"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 $1,000,000,000 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 represented clients in SEC whistleblowing actions. The firm 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, the National Labor Relations Act, USERRA 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.

Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. is the proud winner of the 2018 National Law Journal Elite Trial Lawyers Award for exemplary work on behalf of plaintiffs. The firm was awarded this honor in two categories--Employment Rights and Racial Discrimination.

"...an 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 needed 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 25 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

Alton Williams et al. v State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance et al.:

Creighton v. MetLife:

Slaughter v. Wells Fargo Advisors:

  • In 2017, Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. represented a class of African American Financial Advisors and Trainees suffering racial discrimination at Wells Fargo, examples of which included denial of business opportunities, exclusion from favorable teams, and an overall culture that allowed and encouraged unfair and hostile treatment based on race.
  • The firm recovered a settlement fund of $35.5 million for named plaintiffs and settlement class members.
  • Additionally, the firm negotiated significant programmatic relief, which will ensure that Wells Fargo invests in recruiting, training, and supporting African American Financial Advisors moving forward.

Creighton v. MetLife:

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.

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"America's Premier Lawyer Series - Top Verdicts"

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Accountants Next Target for Underdog & Underdog

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Smith Barney Plan May be Model

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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Chicago Bears

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

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Design To The Letter

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

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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

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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.

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.

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.

Ending Forced Arbitration of Civil Rights Claims

Clients and attorneys from Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. met with members of Congress to urge support of the Arbitration Fairness Act and an employees' access to federal court for civil rights violations. More recently a Stowell & Friedman attorney met with the chief sponsor of the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act, legislation prohibiting the enforcement of pre-dispute arbitration agreements in sexual harassment and discrimination actions.

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.

No Salary History Inquiries

A Stowell & Friedman attorney met with members of the Illinois General Assembly to support amendments to the Illinois Equal Pay Act that would prohibit employers from inquiring into job applicants' prior employment history. Previous salary inquires compound the gender wage gap by allowing employers to base salaries off wages from, for example, previous discrimination, reduced hours work, work in lower-paying female- or minority- dominated industries, or salaries from years before a woman took time out of the workforce. After a three-year effort, Governor Pritzker signed the legislation July 31, 2019, with firm members in attendance.

Recognized as a Civil Liberties Champion

In 2019, Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. was recognized as a Civil Liberties Champion by ACLU of Illinois for its leadership and support of the Illinois Police Practices Project and dedication to racial justice.


Stowell & Friedman, LTD.

303 W. Madison Street
Suite 2600
Chicago, IL 60606

312.431.0888 phone
312.431.0228 fax