Erin E. Williams

Shareholder || St. Louis

Erin E. Williams represents a wide range of companies in all aspects of employment law, including both litigation and advice work.  Ms. Williams’s practice includes representing clients in state and federal courts and before various administrative agencies, including charges of discrimination brought by students before the Department of Education.  She has extensive experience with employment litigation matters including employment discrimination, sexual and other harassment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, whistleblowing, wage and hour litigation, restrictive covenants and reductions in force.

In addition, Ms. Williams regularly advises clients on issues relating to:

  • ADA/FMLA and employee leaves of absence
  • Litigation avoidance
  • Harassment prevention counseling and training
  • Employee hires and promotions
  • Employee discipline and discharge
  • Internal investigations
  • Restrictive covenants
  • Reductions in force
  • Wage and hour practices
Learn more about Erin E. Williams

Ms. Williams has significant experience litigating various types of claims through all stages of litigation, including trial.  Her experience in obtaining favorable results for clients includes the following:

  • Ms. Williams second-chaired a jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on behalf of a national defense contractor.  The plaintiff, a veteran suffering from PTSD and major depression, brought claims of disability discrimination and failure to accommodate under the Missouri Human Rights Act.  After a seven-day trial, the jury returned a full defense verdict.
  • In Missouri state court, Ms. Williams prevailed on both a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s associational disability discrimination claim based on ERISA preemption, and a motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim for failure to pay overtime wages in violation of the Missouri Minimum Wage Law, arguing that the amount of overtime in question fell under the de minimis exception in the FLSA. The plaintiff appealed to the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District, which upheld the Circuit Court’s ruling on both claims. Following the Court of Appeals opinion, the Missouri Supreme Court denied the plaintiff’s request for transfer.
  • The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a grant of summary judgment that Ms. Williams obtained on behalf of an international pharmaceutical company. The plaintiff’s sales position was eliminated in a reduction in force. The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey determined that the company established that the criteria it used in making the layoff decisions were not tied to the employees’ ages, and that the re-creation of a position similar to the plaintiff’s approximately 8 months after the layoff was based on changes in the business that were unforeseeable at the time of the reduction in force. On appeal, the Third Circuit agreed with the District Court’s reasoning on all points.
  • Ms. Williams successfully defended a public fire and ambulance district against a plaintiff’s claims for violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech and conspiracy to violate said right.  Following contentious motion practice, the district court granted summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity to the district and several board members who were sued in their individual and official capacities.  The Eighth Circuit affirmed the ruling, finding that the defendants had proffered sufficient evidence of a threat of disruption and the plaintiff’s speech was thus not entitled to First Amendment protection.
  • On behalf of a national restaurant chain, Ms. Williams obtained summary judgment on the plaintiff’s claims of race discrimination, disability discrimination, retaliation and constructive discharge.  Plaintiff appealed the judgment on the disability discrimination and constructive discharge claims, and Ms. Williams obtained a favorable ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which upheld the lower court’s decision in its entirety.
  • In Missouri state court, Ms. Williams obtained a dismissal with prejudice of the plaintiff’s claims of associational disability discrimination and public policy wrongful discharge.  The court agreed with the company that the plaintiff’s discrimination claim was untimely under the Missouri Human Rights Act, and that the alleged public policy on which she relied was too vague to support her claim and did not prohibit the conduct of which the plaintiff complained.
  • Ms. Williams obtained an order granting summary judgment for an international engineering company on a plaintiff’s claims of egregious racial harassment and retaliation.  The plaintiff alleged his co-workers used racial slurs against him on almost a daily basis and that he was ultimately fired for complaining about their conduct.  The court agreed with the company that it took reasonable steps to address and correct the alleged harassment after plaintiff complained, and that his discharge was unrelated to the complaints.
  • On behalf of a national retail chain, Ms. Williams prevailed on a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim of breach of contract.  The plaintiff alleged the company had a contractual obligation to allow him to appeal his discharge to a peer review committee established through a policy in the company handbook.  The court agreed with the company’s position that the handbook did not create a binding contract with its employees, and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim.
  • Ms. Williams second-chaired a jury trial in the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis for a local university.  The plaintiff, a former dean of one of the colleges, brought claims alleging gender discrimination and retaliation, specifically naming the president of the university as one of the wrongdoers.  After a three-week trial, the jury returned verdicts in favor of the university on all claims.
  • After a three-day arbitration proceeding before the American Arbitration Association, Ms. Williams obtained a ruling in favor of the employer, a national financial corporation, on the plaintiff’s claim of retaliatory discharge.  In a similar matter for the same client, Ms. Williams obtained dismissal of the plaintiff’s discrimination claims based on the statute of limitations.
  • In several matters appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Ms. Williams has received orders upholding district court orders granting summary judgment to company defendants on such claims as retaliatory discharge (whistleblowing) and age discrimination.

