Sheryl J. Willert
Sheryl Willert is a Member in the firm’s Seattle office and served as the firm’s Managing Director from 1996-2001 and again from 2006-2013. Ms. Willert continues to serve the firm on its Board of Directors and chairs the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice Group as well as the Diversity Committee.
Ms. Willert concentrates her legal practice on counseling, investigations and dispute resolution. She has broad experience in all aspects of employment law for unionized and nonunionized employers in both the public and private sectors. A nationally recognized speaker and author on such topics as employment discrimination, implicit bias, compliance and privacy matters, Ms. Willert has been “AV Preeminent”- the highest peer-review rating available, for over 25 years. She has worked locally with various organizations and individuals on a wide range of legal issues. Sheryl has a long-term work relationship with the Puget Sound Pilots, providing counsel on maritime law and various other legal matters.
Additionally, Ms. Willert has represented clients in matters involving commercial litigation, products liability and medical negligence. She has provided council to numerous professional athletes on business and personal matters in addition to assisting in legal matters for various nonprofit organizations including Russell Wilson’s Why Not You Foundation. Ms. Willert was designated by the Puget Sound Business Journal as one of the region’s “Women of Influence,” a recognition of women in commerce, service and philanthropy who are “a force in the Seattle community.”
Ms. Willert is a past president of the DRI-The Voice of the Defense Bar, the nation’s largest association of civil litigation defense attorneys. She is also the organization’s first female and first African-American officer. In 2009, DRI-The Voice of the Defense Bar, renamed its Pioneer Diversity Award after Ms. Willert. The award, now known as the Sheryl J. Willert Pioneer Diversity Award, recognizes an individual attorney for his or her demonstrated commitment to diversity in the legal profession. In 2010, Ms. Willert was honored as one of the Women of Power in Law at the Women of Color Empowered event hosted by the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation. In 2011, Ms. Willert received the Loren Miller Bar Association’s Pioneering Woman Award, presented to African-American female attorneys who are trailblazers in the legal profession. In 2013, Ms. Willert was named to On Being A Black Lawyer’s Power 100 list, a compilation of the nation’s most influential black attorneys working in government, academics, and both the private and public sectors. Also in 2013, USLAW Network recognized Ms. Willert for her dedication and service to the organization with the O’Hagan Award. In 2014, Ms. Willert received the Washington Most Powerful and Influential Women Award from the National Diversity Council.
Ms. Willert received her B.A. degree with distinction from Duke University in 1975 and her J.D. degree from Vanderbilt University in 1978.
- University of Kansas School of Law
- Chair, Board of Advisors for the Dru Mort Sampson Center for Diversity and Inclusion
- ABOTA (American Board of Trial Advocates)
- American Bar Association
- Labor and Employment Section
- Litigation Section
- Alternative Dispute Resolution Section
- Member, Standing Committee on Continuing Education of the Bar
- Member, Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary (2011 – 2014)
- Practitioners Reading Group Regarding Justice Elena Kagan (2010)
- Defense Research Institute
- President, 2002 – 2003
- Chair, Labor & Employment Committee, 1993 – 1995
- Member, Board of Directors, 1995 – 1999
- National Foundation For Judicial Excellence
- Chair of the Board, 2007 – 2008
- President, 2007 – 2008
- Board Member, 2004 – present
- USLAW Network
- Chair, 2011 – 2012
- Board of Directors
- Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel
- Employment Litigation & Civil Rights Section
- Faculty of Litigation Management College
- Litigation Counsel of America
- Senior Fellow
- International Association of Defense Counsel
- National Bar Association
- Washington State Bar Association
- King County Bar Association
- Labor Law Section
- Washington Defense Trial Lawyers
- Washington Women Lawyers
Recognitions & Awards
- Director of the Year, Kindering Center, 2021
- Fellow, American College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, 2018 – present
- Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers, 2009 – present
- Super Lawyer, Super Lawyers magazine, 1998 – 2019
- The Best Lawyers in America®, Employment Law; Labor Law – Management, 1997 – 2020
- Top Lawyer in Labor Law, Seattle Magazine, 2003
- Top Lawyer in Labor and Employment, Seattle Met Magazine, 2010-2017
- Woman of Influence, Puget Sound Business Journal, 2007
- Sheryl J. Willert Pioneer Diversity Award, DRI-The Voice of the Defense Bar, 2009
- Women of Power in Law, NW Asian Weekly Foundation, 2010
- Pioneering Woman Award, Loren Miller Bar Association, 2011
- O’Hagan Award, USLAW Network, 2013
- Washington Most Powerful and Influential Women Award, National Diversity Council, 2014
- Top 50 Women Washington Super Lawyers, 2003 – 2006, 2010 – 2017
- Top 100 Washington Super Lawyers, 2003 – 2005
- Top 50 Woman Attorneys in Washington, Seattle Met Magazine, 2015
B.A., with distinction, 1975
- “Man’s behavior on King County Metro bus leads to investigation” King 5 News, February 21, 2019.
