Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. is a boutique law firm dedicated to defending employees' civil rights. We have successfully litigated cases that challenge nearly every form of adverse employment action, from failure to hire to discriminatory pay practices, harassment, denial of promotion and termination. Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. has represented thousands of employees and recovered over $750,000,000 in damages for victims of discrimination and other unlawful conduct. Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. achieves results for its clients by drawing upon the vast knowledge, diversity, experience, passion, creativity, and collaboration that exists within our firm.

"Certainly there have been no more competent counsel that I've ever had in a case than have appeared here on behalf of the plaintiffs and the defendant. Their opinion is given a lot of weight by this Court."

Honorable Ruben Castillo

Cremin, et al. v. Merrill Lynch

"Your lawyers have done an outstanding job. Linda Friedman has really persevered on your behalf, on everyone's behalf in the class, beyond what any ordinary lawyer could do. She's an outstanding trial lawyer. She's an outstanding appellate lawyer. She's an outstanding person."


Biondo, et al. v. City of Chicago

About Us

Who We Are

Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. is dedicated to defending employees' civil rights. We have successfully litigated cases that challenge nearly every form of adverse employment action, from failure to hire to discriminatory pay practices, harassment, denial of promotion and termination. Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. has represented thousands of employees and recovered over $750,000,000 in damages for victims of discrimination and other unlawful conduct. Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. achieves results for its clients by drawing upon the vast knowledge, diversity, experience, passion, creativity, and collaboration that exists within our firm.

What We Do

Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. represents plaintiffs in individual, collective and class-action cases, with a particular concentration in sex and race employment discrimination and glass ceiling issues. The firm also has successfully represented victims of discrimination based on disability, pregnancy, age, national origin and sexual orientation and has successfully prosecuted claims for violations of the First Amendment, Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution, the Fair Labor Standards Act and the WARN Act. Where appropriate, the firm also represents employees in arbitration and mediation.

Consistent with its mission of advocating for workers on many fronts, the firm is active in lobbying and legislation to further protect civil rights in the workplace.

How We Do It

Stowell & Friedman, Ltd.'s nationally recognized litigation expertise draws upon the vast knowledge, diversity, experience, creativity, and collaboration of our team. Strong trial skills and experience are supported by advanced e-discovery and data analysis expertise. While unfortunately overt and egregious examples of sex and race discrimination still occur in the workplace, in many cases, discrimination has become more nuanced, requiring sophisticated e-discovery techniques and data analysis to successfully prove that discrimination has occurred. Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. has unique, expert resources to address discrimination in the modern workplace.

A National Reputation

Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. attorneys are also regularly invited to speak about legal and employment issues before local and national audiences.

" upward adjustment to the lodestar may be obtained in cases of 'exceptional' results, supported by both specific evidence on the record and detailed finding by the lower court.... The court finds this to be just such an exceptional case. Plaintiffs received monetary and injunctive relief affecting not merely themselves, but other present and future employees.... This was clearly not an ordinary sex-discrimination case with ordinary results."

Honorable John A. Nordberg

Cary et al. v. Chicago Housing Authority



Our Team

"…not so long ago I walked out of Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. for the last time as a client, I will return as a friend.... I shared my heart and soul and in return, they welcomed me, cared for me and helped me when I need them most. I will be forever grateful."

"Your Honor, I just don't know if this is inappropriate, but what I was thinking when we were talking and listening a few minutes ago, I was wondering if it would be out of the realm of possibility to ask everybody to stand up and give [our lawyers a hand]. Can we do that?"

- MR. GILHOOLY (Client)

"I am going to ask you to do that, too." (Applause.)


Over its 20 year history, Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. is proud to have successfully tried or resolved thousands of cases in court or arbitration. The below cases are examples of some of the results we have achieved for our clients.

Gender Discrimination

Cremin v. Merrill Lynch:

  • Approximately $250 million paid by Merrill Lynch to current and former female Merrill Lynch Financial Advisors subjected to sex discrimination.
  • Negotiated court-approved class action settlement that required class-wide diversity initiatives and ended the firm's policy of mandatory arbitration of civil rights claims for Merrill Lynch employees.

Martens v. Smith Barney:

  • Approximately $150 million paid by Smith Barney to Smith Barney female employees who filed claims in the alternative dispute resolution process established by class settlement.
  • Negotiated class-wide diversity initiatives as part of court-approved settlement, including hiring and promotion goals and timetables to increase representation of women as Financial Advisors and in management, and to eliminate rampant sexual harassment.
  • Won arbitration of class representative Financial Advisor subjected to retaliation.

