Vice President, Employment and Benefits Law, BJC HealthCare
Christine M. Ramatowski has spent her legal career focused on employment law. She’s pretty sure her grandfather would have wanted it that way.
Ramatowski serves as vice president of employment and benefits law for BJC HealthCare, leading the legal team that oversees employment issues for Missouri’s largest private employer.
“At BJC, I’m very passionate about our mission,” she said. “I have more of an opportunity to reach out and create more of a difference working as a defense lawyer versus the other side.”
She said her inspiration to become a lawyer came from her grandfather, Edward Fegan, a union president and bargaining agent in St. Louis. Although he died before she went to law school, Ramatowski said, her grandfather saw legal training as an excellent basis for any career.
“He was not an attorney, but I think he wanted to be,” she said. “We would always talk and debate issues from the time I was a little girl, and he would say, ‘No matter what you do, go to law school.’”
Ramatowski earned her law degree in 1987 from Washington University and began her career as an associate at what was then Husch & Eppenberger. Her practice included some general litigation, but much of her work was in the burgeoning employment field.
“Back then, employment litigation wasn’t the specialty that it is now,” she said.
She joined BJC as an in-house attorney in 1994, jumping at the chance to join a major organization in the St. Louis community. She sees herself following in her grandfather’s footsteps, helping to achieve fair working conditions for employees.
“I felt like working in-house that you could get corporations to do the right thing, that you could impact more people,” she said.
Ramatowski was promoted to head the employment team in 2018. She leads a group of four professionals to provide advice and legal counsel for issues ranging from regulatory compliance and personnel policies to managing litigation claims. BJC has more than 31,000 employees at 15 hospitals and numerous community health locations.
“I’ve got academic hospitals, I’ve got rural hospitals, I’ve got community hospitals and physician practices,” she said. “Health care is highly regulated, and so is labor and employment. It’s always changing. There are always new challenges to face.”
Ramatowski’s grandfather wasn’t the only family member to influence her career. She has spent most of her life in her native St. Louis, but she went to Chicago to earn her undergraduate degree in communications and education from Northwestern University. She considered staying there or possibly trying Washington, D.C.
But as the eldest of eight siblings, one of whom was born while she was in college, the call of home was too great. Now, working for the hospital organization where one of her sisters was a nurse, she’s right where she wants to be.
“It’s really a way to make a difference, to practice an area of law that I love, working for a client that I love,” she said.