- “How To Handle Inappropriate Remarks At Work,” The Seattle Times, July 22, 2016.
- “Yahoo Fights Fire With Fire in Sexual Harassment Case,” The Recorder, August 22, 2014.
- “Religious nonprofits can face discrimination suits if work not related to religion,” The Seattle Times, February 6, 2014.
- “Employing Justice,” Super Lawyers, Washington 2012.
- “The Impact Of Changes To Dodd-Frank Regulation Z,” The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, January 2012.
- “Today’s hot law firm practice – banking and finance,” Puget Sound Business Journal, August 26 – September 1, 2011.
- “Beware: Doing Good at Work Can Sometimes Get You Fired,” MSNBC.com, March 2011,
- “Group Cancels Conference at 2 Hilton Hotels a Day Before Chicago Workers go on Strike,” Chicago Tribune, December 16, 2010.
- “In Tough Economy, Labor Strikes are Losing Ground,” MSNBC.com, September 2010,
- “The New Face of Law Firm Diversity,” Legal Management, May/June 2010.
- “Seattle Avoids The Mood Swings,” The National Law Journal, May 11, 2010.
- “An Early Pioneer in the Area of Diversity,” The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, February 2010.
- “Employers Must Comply With Parity Law Next Month,” Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal, December 15, 2009.
- “Company Phone Texts Private?” CNN Tonight, December 15, 2009.
- “High Court to Examine Privacy at Work Case,” The Washington Times, December 15, 2009.
- “Flat-Fee Model Makes Dent in Billable-Hours World,” Puget Sound Business Journal, August 28, 2009.
- “Diversity Award Named for Past DRI President,” For The Defense, August 2009.
- “Managing Reductions in Force,” USLAW Radio interview with Dan Walker, August 13, 2009.
- “New Compliance Challenges: False Claims Act Amendments – FERA With More Pending,” The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, July 2009.
- “Employers: Could Google Latitude Get You Sued?” PC World, February 11, 2009.
- “The Pacific Northwest – The Gateway to China,” The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, January 2009.
Presentations & Seminars
- Co-Presenter, “Update on the #TimesUp and #MeToo Movements and the Appropriate Business Response: How Much Process Constitutes ‘Due Process’?” Association for Corporate Counsel Labor & Employment Summit, January 2019.
- Panelist, “The Ethics of Diversity After Rule 8.4(g),” DRI Life, Health, Disability and ERISA Seminar, Boston, MA, April 2018.
- Presenter, “What Keeps General Counsel Up at Night?” DRI Corporate Counsel Roundtable, January 2018.
- Co-Presenter, “What do Hollywood, Corporate America and Congress Have in Common?” Association for Corporate Counsel Labor & Employment Summit, January 2018.
- Presenter, “The Rise of Wage & Hour Class Actions,” Williams Kastner Labor & Employment Seminar, Seattle, WA, November 1, 2017.
- Co-Presenter, “Before The Facade Falls Off: Effective Tools For Lifting Liability And Managing Corporate Crisis,” FDCC’s Corporate Counsel Symposium, Philadelphia, PA, Septembers 2017.
- Presenter, “New Threats: Where Do We Stand on Employer’s Duty of Care,” USLAW Fall Client Conference, Carlsbad, CA, September 2017.
- Co-Presenter, “Effective Tools for Limiting Liability in a Crisis,” FDCC Annual Meeting, Montreux, Switzerland, July 2017.
- Co-Presenter, “Your Practice will be Bigger after Texas: Perspectives on Business Development,” DRI Young Lawyers Seminar, June 2017.
- Presenter, “Marketing Inside and Outside Your Firm,” DTCWV Annual Meeting, June 2017.
- Presenter, USLAW Employment & Labor Law Exchange, Chicago, IL, May 2017.
- Presenter, USLAW Spring Conference, Chateau Elan Winery and Resort, Braselton, GA, March 2017.
- Panelist, Puget Sound Business Journal Immigration and Employment Thought Leader Panel, March 24, 2017.
- Presenter, Williams Kastner Labor and Employment Seminar, Zillow, March 21, 2017.
- Presenter, “Race, Power, Privilege and Bias: The Responsibility of Corporate America Post 2016 Presidential Elections,” DRI Corporate Roundtable, New York, NY, January, 2017.