Sumner v. Merrill Lynch:

  • Won award of over $2 million in favor of female Financial Advisor subjected to sexual harassment and sex discrimination. Award established that Merrill Lynch engaged in a nationwide pattern and practice of discrimination against female Financial Advisors in pay and promotional opportunities.

Gould et al. v. Merrill Lynch:

  • Won NASD arbitration, resulting in award of over $2 million to Financial Advisor team for gender discrimination and retaliation.

Race Discrimination/National Origin Discrimination

McReynolds et al. v. Merrill Lynch:

  • In a landmark appellate decision, achieved certification of a nationwide class of approximately 1,400 African American Financial Advisors and Trainees to determine liability and injunctive relief for claims that the firm’s policies had a racially disparate impact.
  • Recovered $160 million, the largest common fund ever achieved in settlement of a race discrimination class action.
  • Negotiated significant injunctive relief to benefit African American Financial Advisors going forward.

Biondo et al. v. City of Chicago:

  • Successfully challenged City of Chicago's discriminatory promotional exam on behalf of approximately 200 Chicago Firefighters.
  • Achieved class certification and successfully prosecuted four jury trials leading to a pattern and practice finding and verdicts for back pay, promotions, emotional distress and pension, which were largely upheld by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Recovered in excess of $50 million in damages, promotions and pension benefits for class members.

Stevens v. Chicago Board of Education:

  • Jury verdict in favor of teacher wrongfully denied contract due to race.

McNabola v. Chicago Transit Authority:

  • Jury verdict in favor of doctor wrongfully terminated due to race.

Age Discrimination

Roche et al. v. City of Chicago, Cunningham et al. v. City of Chicago:

  • Successfully challenged City of Chicago's mandatory age retirement policy for Exempt Rank (brass) Firefighters.
  • Judgment entered in favor of officers with award of full back pay plus interest to unlawfully retired officers, upheld on appeal by Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Subsequent lawsuits for additional Firefighters and Police officers settled with entry of judgments in favor of all forced retirees.

Disability Discrimination

Jackson et al. v. City of Chicago and Dexter v. City of Chicago:

  • Judgments entered in favor of police applicants with Sickle Cell Disease, Hepatitis B Carrier, and Color Blindness.

Political Affiliation

Wzorek v. City of Chicago:

  • Successfully represented pro se plaintiff in damage trial and appeal of political affiliation discrimination claim.

First Amendment

Marshall v. Chicago Housing Authority:

  • Successfully represented Chicago Housing Authority lawyers wrongfully terminated and subjected to retaliation after testifying in favor of women lawyers in Cary v. Chicago Housing Authority, a case in which the firm represented and recovered substantial damages for lawyers wrongfully terminated for opposing gender discrimination.


Novissar v. Rollprint:

  • Jury verdict in favor of scientist wrongfully terminated due to retaliation for opposing age discrimination.

Fair Labor Standards Act

Martignago v. Merrill Lynch and Bank of America:

  • Negotiated $12 million settlement of combined collective and class action under FLSA and state overtime wage laws on behalf of client associates.

Dornbos v. County of Cook:

  • Jury verdict for County of Cook Bomb Squad for unpaid wages for time spent "on-call."

"Just another note of thanks to you for your patience, empathy, compassion, guidance, advocacy and amazing talent. Your partnership in settling my claim made a significant impact. I could not have accomplished it without you."

Executive & Employee Counseling

Stowell & Friedman's attorneys are committed to representing their clients throughout all facets of their employment relationships including, but not limited to, entering, exiting or transitioning employment. Our attorneys recognize that in many situations clients requiring counseling not only pertaining to their rights, but also regarding how to navigate an employment event which undoubtedly has a significant impact on one's personal life. Our attorneys have been successful at obtaining favorable results with the least amount of disruption to our clients' careers and personal lives.

Among the types of counseling we provide are:

  • Contract review and/or negotiations, including offer letters and employment agreements for executives, managers, and other employees;
  • Severance agreement review and/or negotiation for executives, managers, and other employees;
  • Employee exit strategy;
  • Performance reviews, career event, denial of promotion or compensation issues, including denial of overtime compensation;
  • Non-compete, non-disclosure and confidentiality clauses;
  • Deferred compensation;
  • Employee benefits and/or rights, including disability, maternity, paternity, adoption and Family Medical Leave Act;
  • Change in control issues;
  • Form U-5 issues.

