Travis Payne graduated with honors from the University of Michigan Law School in 1978, and came to North Carolina that year to, along with two other lawyers, open a Legal Services office serving low income and disadvantaged persons in Johnston and Harnett Counties. In 1982 when the federal government imposed restrictions on the way in which Legal Services attorneys could go about representing their clients, Travis and Steve Edelstein formed Edelstein and Payne to continue their work.
Travis has focused most of his practice over the years in employment, civil rights, and workers compensation cases. He has done more than a dozen cases in that area in the appellate courts of North Carolina, as well as represented people in dozens of employment, wage and hour and civil rights cases in federal court. He has also successfully represented state and county employees in trials before Administrative Law Judges; and has similarly successfully represented federal employees in administrative trials.
Travis has litigated a number of important cases that have expanded the rights and protections of working people. He obtained a favorable ruling in the case of Sides v. Duke University, which was the first North Carolina case to recognize that employees could bring a claim against their employers for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. In Crow v. Citicorp, he obtained the first decision from the NC Supreme Court to recognize a common question class action under state law, allowing consumers to essentially combine their claims and seek compensation from large corporations. He successfully argued a nuclear whistleblower case, English v. General Electric, to the United States Supreme court, obtaining a unanimous decision reversing the lower courts' dismissal of the claim. That case made it possible for whistleblowers covered by federal whistleblower laws to seek compensation beyond what the federal laws allowed.
Travis has a commitment to serving and assisting people in protecting and enforcing their rights. He has spoken on numerous occasions to workers and community organizations. For more than two decades he has done a free legal clinic one morning a month in Rocky Mount that is sponsored by the Black Workers for Justice. He has also served in excess of 20 years on the Board of the Black Lawyers Association Land Loss Prevention Project, serving as the Chair of the Board on several occasions.
In terms of service to the legal community and efforts to improve the representation that citizens receive, he has prepared manuscripts and lectured at legal seminars about employment, wage and hour, and civil rights issues on more than a dozen occasions. Travis has also served one term on the North Carolina Bar Association's Labor and Employment Council, and served two terms as Chair of the Civil Rights Section of the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers. More recently he has been on the Executive Committees of both the Workers' Compensation and Employment Sections of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice.
For their long commitment to the work of protecting and enhancing the rights of working people, Travis and the firm of Edelstein and Payne have received the following awards:
2004 Recognition by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, for Travis' work as a cooperating attorney on several housing discrimination cases.
October, 2007 “Defender of Justice” award presented to the firm of Edelstein and Payne by the North Carolina Justice Center.
June, 2011 Recognition by the Workers' Compensation Section of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice for Travis' service to the Section and to Injured Workers in North Carolina.
October, 2012, Awarded the Harkavy Award by the Labor and Employment Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association for Travis' contributions to employment law in North Carolina over his career.