Ms. Williams has worked extensively with clients with national operations, and is well-versed on multi-state (and even 50-state) operations and issues.  She has significant experience working with staffing companies and university clients, including internal investigations, claims of employment discrimination and has obtained favorable results defending charges of discrimination brought by students with the Department of Education on behalf of those clients.  She also regularly advises clients on issues relating to employee leaves of absence, and navigating both the ADA and the FMLA in relation to such issues.

Ms. Williams is a member of the Staffing/PEO practice group, the EEOC Litigation practice group and the Higher Education practice group.

Education

  • J.D., Boston University School of Law, 2005
  • B.A., with honours, Washington University, 2001

Admittance to Practice

  • Illinois
  • Missouri
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern and Western Districts of Missouri
  • U.S. District Court, Central and Southern Districts of Illinois
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Third and Eighth Circuits

Professional Activities

  • Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis
  • Women Lawyer’s Association of Greater St. Louis
  • International Institute of Metropolitan St. Louis (Board Member 2014-2017)
  • Kids In The Middle (Board Member)

Speeches

  • Ogletree Deakins Workplace Strategies Seminar - "Reality HR: The Unraveling of a Reasonable Accommodation Request Right Before Your Eyes" - Phoenix - May 10, 2018
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - Two-Part Series - "HR Departments of One" - St. Louis - March 8 - April 12, 2017
  • Ogletree Deakins Briefing - "A New Administration: What to Expect, What to Watch Out For, and Making Sure Your Agreements are Up-To-Date" - St. Louis - February 1, 2017
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - St. Louis Managing a Workforce in 2017 - "EEOC Update and Garnishments – What Employers Need to Know" - St. Louis - September 21, 2016
  • 2016 Missouri SHRM Conference - "Is This For Real? A Lighting Fast ‘Mock’ HR Investigation, Unemployment Claim, Deposition, Mediation and Jury Trial, and The Ultimate Exit Interview Checklist" - Lake of the Ozarks - August 2 - 3, 2016
  • National Human Resources Association: Annual Legal Update - "FLSA Flubs and the New Overtime Regulations" - St. Louis - May 19, 2016
  • Ogletree Deakins Workplace Strategies 2016 - "Arbitration Update: Pros and Cons and What Courts Like (and Don’t Like)" - Chicago - May 6, 2016
  • HRMA of Greater St. Louis Annual Legal Update - "Navigating Social Media Issues in Hiring and Beyond" - St. Louis - February 17, 2016
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - St. Louis Managing a Workforce in 2016 - "Religious Accommodation in the Age of Abercrombie" - St. Louis - September 17, 2015
  • St. Louis Community College CPA Breakfast Series - "Socially Challenged: Top Social Media Issues Affecting Employers" - St. Louis - October 23, 2014
  • Gateway Association of Payroll Professionals - "Top Ten Wage and Hour Mistakes" - St. Louis - September 18, 2014
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - "Socially Challenged: Top Social Media Issues Affecting Employers" - St. Louis - September 5, 2014
  • National Human Resources Association: Invest in your HR Knowledge - "Legal Update” and “Safe Selection: Best Hiring Practices" - St. Louis - May 22, 2014
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - "How to Keep the EEOC Happy and Avoid Hiring an Ax Murderer: Best Practices for Background Checks" - St. Louis - September 26, 2013
  • National Business Institute - "The Right Way to Get Good Employees and Manage Them" - St. Louis - May 20, 2013
  • AAIM Employment Law Certificate Series - "Safe Selection: Reducing Your Hiring Risk" - St. Louis - February 2013
  • Lorman Education Services - "Missouri Employment Legislation and Case Developments" - St. Louis - November 9, 2010
  • Lorman Education Services - "Administering the Family and Medical Leave Act Under the New Regulations" - St. Louis - May 15, 2010
  • Council on Education Management - "A Toolkit for Managing the FMLA" - St. Louis - March 19, 2010
  • March 2016 - SHRM Court Report - "White Police Sergeant’s Race Discrimination Verdict Upheld"
  • June 1, 2015 - HR Magazine - "‘Similarly Situated’ Employee Defined for Bias Cases"
  • 2011 - Missouri Administrative Law, Fourth Edition - "Administrative Procedures Under Civil Rights Laws"
  • 2010 - 2014 - American Bar Association - "ABA Midwinter Meeting Report of the Subcommittee on the Family and Medical Leave Act"
  • Summer 2004 - 32 J.L. Med. & Ethics 375 - "Patient Rights: Mentally Disordered Offenders May Refuse Medication"
  • September 5, 2018 - EHS Today - "Standing Desks: Bane or Benefit?"
  • April 19, 2018 - SHRM Online - "Is ‘I’ve Changed Meds’ an Accommodation Request?"
  • Acritas Star (2018-present)
  • Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014-present)
  • Nominee for the David J. Dixon Appellate Advocacy Award (2017)

Insights by Erin E. Williams