The firm's attorneys have been interviewed by numerous television, radio and print media, including national, local and industry outlets such as CNN, CNBC, CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Fortune Magazine, DOW, Reuters, AP, Bloomberg, DiversityInc., On Wall Street, Registered Representative, Fortune Magazine, USA Today, Daily News, Washington Post, Newsday, ABA Bar Journal, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Crain's Chicago Business, America's Premier Lawyer Series (Top Verdicts), National Public Radio, People Magazine and ABC's 20/20.

Chicago Lawyer logo
Stowell & Friedman Handled the Single Largest Settlement, at $160 million

This year’s Settlement Survey has 110 settlements totaling nearly $807 million. Stowell & Friedman handled the single largest settlement, at $160 million.

Read Full Article
JVR Illinois logo
Highest Reported Illinois Verdict Or Settlement Since Last Year's Event

Congratulations to these trial attorneys for outstanding representation of their clients...Highest Reported Illinois Verdict Or Settlement Since Last Year's Event.

Read Full Article
law360 logo
Titan of the Plaintiffs Bar: Linda Friedman

For Linda Friedman of Stowell & Friedman Ltd., a career distinguished by representing employees in high-profile challenges to hiring practices on Wall Street traces its roots back to a well-remembered place: the chambers of the first African American ever to sit on the federal bench, former U.S. District Judge James B. Parsons.

Read Full Article
new york times logo
Merrill Lynch in Big Payout for Bias Case

Merrill Lynch, one of the biggest brokerage firms on Wall Street, has agreed to pay $160 million to settle a racial bias lawsuit that wound through the federal courts for eight years, including two appeals to the United States Supreme Court.

Read Full Article
tribune logo
Plaintiffs Glad Merrill Settled Racial Bias Case

Judge Robert Gettleman's courtroom on the 17th floor of the dirksen U.S. Courthouse in downtown Chicago has been the source of much disappointment for George McReynolds. But on Tuesday, McReynolds walked out of the courtroom with a big smile on his face.

Read Full Article
law360 logo
$160M Merrill Race Case A Road Map For Future Class Actions

The race bias suit against Bank of America Corp.'s Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. unit that yielded a proposed $160 million settlement last week will serve as a blueprint for bringing successful discrimination class actions in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Dukes v. Wal-Mart decision, lawyers say.

Read Full Article
reuters logo
Merrill Lynch settles overtime case

Merrill Lynch has agreed to a settlement with more than 5,000 broker assistants who filed a class action accusing the financial services firm of failing to properly pay overtime.

Read Full Article
investmentnews logo
Merrill Settles with Client Associates for $12M

Merrill Lynch late last week settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of a potential class of 12,000 client associates seeking compensation for unpaid overtime work between 2010 and 2012. Read Full Article

new york times logo
After Boom-Boom Room, fresh Tactics to Fight Bias

When lurid sex harassment charges rocked Wall Street in the 1990s, the Chicago law firm Stowell & Friedman fielded a torrent of calls from women who blocked their telephone numbers on caller ID and initially refused to reveal their names out of fear of retribution from their employers.

Read Full Article
tribune logo
Wal-Mart Ruling that Quashed Many Class Actions Helps Bolster Merrill Lynch Broker's Case

When the U.S. Supreme Court last year threw out a sexual discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart involving potentially 1.5 million current and former female employees, some predicted the end of the large-scale class action.

Read Full Article
gb&d logo
Design To The Letter

Thank-you letters from past clients inspire Von Weise Associates in the workplace redux for Stowell & Friedman's law offices.

Read Full Article
wsj logo
African-American Bias Suite Against Merrill Lynch Gets Revived

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear an appeal on class certification rulings over a race-discrimination suit filed by African-American adviser George McReynolds against Merrill Lynch, now part of Bank of America Corp. (BAC).

Read Full Article
law360 logo
Merrill Brokers Urge 7th Circuit to Revive Bonus Bias Action

A lawyer for a putative class of black Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. financial advisers alleging Bank of America Corp.'s bonus system is racially discriminatory told the Seventh Circuit Court that the compensation program is not legally protected. Read Full Article

leadingLawyers logo
Linda D. Friedman: Making the World a Better Place for Everyone

Linda D. Friedman was a young plaintiffs' civil rights lawyer when she took on Biondo v. City of Chicago, a class action race discrimination lawsuit involving a group of white Chicago Fire Department firefighters who were denied the opportunity to advance as lieutenants. Read Full Article

reuters logo
Bank of America, Female Brokers Settle Bias Case Over Bonuses

Bank of America Corp has settled a federal lawsuit alleging it discriminated against female brokers at the former Merrill Lynch & Co by offering them lower retention bonuses than male counterparts. Read Full Article

tribune logo
Should Women Run Wall Street?

