Labor and Employment Law Focus Area

The Labor and Employment Law Focus Area provides a range of courses dealing with the rights and obligations of employers and employees. The focus builds on the first-year Contracts and Torts classes, which lay the foundation for students' understanding of contractual agreements and civil (as contrasted with criminal) wrongs.

The focus has several purposes. One is to give students a substantial body of knowledge and skills in the broad area of labor and employment law so that they will excel as responsible and highly competent attorneys if they chose to practice in this area. Another purpose is to provide an integrated educational experience in which students can learn topically-related substantive law in addition to a specific group of related lawyering skills. Finally, the focus enables students to schedule and plan their upper-division curriculum in a coherent manner.

The Labor and Employment Law Focus Area is particularly well-suited for students planning to represent employees, unions, or corporations in the wide array of legal problems that arise in the workplace. For example, students may wish to represent corporate clients in private practice or as in-house corporate counsel, labor relations director, or employee-benefits specialists. Students may choose to represent employees who have suffered injuries resulting from such unlawful actions as discrimination, health and safety violations, privacy invasions, or wrongful discharge. Finally, students may wish to represent labor unions or other advocacy groups that, in turn, work on behalf of employees. As an illustration of the importance of this area of practice, each year a scholarship in the form of a cash grant is awarded by the Seattle-King County Bar Association to a Seattle University School of Law student who has shown distinction or promise in the field of labor and employment law.

Although the focus is designed to give the students a substantial body of knowledge and skills involving labor and employment law, it does not cover all the knowledge students may need to practice every sub-specialty. Depending on the particular type of labor and employment law a student chooses, she or he may need to take additional business courses or specialized tax courses; for example, students desiring to work in the area of pensions and employee benefits may want to take additional, specific courses on these topics.

To complete the focus, students are required to take two of the Tier-3 specialized courses, which involve specific common law and statutory regulations governing the workplace and the working relationship. The Tier-3 courses are as follows:

  • Employment Law 
  • Employment Discrimination 
  • Labor Law 

While students are not required to take all of the Tier-3 courses, the rest of the labor and employment courses build on these three subject areas. Students also choose several from among a number of elective courses in the focus. In at least one course, students have the opportunity to learn practical skills in courses in which they use their knowledge in live clinics, externships, simulated drafting courses, or mock exercises. In addition, students may take a number of related elective courses dealing with business transactions and dispute resolution systems.

There are a number of capstone courses in this focus, including Pensions and Employee Benefits, Disability Law, Education Law, Labor Law Public Sector, Workplace Health and Safety, and Advanced Topics in Labor and Employment Law. Not every capstone course is offered every year. Almost all have at least one prerequisite course, the purpose of which is to encourage a logical, organized progression of effective, comprehensive learning.

Labor and Employment Law Faculty

Career Faculty
Charlotte Garden Labor Law; Labor and Employment Law: Appellate Litigation
Natasha Martin Employment Discrimination


Adjunct Faculty
Christopher Burton School Law
David Campbell Labor & Employment Dispute Resolution
Kenneth Diamond Employment Law
Greg Duras Workplace Health and Safety
Bob Zech Drafting Lab

Focus Area Requirements

Plan the completion of your focus area with a focus area tracking form.

Course Descriptions

Foundational Course (Tier 2)

  • Administrative Law (3 cr)

Required Tier-3 Courses (at least two courses required)

  • Employment Discrimination (3 cr)
  • Employment Law (3 cr)
  • Labor Law (3 cr)

[Any tier-3 or skills courses that a student takes beyond those required may count toward meeting the focus area elective requirements.]

Skills Component Courses (at least one course required)

  • Labor & Employment Appellate Litigation (2 cr)
  • Labor and Employment Dispute Resolution (3 cr)
  • Labor & Employment Law Externship (NLRB, EEOC, etc.) (3-4 cr)
  • Labor & Employment Law Drafting Lab (1 cr)
  • Mediation, Mediation Advocacy and Collaborative Law (3 cr)

Elective Courses (at least two courses required)

  • Disability Law (2 cr)
  • Education Law (2 cr)
  • Employment Discrimination (3 cr)
  • Employment Law (3 cr)
  • Whistleblowers & the Law (2 cr)
  • Workplace Health and Safety (3 cr)

Additional Related Courses

These courses are not part of the focus area, but are sufficiently related that students may wish to take one or more of these in conjunction with the focus:

  • Dispute Resolution
  • Client Interviewing and Counseling and Negotiation
  • Business Entities
  • Law and Religion
  • Law and Sexuality
  • Relevant Courses in the Albers School of Business and Economics

Labor and Employment Law Enrichment Opportunities

Labor and Employment Law Association (LELA)

The Labor and Employment Law Association provides opportunities for students interested in the area to learn more about the labor and employment law field, including current practice issues. It is also a way for students to meet judges and practitioners in the field. Each semester LELA sponsors several events open to the student body. For example, in recent years LELA has hosted Bill Gould (appointed by President Clinton to Chair the NLRB), Representative Steve Conway (co-chair, Commerce and Labor Committee, state legislature), and attorneys Kelby Fletcher, Juliet Jones, and Kimberly Meyers- to name a few. LELA organizes a panel of labor and employment practitioners or judges every year for the "Choices" career conference. LELA recently arranged a brown bag lunch at which two SU graduates who practice in the field discussed career opportunities and described "a day in the life." LELA helps publicize the Mary Ellen Krug Scholarship, a cash grant (usually $3,000) awarded to a student who's shown "promise or distinction in Labor and Employment law." LELA also sponsors the Labor and Employment Summer Clerkship Competition, which places the winner in a summer job and pays a stipend (usually $5,000). LELA sends student volunteers to help the local Bar Association with the Pacific Coast Labor and Employment Conference each spring, at which the students have the opportunity to meet and mingle with some 400 practitioners from the west coast states.

Labor and Employment Law Externship Opportunities

Externships are law-related placements outside the law school, where students receive academic credit for performing legal work for an agency or court under the supervision of an on-site supervising attorney or judge. A number of outstanding part-time externships are available in the labor and employment law field, including externships with the Labor & Industries Division of the Attorney General’s Office, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Employment Law Department of the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, the Seattle Office of Civil Rights, the US Department of Labor (Seattle Solicitor’s Office), the Unemployment Law Project, and the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, among others. Students interested in pursuing a labor and employment law related externship should visit the Externship Program TWEN site and meet with Professor Gillian Dutton, Externship Program Director.