NELC Mourns the Passing of Rafael E. Medina

It is with tremendous sadness that we inform the National Employment Law Council’s membership of the sudden passing of Rafael E. Medina on Sunday August 4, 2019.

While not every NELC member knew Rafael personally – but most did – his importance to this organization and literally hundreds of lawyers who are NELC members cannot be understated. Rafael was a distinguished lawyer who recently retired as Managing Counsel – Employment for McDonald’s Corporation. He was a friend and mentor to many NELC members. His work in this organization brought the NELC’s vision statement – being the premiere organization for management-side labor and employment and human resources leaders of color – to reality. No one supported management-side labor and employment attorneys of color more fervently than Rafael. Many NELC members have had the pleasure of representing McDonald’s Corporation as a direct result of Rafael’s efforts. Countless in-house counsel obtained their positions through Rafael’s guidance.

As a member of the NELC’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee, Rafael played a critical role in this organization. He was an ardent supporter of the NELC’s Academy and its Fellows, was the co-founder of the ICAP program for new in-house attorneys, and the namesake of the Rafael E. Medina In-House Scholarship which allowed for dozens of in-house attorneys to attend our Annual Conferences by defraying the cost for in-house counsel who otherwise would be unable to attend. Rafael also served as Chair of the newly formed NELC Advisory Committee.

Barbara Johnson, President of NELC, reflects, “The shock of Rafael’s death is overwhelming as we deal with the unimaginable. We will never be able to replace Rafael’s impact on the NELC and its membership. We are heart broken, but grateful to have known Rafael. He gave so much to so many. Rafael leaves a powerful legacy and will continue to serve as an inspiration to us all.

We pass on our condolences to his wife, Nuncia, and his daughters, Marissa and Alana. At this time, plans for a memorial service are being made, and we will update you once we receive a final date and location. We look forward to celebrating Rafael’s life as an NELC family at a reception to be planned in connection with his service to be announced in the coming days.

Rafael Medina served as an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he worked for four years. After leaving the NLRB, he worked at a small boutique law firm in San Juan representing employers in the transportation and maritime industry. In October 1991, Rafael joined McDonald’s Corporation as an attorney in the Labor & Employment Practice Group primarily assigned to the United States.


In 1994, he began to support the Latin America business by providing labor relations counseling during the height of the company’s expansion throughout the market. In 1998, Rafael was named Managing Counsel assigned exclusively to Latin America and was responsible for oversight of all labor and employment matters for McDonald’s and its subsidiaries. Starting in 2007, Rafael Medina headed all litigation for the Labor & Employment Practice Group for McDonald’s. In this capacity, he managed a large volume of administrative charges from the EEOC, DOL and other government agencies, as well as oversaw active litigation matters across the country.


Rafael was also the practice group liaison on all diversity issues within McDonald’s. Rafael served on the Executive Committee of the National Employment Law Council where he provided support in establishing the strategic priorities of the organization. At McDonald’s, NELC, and beyond, Rafael provided regular mentorship of new attorneys in the employment law and in-house counsel spaces. His commitment to the development of diverse attorneys – both in and outside of McDonald’s – is unparalleled.


In recognition of this service, NELC presented Rafael with the prestigious Randall Robertson Award. This award is named after one of the NELC’s Founders and is granted to an in-house counsel who has manifested the spirit of Randall Robertson by diligently supporting the growth, development, and mentoring of diverse attorneys serving as outside labor and employment counsel