ProfessionalsLiza M. Velazquez
A partner in the Litigation Department, Liza Velazquez has extensive experience representing corporate clients, financial institutions, media and entertainment companies, and non-profit institutions in a broad range of employment-related litigations and investigations. Liza also regularly counsels clients on employment-related issues including litigation risk assessment, review of internal policies, developments in employment law and compliance.
Liza has represented clients before state and federal courts across the country, in alternative dispute resolution proceedings, and before federal and state regulatory agencies. She was recently named a “Litigator of the Week” by The American Lawyer for a high-stakes trial victory in the Southern District of New York on behalf of a major technology company in a trade secrets case against a departing senior executive. Liza also has extensive experience handling sensitive workplace investigations involving allegations of discrimination, harassment and other workplace misconduct on behalf of public companies, financial institutions, private equity funds, non-profit institutions and their executives and principals. Liza’s diverse client list includes Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BlackRock, Citigroup, Columbia University, Conair, Etsy, Frederic Fekkai, Home Depot, Hudson’s Bay Company, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, Mastercard, NBCUniversal, New York Presbyterian Hospital, Pfizer, PSEG, Prudential Insurance, SS&C Technologies, Santa Clara University and 21st Century Fox. Among her significant employment matters, Liza has represented:
- SS&C Technologies in:
- the settlement of a collective and class action under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New Jersey state wage and hour laws; and
- a putative class action alleging violations of New York state wage and hour laws;
- Amazon in a putative class action being litigated in the Eastern District of California by a former employee asserting claims of disability discrimination, failure to provide a reasonable accommodation and retaliation;
- Pfizer in securing the denial of a preliminary injunction and dismissal of a high-profile “reverse discrimination” suit alleging that Pfizer’s Breakthrough Fellowship Program, designed to enhance Pfizer’s pipeline of diverse leaders, violates Section 1981, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the Affordable Care Act, and various New York State and New York City human rights laws;
- Barnes & Noble in a high-stakes litigation alleging wrongful termination and defamation, notably securing the dismissal of the $70 million defamation claim on summary judgment;
- BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, in a high-profile review concerning the handling of internal complaints of discrimination and harassment;
- The New York Presbyterian Hospital and Santa Clara University in litigation and other matters regarding COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees, notably blocking multiple separate temporary injunctions sought against the organizations’ vaccination policies;
- The N.Y. Unified Court System in successfully defending multiple court challenges seeking to block its implementation of a vaccine mandate under labor law and on Constitutional grounds;
- NBCUniversal in two collective actions alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Law;
- Citigroup's brokerage unit, Smith Barney, in a nationwide employment class action involving claims under Title VII and California state law based on alleged discrimination against female brokers in the distribution of client accounts, administrative support and partnership opportunities;
- Prudential Insurance in trial court and appellate litigation involving claims brought by over 200 current and former employees challenging the prior settlement of their employment-related claims in an alternative dispute resolution process;
- Columbia University in matters brought by current and former students involving allegations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment under Title IX and municipal law;
- A Special Committee of the Board of Trustees of Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health in a high-profile audit of safety policies and procedures at residential campuses nationwide;
- 21st Century Fox in employment-related matters involving gender discrimination, sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims;
- A Fortune 50 energy company in an internal investigation regarding discrimination and retaliation claims arising from a corporate merger;
- A Fortune 50 retail chain in connection with a series of internal investigations involving allegations of employee misconduct and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act;
- A major tech e-commerce company in a series of internal investigations concerning discrimination and retaliation claims; and
- A multinational financial services company in internal investigations regarding the reporting of sexual harassment complaints and a sexual harassment allegation involving a senior executive.
Liza has significant trial experience. Her representation of clients in a broad range of complex civil and corporate litigation matters enables her to bring a well-rounded perspective to her clients. At trial, Liza has represented:
- IBM in a rare preliminary injunction trial victory—affirmed on appeal—barring a former senior executive from accepting a competing position, for which she was named “Litigator of the Week” by The American Lawyer;
- Citigroup in the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy proceedings and multi-month trial;
- Aurora Bank in a trial victory in Colorado state court concerning the conduct of an independent mortgage foreclosure review; and
- Bosnian women in the successful trial of a landmark human rights case brought under the Alien Tort Statute.
Liza is actively involved in human rights and pro bono matters. She has successfully represented many asylum clients, including parents separated from their children at the U.S. border, women and their families fleeing gang violence, and individuals seeking protection from persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity in their home countries. She recently represented more than 100 companies in an amicus brief supporting the Equal Rights Amendment. Liza is Vice Chair of the Board of Legal Services NYC, the nation’s largest civil legal services provider, a member of the Board of Advisors of Human Rights First, a member of the governing body for the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, a member of the Board of the Fund for Modern Courts, a member of the Board of Ambassadors of the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), and a member of the New York State Bar Association Task Force on Advancing Diversity.
AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS
Liza has been repeatedly recognized for her trial accomplishments and litigation achievements, particularly in the employment space. In 2022, Liza was recognized by Law360 as an MVP in the "Employment" category and by The National Law Journal as an “Employment Law Trailblazer” for her achievements advising employers during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Liza was named “Labor and Employment Lawyer of Year” by Euromoney for their Americas Women in Business Law Awards series. She was also recently named to the 2021 edition of Crain’s New York Business’s “Notable Women in Law” list. Liza has been recognized as a “National Star” for Labor and Employment Litigation by Benchmark Litigation for four consecutive years, and was selected by Lawdragon in 2022 to the “500 Leading Corporate Employment Lawyers” guide and to the “500 Leading Lawyers in America” guide. In 2020, Liza was named a “Litigator of the Week” by The American Lawyer for a victory on behalf of IBM in a high-stakes trade secrets and noncompetition trial.