MWELA bestows its Lawyer of the Year award annually to an employment lawyer whose work reflects the highest level of professionalism, commitment to employee rights, and unusual achievement.

We take great pride in each of the following recipients of our Lawyer of the Year award.

2017 Jennifer Klar has spent her career working tirelessly to protect employee rights and aggressively seeking to remedy civil rights violations. Her work with others on our behalf on the Duke Committee – and by testifying in front of the Rules Committee -- helped limit the corrosive effect that proportionality can have on our cases. We are indebted to her and others who have fought so hard to preserve the ability of our clients to prosecute fully their claims and seek truth through the discovery process. This past year, she helped prepare a toolkit for MWELA members to use regarding these new discovery rules. In the past few months, she tried on our behalf to push back against another attempt to change guidelines courts use in interpreting the new federal discovery rules. And most recently, you may have heard of a $24 million dollar settlement on behalf of African American secret service agents. That resulted from our Lawyer of the Year’s leadership -- with many others in her firm -- to prosecute these claims for more than a decade.
2016 Sharon Fast Gustafson, a solo practitioner in Arlington, was honored for her work on Young v. United Parcel Service, a pregnancy discrimination case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, and resulted in a great change in the law. Previously, employers could treat pregnant workers differently than non-pregnant workers who had similar work limitations (especially lifting heavy packages). The Supreme Court made clear that not giving pregnant workers the same consideration as their disabled, non-pregnant coworkers was illegal discrimination against pregnant workers.
2015 Valencia Rainey was honored for her work in successfully garnering the support of the District of Columbia Council, which unanimously passed legislation exempting the D.C. Human Rights Act from the requirements of D.C. Code Section 12-309. Section 12-309 requires that any claimant against the D.C. government give notice to the Mayor of claims for unliquidated damages within 6 months of the wrongful act. The legislation championed by Ms. Rainey, as MWELA Legislative Co-Chair, meant that the promise of the D.C. Human Rights Act would remain strong for all D.C. employees, whether or not that special notice had been given within 6 months.
2014 Carla Brown was honored for her success in representing her client, Jennifer Taylor, in Taylor v. Republic Services. The two-year case culminated in a verdict of $1.23 million in the Eastern District of Virginia. The case established precedent-setting principles in the law over an extraordinarily aggressive defense.
Elaine Charlson Bredehoft assisted Brown in the Taylor v. Republic Services trial, and has achieved enormous success for her clients, including several multi-million dollar verdicts. Most of her impressive victories were won in Virginia, which many consider hostile territory for employment law.
2013 David R. Cashdan was honored for being staunch advocate for employee rights for four decades. After law school, he joined the newly-minted, four-person Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's General Counsel's Office. While there he filed numerous significant amicus briefs and solidified the EEOC's authority to proceed independently into federal court. Since then, he has continued to represent employees in individual and class action litigation, was a founding member of MWELA, and, on behalf of NELA, continues to develop and pursue legislation and public policy priorities with both the Congress and the EEOC.
2012 Joel P. Bennett was honored for the exceptional way he handled his client’s interests when her harassment case against the National Restaurant Association became a topic of contention during Herman Cain’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
2011 John Karl was honored for his outstanding appellate work in Pardo-Kronemann v. Donovan and Solomon v. Vilsack and for his contributions to the MWELA moot court and amicus programs.
2010 Cathy Harris was honored for her work in obtaining a $5 million settlement in a class action for African American employees at the VA Hospital in Richmond, VA who suffered pay and other discrimination because of their race.
2009 Linda Correia was honored for her extraordinary $3.4 million settlement of a Title IX retaliation case in Flood v. Florida Gulf Coast University.
2008 Larry Kaye was honored for his high six figure verdict in Hylind v. Xerox and his overall contributions to MWELA as a trial lawyer and trial practice teacher
2007 Rick Seymour was honored for his extraordinary contributions to the employment bar, including his annual caselaw update, his willingness to share his encyclopedic knowledge of the caselaw, and his decades of dedication to civil rights law.
2006 Pat Smith was honored for her work in the area of employee benefits, disability law, and ERISA litigation. Her success includes a verdict exceeding $1 million against the Psychiatric Institute of Washington.
2005 Leizer Goldsmith was honored for his notable successes at trial and in defeating summary judgment motions.
2005 In addition to the Lawyer of the Year Award, MWELA made a special award to Bruce Fredrickson for his extraordinary lobbying work related to passage of the Civil Rights Tax Reform Act, which eliminated taxation of attorneys' fees in employment suits and settlements.
2004 Doug Huron was honored for his outstanding and fundamental contributions to the field of employment law, including his work on cases such as Hopkins v. Price Waterhouse, where the mixed-motive standard in Title VII cases was established and the standard for constructive discharge; Arthur Young v. Sutherland where he established that punitive damages were available under the D.C. Human Rights Act; and his work on the Hartman v. Powell class action, as well as his work on amicus briefs for MWELA and other organizations.
2003 Kerry O'Brien and Judith Conti were honored for their work in forming and operating the D.C. Employment Justice Center, which provides employment law assistance to people who are unable to afford legal services.
2002 Josh Bowers was honored for his work leading to the passage of the District of Columbia Civil Rights Tax Fairness Act, which eliminated taxation of awards and attorneys' fees in employment suits and settlements under DC law.
2001 Bruce Fredrickson and Susan Brackshaw were honored for their work in the Hartman v. Powell class action against the U.S. Information Agency for gender discrimination. Judge James Robertson approved a settlement of the case for $508 million dollars, the largest ever employment discrimination award in the history of the Civil Rights Act.
2000 Tom Gagliardo was honored for his service to MWELA through the creation of the MWELA list-serve and his efforts to pass a federal tax fairness law, as well as his work, skills, and dedication to his clients shown through his appellate work.
1999 Gary Brown was honored for his success in preserving, on appeal, the verdict in Breiner v. DAKA, Inc., an age discrimination case, that resulted in a $400,000 compensatory and punitive damages award to his client.
1998 Woodley Osborne was honored for his work as longtime chair of MWELA's Amicus Committee.
1997 The late Allen M. Lenchek, a long-time civil rights activist, was honored for his work on Robinson v. Shell Oil Company, in which he successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court that people should be permitted to sue their former employers for retaliatory post-employment conduct.
1996 Elaine and John Bredehoft were honored for their extraordinary string of success in jury verdicts before juries in the challenging Commonwealth of Virginia, many of which were in sexual harassment cases.
1995 Mary O'Melveny was honored for her long-term service to her clients, to the Communications Workers of America, and to the MWELA Board as newsletter writer and editor.

Robert Bell was honored for his successful sexual discrimination suit against Howard University, which resulted in a $1.14 million judgment for a women’s basketball coach.