Williams & Connolly’s employment litigation practice includes the representation of diverse corporations, boards of directors, board committees and senior executives in a broad range of complex or sensitive employment-related disputes. Our clients include public, private and non-profit organizations across an array of industry sectors, including law firms, financial services and other professional service companies, media companies, major educational institutions, companies operating in regulated industries, and nationally known charities.
The practice group brings the full scope of its extensive experience handling complex litigation to bear in conducting sensitive internal investigations and in vigorously pursuing or defending claims before trial and at trial.
Our attorneys litigate employment cases throughout the country, at both the trial and appellate level, including before federal and state courts, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and other administrative agencies, and arbitration tribunals. We handle employment litigation involving allegations of unlawful discrimination or harassment, alleged violations of statutory rights such as the Family and Medical Leave Act and its state counterparts, breaches or enforcement of restrictive covenants and non-competition agreements, unfair competition claims, contract-based employment disputes and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) claims. We have also brought or defended claims on behalf of senior executives in high-stakes litigation.
The firm is frequently called upon to investigate issues of actual or potential malfeasance by company employees or management. These investigations span a broad range of legal issues, including:
- Claims of employment discrimination and harassment under the full scope of federal and state anti-discrimination laws;
- Allegations of financial and ethical improprieties under Sarbanes-Oxley and other federal and state fraud protections; and
- Claims of wrongful discharge and breach of contract.
The firm is often enlisted for such investigations by a corporation's Audit Committee where the sensitive nature of the issues, or of the positions of employees or members of management to be investigated, require independent outside counsel. Likewise, we are called upon by management to conduct pre-litigation investigations, either as neutral investigators or to mount the company's defense, where matters involve individual employees asserting allegations of discrimination or other unlawful conduct.
Our attorneys have extensive experience handling employment litigation involving allegations of unlawful discrimination or harassment based on race, age, disability, religion and sex, and alleged violations of statutory rights such as the Family and Medical Leave Act and its state counterparts. The firm's experience covers not only employment discrimination claims of individuals, but also the defense of large class actions involving thousands of individuals.
Our attorneys routinely handle employment litigation involving breaches or enforcement of restrictive covenants and non-competition agreements, unfair competition claims, and contract-based employment disputes.
The firm has also represented and currently represents major corporations in Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) litigation, which frequently involves defending companies, investment committees, investment advisers and individuals against allegations that they breached their fiduciary duties. We have prevailed in such matters at trial and on appeal.
Federal & State Anti-Discrimination Laws
- Currently representing Fortune 200 company in federal discrimination case, alleging retaliation in hiring.
- Currently representing national labor union in state discrimination case, alleging discrimination and retaliation in termination.
- Currently representing global energy company in defending various claims of alleged race, sex and disability discrimination.
- Currently representing financial services firm in matter involving alleged sexual harassment and assault.
- Represented global wealth management firm in a confidential, binding arbitration of discrimination claims, with Arbitrator returning a decision in favor of firm on all claims.
- Defended a multi-national technology company against multiple sexual harassment and other Title VII claims based on alleged conduct of senior executives.
- Defended a regional corporation in financial services industry before the EEOC regarding claims of sexual harassment and religious discrimination.
- Defended a major AmLaw law firm regarding Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) claims, and their state counterparts.
- Defended a major university in several lawsuits alleging gender and racial discrimination in tenure and hiring decisions.
Restrictive Covenants & Unfair Competition
- Currently representing a national medical services firm in litigation involving non-competition provisions in employment agreements, defeating multiple attempts in state trial and appellate courts for injunctive relief.
- Currently representing computer software company against competitor alleging competitor misappropriated company’s trade secrets by conspiring with individual who previously worked on the company’s development platform.
- Representing a global conglomerate in ongoing trade secrets and breach of fiduciary duty litigation involving former executive and his new employer.
- Representing multinational food manufacturer in suit alleging former executive downloaded confidential and trade-secret information about multiple business sectors before departing and then shared that information with his new colleagues.
- Represented Fortune 200 company in state court litigation regarding post-employment restrictive covenants, with previous employer dismissing case with prejudice in December 2021 with no settlement.
- Represented largest legal placement firm in Washington in dispute with group of former employees who attempted to establish a competing enterprise in violation of various contractual and statutory obligations.
- Successfully pursued injunctive relief and damages on behalf of Riggs Investment Management Corporation in connection with a competing firm formed by former employees. (Yielding leading published decision in this area in the District of Columbia.)
- Represented leading private equity firm in whistleblower litigation in federal and state courts, resulting in dismissal of all claims with no payment by defendants.
- Conducted internal investigation of whistleblower complaint against CEO for privately held company’s independent directors.
- Conducted internal investigation of whistleblower complaint for global private equity firm.
- Conducted internal investigation of executive’s claims against senior management for publicly-traded company’s audit committee.
- Represented a prominent defense contractor in defending against claims that the company allegedly retaliated against certain former employees in violation of the anti-reprisal provisions of the False Claims Act.
- Representing retirement plan fiduciaries of Intel Corporation in a putative nationwide class action suit in the Northern District of California arising under ERISA that challenges allocations of plan assets to alternative investments such as hedge funds and private equity, obtaining dismissal with prejudice of all class claims in January 2022.
- Represented technology company acting as an investment adviser for a private pension plan in ERISA fiduciary duty involving partial ponzi scheme.
- Represented and representing national labor unions in cases that involving ERISA preemption issues – previously successful in getting claim dismissed under conflict preemption
- Multi-year and multi-jurisdictional defense of law firm that had advised Enron before the company’s collapse, prevailing on motion to dismiss in ERISA litigation and obtaining voluntary dismissal by shareholder class of other claims without any settlement or payment.
- Defense of Midwestern company in ERISA class action, prevailing in a two-week bench trial in federal district court, which was affirmed by U.S. Court of Appeals.
- Representation of CVS Pharmacy, Inc ., Caremark LLC, and a Caremark-affiliated mail-order pharmacy in obtaining dismissal of putative nationwide class action alleging violations of various federal and state statutes, including the Affordable Care Act, the ADA, and ERISA.
Other Employment Related Statutes and Contractual Disputes
- Defended inventory management company against California wage and hour, UCL, and FLSA claims.
- Defended automobile retailer against claims of race discrimination in denial of a dealership franchise.
- Defended automobile retailer against California wage and hour, UCL, and related state statutory claims.
- Defeated class certification in Minnesota statutory and FLSA claims brought by delivery drivers against multinational restaurant chain.
- Represented global financial institution in FINRA arbitration brought by former employee; successfully resolved matter with no payment by the company.
- Representation of a "Big Four" firm in two arbitrations against former partners, which involved claims that the former partners had improperly solicited other partners to join a rival firm.
COVID-19 Employment Issues
COVID-19 and its aftermath continue to raise many employment-related issues with respect to federal, state and local leave laws, including the Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), state counterparts, and United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) regulations. Likewise, related vaccination and/or masking policies have raised a host of issues involving federal and state disability laws, religious accommodation issues, and HIPAA issues.
Williams & Connolly has substantial experience addressing these types of substantive issues, and we are ready to assist employers with addressing these issues in the ongoing pandemic environment.