- Panelist, “Racism After Election,” Washington Diversity and Leadership Conference, Seattle, WA, November 17, 2016.
- Presenter, “Equal Employment Opportunity Update,” Williams Kastner Labor & Employment Seminar, Bellevue, WA, November 9, 2016.
- Presenter, “Protecting Your Company in the Social Media Age,” NLRB, September 26, 2016.
- Presenter, “Breakout Group: Marketing and Business Development,” DRI Managing Partner Conference, Chicago, IL, September 22, 2016.
- Presenter, “Before the Façade Falls Off: Managing The Crisis When The Face Of The Corporation Creates The Crisis,” FDCC, Charlevoix, QC, July 28, 2016.
- Presenter, “The More They Grow, the More You Need to Know,” DRI Marijuana Law Seminar, Boulder, CO, June 23-24, 2016.
- Co-Presenter, “Cyber Security, Safeguards and How to C.Y.A.” Portland, OR, June 1, 2016.
- Presenter, “ABA Roadshow on Amendments to Civil Rules of Civil Procedure,” Seattle Federal Courthouse, April 29, 2016.
- Presenter, “FMLA/ADAAA Compliance: Practical Guidance for Employers in 2015 and Beyond,” The Knowledge Group, Webinar, November 13, 2015.
- Presenter, “Lessons Learned From Termination,” Williams Kastner Labor & Employment Half-Day Seminar, Seattle, WA, October 22, 2015.
- Co-Presenter, “Learning from Others: The Employment Lawyer,” 2015 DRI Trial Tactics Seminar, Las Vegas, NV, March 19, 2015.
- Presenter, “Recent Supreme Court Decisions Impacting Your Business,” Williams Kastner Labor & Employment Half-Day Seminar, Seattle, WA, October 15, 2014.
- Presenter, “Acronym Mania: Five Years of Employment Law in 60 Minutes,” DRI Civil Rights and Governmental Tort Liability Seminar, New Orleans, LA, January 30, 2014.
- Co-Presenter, “Interns, Independent Contractors, Home Health Care and Other Wage and Hour Hotspots,” Williams Kastner Labor & Employment Seminar, Seattle, WA, November 13, 2013.
- Co-Presenter, “The Case for Diversity—And How to Win It!” 2013 DRI Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, October 17, 2013.
- Presenter, “Federal Laws You May Not Even Know You Are Violating – HIPAA, AHCA, FACTA, and OSHA,” 2013 Washington School Personnel Association/Washington Schools Risk Management Pool School Law Conference, Tukwila, WA, October 15, 2013.
- Co-Presenter, “Social Media and Tribes,” 2013 Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Mid-Year Meeting, Spokane, WA, May 13, 2013.
- Presenter, “NLRB and Non-Union Employers,” Oregon/Washington MGMA Annual Meeting, Tacoma WA, April 16, 2013.
- Presenter, “Social Media in the Workplace,” Williams Kastner Labor & Employment Breakfast Seminar, Seattle, WA, March 5, 2013.
- Presenter, “What Can We Expect from the Federal Government?” Williams Kastner Labor & Employment Half-Day Seminar, Seattle, WA, December 12, 2012.
- Presenter, “Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Becomes Reality in Seattle: Get Prepared,” Williams Kastner Labor & Employment Breakfast Seminar, Seattle, WA, June 21, 2012.
- Speaker, “Employment Law Do’s and Don’ts,” BOMA 1-Day Education Conference, Seattle, WA, November 9, 2011.
- Panelist, “Methods for Proving and Defending Pretext Claims,” ABA 5th Annual Labor & Employment Law Conference, Seattle, WA, November 4, 2011.
- Speaker, “Effective Workplace Investigation: the Good the Bad and the Ugly,” WHCA 2011 Annual Fall Conference, Yakima, WA, September 27, 2011.
- Presenter, “Workplace Investigations – ‘The Good, Bad and Ugly’,” Williams Kastner Labor & Employment Breakfast Seminar, Seattle, WA, June 29, 2011.
- Panelist, “ ‘Safe’ Hiring: Best Practices,” Williams Kastner Labor & Employment Half-Day Seminar, Seattle, WA, May 11, 2011.
- Presenter, “Employment Law Update,” Oregon/Washington Medical Group Management Association Annual Conference, Spokane, Washington, April 20, 2011.
- Panelist, “Are You Ready for Health Care Reform?” USLAW EduNet Webinar Series, April 12, 2011.
- Co-Presenter, “Are You Ready for Health Care Reform?” Williams Kastner Labor & Employment Breakfast Seminar, Seattle, WA, November 17, 2010.