The New York press has raised the possibility that the overabundance of testosterone on Wall Street drove otherwise intelligent traders and bankers to take the outrageous risks that contributed to the economic collapse.
Read Full Article

leadingLawyers logo
Guarding Social Justice and Fair Play

Over the years, Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. has successfully prosecuted civil rights claims for clients from virtually every line of work, including such diverse professions as the elite Cook County Bomb Squad to investment bankers on Wall Street. Read Full Article

cnn logo
Bank of America sued for gender bias

Bank of America Corp. was accused in a Manhattan federal lawsuit of discriminating against female brokers at the former Merrill Lynch & Co. by offering them lower retention bonuses than male counterparts.
Read Full Article

new york times logo
On Wall Street, a Question of Bias

Wall Street has long been seen as an exclusive club, and the discrimination suit against Merrill underscores that the industry is still struggling to overcome its reputation as a workplace where only white men are comfortable. Read Full Article

intelligencer logo
Largest Award Settlements

Stowell and Friedman Ltd. make the list at number 43 of the Largest Award Settlements in 2006, published by Pennsylvania Law Weekly. Their work on the Gould v. Merrill Lynch & Co. case garnered $2 million through arbitration. Read Full Article

new york times logo
NASD Awards $2 Million in Bias Case

Three former brokers at Merrill Lynch who complained of sexual discrimination were awarded more than $2 million by NASD, the regulatory organization for the brokerage industry, after two years of arbitration.

Read Full Article
tribune logo
Sex-bias Suit Takes Aim at Accounting Firm's Culture

Armed with a law degree and 11 years of experience as a tax consultant, Melissa Page thought she had the right stuff to become a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, one of the world's largest public accounting firms. Read Full Article

tribune logo
Accountants Next Target for Underdog & Underdog

What binds Mary Stowell and Linda D. Friedman is their belief in social justice and fair play. They have rattled Wall Street by doggedly pursuing sex-discrimination lawsuits on behalf of hundreds of women employed at the nation's biggest securities firms. Read Full Article

new york times logo
Merrill Lynch Ordered to Pay for Sexual Bias

Merrill Lynch & Company, the nation's biggest brokerage firm, discriminated against women who worked as stockbrokers, according to a panel of arbitrators that has awarded $2.2 million to one of them.

Read Full Article
lawBusinessInsider logo
"America's Premier Lawyer Series - Top Verdicts"

In this informative interview, Linda D. Friedman discusses the case of Martens V. Smith, the landmark sexual harassment suit that exposed Smith Barney's notorious "Boom Boom Room" in the Wall Street firm's Garden City, Long Island, branch office. Read Full Article

tribune logo
Jury Gives Firefighters $2.2 million over Exam

A federal jury on Wednesday awarded more than a combined $2.2 million in damages to 10 white Chicago firefighters who were unfairly passed over for promotion to lieutenant despite their higher scores on a 1986 exam.

Read Full Article
people logo
Chicago Bears

Two Illinois Attorneys Teach America's Brokerage houses a Painful Lesson: Discriminate Doesn't Yield Dividends. Read Full Article

new york times logo
Merrill Lynch Moves to Settle Some Discrimination Claims

Merrill Lynch & Company said that it would begin settlement discussions or seek additional information on about one-third of the 904 sexual discrimination claims filed against it by current or former employees.

Read Full Article
tribune logo
900 Female Brokers File to Join in Case Against Merrill Lynch

Male managers of Merrill Lynch & Co. engaged in a pattern of discrimination that went unchecked for years, according to women seeking to join a class-action lawsuit against the nation's largest brokerage company.

Read Full Article
new york times logo
About 900 Women Will Join Suit Against Merrill Lynch

About 900 women are planning to file claims charging sex discrimination at Merrill Lynch. Nearly 2,900 current and former women brokers at Merrill Lynch are eligible to file. A Federal judge in Chicago gave final approval to a class-action settlement of a case brought by one current and seven former Merrill Lynch brokers. Read Full Article

americanLawyer logo
Fix the System? Or Toss It Entirely?

