human Resources Seminar, Midland, Michigan, October 9, 2013, and Birmingham, Michigan, October 15, 2013
  • "Performance Reviews," Warner Human Resources Seminar, April 29, 2013
  • "Even Paranoids have Real Enemies:  How Government Agencies Are Targeting Employers," Warner Human Resources Seminar, May 2, 2012
  • "OSHA, Workplace Safety, Health and Security," Warner Human Resources Seminar, May 25, 2011
  • "Impact of the ADA Amendments Act," Warner Human Resources Seminar, March 23, 2010
  • "Employer by Choice - Personal and Institutional Leadership," Warner Human Resources Seminar, September 11, 2008
  • "CSI: HR Management in Crisis Management," Warner Human Resources Seminar, May 10, 2007

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