James D. Donathen

Of Counsel
(716) 847-5476
Download vCard

Mr. Donathen has practiced in the areas of labor and employment law and commercial litigation for over 35 years, and is a certified mediator in federal and state courts. He provides proactive advice to clients and has litigated a wide range of workplace matters, including Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, New York Human Rights Law, FLSA, New York Labor Law, ERISA, LMRDA, SOX, OSHA, covenants not to compete, theft of trade secret and confidential information, breach of employment contracts, and other workplace fraud/disloyal employee disputes. In addition, he speaks frequently on labor and employment topics and has conducted numerous harassment and other internal investigations.

Mr. Donathen’s experience – as a confidential law clerk to the Hon. John T. Elfvin (W.D.N.Y.), an NLRB staff attorney for the Division of Enforcement Litigation (Washington, D.C.) and, for over 35 years, in private practice – has prepared him to take a fair and practical approach as a mediator.

Mr. Donathen has been selected to the Upstate New York Super Lawyers Top 50 list and recognized in The Best Lawyers in America©, as well as other prominent legal publications.

Admitted to Practice

  • New York
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of New York
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit

Honors and Awards

Chambers USA Badge 2022 - Donathen Best Lawyers - Lawyer of the Year - 2013 - Donathen
  • Listed in Chambers USA: Americas Leading Lawyers for Business, 2021-2022
  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America©
    • Named the Best Lawyers® Litigation – Labor and Employment “Lawyer of the Year” in Buffalo, 2013
  • Selected for the Upstate New York Super Lawyers® list, 2007-2022
    • Named Top 50 Lawyer, 2020
  • Listed in Legal Elite of WNY, Business First of Buffalo and Buffalo Law Journal, 2018-2019
  • Listed in Buffalo Spree Magazine’s Best Lawyers in Western New York
  • Selected to Mediation Panel, U.S. District Court, Western District of New York


  • University of Notre Dame Law School, J.D., cum laude, 1978
  • University of Notre Dame, B.A., magna cum laude, 1975

Judicial Clerkships

  • Hon. John T. Elfvin; U.S. District Court, Western District of New York, 1978-1980

Government Experience

  • National Labor Relations Board, Division of Enforcement Litigation, 1980-1984

Professional Associations

  • American Bar Association
    • Section of Dispute Resolution
    • Labor and Employment Law Section
    • Senior Lawyers Division
  • Bar Association of Erie County
    • Commercial and Bankruptcy Law Committee
    • Labor Law Committee
  • Buffalo Niagara Human Resource Association
  • The Charles S. Desmond American Inn Of Court
  • New York State Bar Association
    • Commercial and Federal Litigation Section
    • Dispute Resolution Section
    • Labor and Employment Law Section
  • Organization of Public Employer Negotiators
  • Society for Human Resource Management


  • New York State Sexual Harassment Training/Compliance Programs

Present Activities

  • Commercial Division of the New York State Supreme Court, Mediation Panel, Member
  • Manatee Community Concert Band, Board of Directors and Trombonist
  • Transit Valley Country Club, Member
  • United States District Court for the Western District of New York, Mediation Panel, Member
  • YMCA Buffalo Niagara, Human Resources Committee

Past Activities

  • Calvary Episcopal Church, Endowment Committee
  • Resource Council of Western New York, Inc., Board of Directors
  • YMCA Buffalo Niagara, Board of Directors