In 1998, 15 women, all current or former employees of Smith Barney Inc., sat around a conference table in Chicago to talk about why they thought the giant brokerage firm was such an awful place for women to work. There was no shortage of ideas. Read Full Article

new york times logo
Settlement Proposal Is Expected in Women's Suit Against Merrill

Merrill Lynch & Company and lawyers representing several of its female financial consultants are expected to announce in Chicago a proposed settlement of a sexual discrimination lawsuit against the firm. The settlement would allow employees to bring future complaints of discrimination to mediation and then to Federal court. Read Full Article

tribune logo
Smith Barney Plan May be Model

A plan to use mediators from Duke University to help settle employment disputes at Smith Barney Inc. could become a template for the nation's securities industry. Read Full Article

baltimoreSun logo
Smith Barney to Settle Sex-bias Lawsuit

Smith Barney Inc. is expected to announce a settlement of a class-action lawsuit that accused the firm of denying women promotions and doing nothing while brokers harassed women employees. Under the settlement, women employees would take their claims to an independent arbitrator outside the securities industry. Read Full Article

freeLibrary logo
Plaintiffs Reach Landmark National Agreement with Smith Barney

Attorneys for an estimated class of 20,000 current and former employees of Smith Barney Inc. announced that they had reached a landmark settlement in their gender discrimination and sexual harassment class action lawsuit filed in May 1996 against the financial services firm Read Full Article

tribune logo
Demanding Right to Sue the Boss

Securities Employees Cannot Pursue Bias, Harassment Claims In Federal Court Because Of Mandatory Arbitration. Women Press Fight For Change.

Read Full Article
tribune logo
Local Law Firm Takes on Big Fish Smith Barney

A small Chicago law firm, which built a reputation with three employment discrimination cases against a local brokerage firm, is now pursuing the nation's second-largest investment house. Read Full Article

new york times logo
Three Women vs. a Broker; Olde Is Accused of Job Discrimination

Less than a year ago, Mary Graf was at the top of her professional game. Of the more than 1,000 brokers at the Olde Discount Corporation, Ms. Graf, who had been with the company for 11 years, led the list of big bond sellers in the latest company newsletter. Read Full Article

tribune logo
CHA Settles '87 Reverse-bias Case

One of the last vestiges of Chicago's bitter Council Wars of the 1980s could soon be laid to rest with the Chicago Housing Authority's agreement to settle a 13-year-old federal lawsuit brought by a security firm whose owners claim they lost CHA business because they were white. Read Full Article

Legislation and Lobby

Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. is committed to the fight for legislative change to benefit the victims of workplace discrimination. Through its ongoing lobbying efforts, the firm has fought for change through the Civil Rights Tax Relief Act, Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, Arbitration Fairness Act, and the fight for non-taxable status for emotional distress damages.

Civil Rights Tax Relief Act

Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. attorneys and clients met with members of Congress to lobby in favor of the Civil Rights Tax Relief Act, which passed on October 11, 2004. This ended the "double taxation" on attorneys' fees and costs for employees who win lawsuits or settle employment discrimination cases, allowing those employees to deduct fees and costs paid to their attorneys rather than incurring tax liability that often exceeded their recovery.

"We are absolutely delighted that Congress has seen fit to remove this unfair tax burden from those who encounter workplace discrimination."- Bruce Fredrickson, Vice-President of Public Policy for the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA)

Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009

Clients and attorneys from Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. met with members of Congress to lobby for passage of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which was signed into law on January 29, 2009. The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 restores the law so that employees who receive ongoing diminished pay due to past discrimination can challenge their discriminatory pay. Through its lobbying efforts Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. and its clients helped to put a human face on the cost of unequal pay and pay discrimination.

Arbitration Fairness Act

Clients and attorneys from Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. met with members of Congress to support employees' access to federal court for civil rights violations. Bolstered by recent Supreme Court decisions in favor of large employers, employees have increasingly been forced to forfeit their rights to challenge civil rights violations in court and instead must submit to private, binding mandatory arbitration, a forum that greatly limits employees' access to evidence and due process protections.

Non-taxable Status for Emotional Distress Damages Awarded for Civil Rights Violations

Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. attorneys and clients have met with members of Congress in Washington, D.C. as part of an ongoing effort to achieve non-taxable status for emotional distress damages awarded to make victims "whole" for civil rights violations. While legislative change has not yet occurred, the firm will continue to fight for change for those who have been victimized by workplace discrimination and may be taxed on emotional distress damages.


Stowell & Friedman, LTD.

303 W. Madison Street
Suite 2600
Chicago, IL 60606

312.431.0888 phone
312.431.0228 fax