- Panelist, Marsh Roundtable on the Medicare/Medicaid Secondary Payor Act, Seattle, WA, May 11, 2010.
- Panelist, “Employment Law Update: New Legislation and Key Court Decisions,” Labor Relations Institute: Association of Washington Cities, Seattle, WA, April 30, 2010.
- Panelist, “Temporary Workforce – A New Horizon,” Williams Kastner Labor & Employment Spring Half-Day Seminar, Seattle, WA, April 22, 2010.
- “Labor & Employment Update,” Association of Washington Cities, North Bend, WA, November 19, 2009.
- Co-Presenter, “How to Avoid ‘A Bad Day at the Office,” BOMA Labor and Employment Law Seminar, Seattle, WA, November 16, 2009.
- Panelist, “The Labor & Employment Rules Change: Current and Future Compliance Issues Under the Obama Administration,” Williams Kastner Labor & Employment Fall Half-Day
- Seminar, Seattle, WA, October 29, 2009.
- Panelist, “Ethics: Is Your Communication With A Client or Within Your Company A Privileged and Confidential Communication?” Legal Challenges to Chinese Companies Doing Business in the United States, American Bar Association, Beijing, China, September 10, 2009.
- Presenter, “Workplace Discrimination and Harassment,” 29th Annual Labor Relations Institute, Association of Washington Cities, Yakima, WA, May 21, 2009.
- Moderator, “EEO Update,” ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law, Seattle, WA, May 6, 2009.
- Panelist, “Telling Your Story at Trial: Direct and Cross-Examination of Witnesses,” ABA Section of Litigation Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA, April 30, 2009.
Articles & Publications
- “New Tax Law Impacts Confidential Sexual Harassment Settlements,” Williams Kastner Tax Alert, January 2018.
- “A Little Advance Notice on Employment Issues that will be Faced by General Counsel in 2018,” In-House Defense Quarterly, Winter 2018.
- “Immigration and Employment Law under the New Administration,” PSBJ Thought Leader Forum, March 2017.
- “Race Power Privilege and Bias: The Responsibility of Corporate America Post 2016 Presidential Elections,” Corporate Counsel Roundtable, Winter 2017.
- “Alphabet Soup—A Few Things You Need to Know: Developments in Federal Laws That May Have Applicability to Public Sector Employers,” In-House Defense Quarterly, Summer 2014.
- “Does the age at which a child becomes disabled have an impact on whether a parent can take FMLA to care for the child?” Puget Sound Business Journal, May 31, 2013.
- “NLRB Rocked by Decision of D.C. Circuit,” Williams Kastner Labor & Employment Alert, January 29, 2013.
- “Can an employer perform criminal history background checks on applicants and consider this information in hiring decisions?” Puget Sound Business Journal, June 29, 2012.
- “New Seattle Sick Leave Ordinance Begins September 1,” WSMGMA E-Update, June 2012.
- “NLRB Issues New Final Rule on Notice,” Williams Kastner Labor & Employment Alert, August 31, 2011.
- “Can written employment agreements prevent employees from bringing class action lawsuits even if there is a state law barring such provisions?” Puget Sound Business Journal, May 27, 2011.
- Co-Author, “Employment Law Update 2011 – The Year in Review,” The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, May 2011.
- “Mortgage Loan Officers: Are You Paying Them Correctly,” The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, September 2010.
- “What’s Causing the Rise In Pregnancy Bias Claims,” Law 360, August 2010.
- Co-Author, Chapter 23: “Labor and Employment Relations,” Doing Business in Washington State; A Guide for Foreign Business and Investment, July 2010.
- Litigation regarding public and private sector wrongful discharge, civil rights, and other labor and employment issues
- Litigation on professional negligence, personal injury, products liability and contract matters
- Investigations for management on internal complaints
- Consultations and representation on wage and hour issues including overtime and prevailing wage
- Consultation with top management regarding long-term employment strategy, recruitment, screening and testing programs and issues
- Review of personnel manuals and employment contracts
- Extensive negotiation and alternative dispute resolution experience
- Sheryl Willert is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, which represents the top one percent of lawyers who have mastered the art of advocacy. Ms. Willert has successfully represented clients in numerous jury cases related to civil rights violations, wrongful discharge, retaliation, professional liability, race, sex, age, pregnancy and disability discrimination, unfair labor practice and FMLA violation.
- Ms. Willert served as deputy prosecuting attorney (criminal division) in King County from May 1978 to October 1979, during that timeframe, she tried hundreds of jury and non-jury misdemeanors. Additionally, between 1978 and October 1979, Ms. Willert tried multiple felonies in categories e.g., homicide, sexual assault, felony drug cases and burglary/robbery.