Chicago-Kent College of Law (J.D., 2007), with honors
University of Chicago (B.A., 2002), with honors
Sonya counsels companies and organizations on various employee-related legal issues that arise through the many stages of the employment relationship, from pre-hire to following separation. Sonya also represents employers in litigation, her experience including the successful defense of numerous administrative charges, lawsuits and appellate proceedings at the state and federal levels. She has significant experience counseling employers and defending litigation from the administrative stage through appeals. Clients value that her ability to understand their needs and thoroughly assess their legal situations often results in invaluable savings in time and resources.
Sonya is a frequent presenter and author of numerous articles on current employment law topics, including effective employment audit and risk management practices, #MeToo and other harassment and discrimination in the workplace, technology-related issues relating to social media and use of recruiting technologies, restrictive covenants, medical leave and disability-related issues, BIPA (Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act), workplace violence, smart performance management, conducting workplace investigations and reductions in force and other notable developments in labor and employment law.
In addition to her practice, Sonya is a member of the National Board of the Coalition of Women's Initiatives in Law and the President of its Chicago chapter. The Coalition is a nonprofit organization focused on supporting female attorneys in Chicago, New York and D.C.-area law firms and companies. Sonya is the Legal Counsel and member of the National Board of Step-Up, a national nonprofit organization that empowers girls from under-resourced communities to graduate high school and enroll in college through impactful after-school programs and mentorship opportunities with professional women. Sonya is also a member of the Chicago chapter of the International Women’s Forum, an international organization that supports global, national and local networks of women leaders in government, medicine, business, education, the arts and community service. At the firm, Sonya is co-chair of NGE’s Women’s Network Leadership Initiative, and a member of the Firm’s Hiring and Anti-Harassment Committees. She is also a regular contributor to the firm's COVID-19 Resource and Information Center.
In 2017, Sonya was recognized as one of "40 Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch" by the Law Bulletin Publishing Company, which also named her an Emerging Lawyer in 2015. She has been named a Rising Star from 2013-2019 in Illinois Super Lawyers, and was recognized in the Spring 2017 Women of Influence issue of Best Lawyers - Business Edition. In 2012, Sonya was named by Today’s Chicago Woman as one of the 100 Women to Watch.
Recent Litigation Experience:
- Defeated a motion to dismiss in a case filed on behalf of a global executive search firm to recover unearned bonus payments, resulting in 20+ page opinion from federal judge and expedited, favorable outcome for the firm.
- Led and prevailed at a Wisconsin state law trial, securing complete dismissal of race discrimination and retaliation claims filed by a former employee of nationwide distributor of convenience store items.
- Applying a Constitutional law (ministerial exception) argument, secured a complete dismissal with prejudice for a church and its school in an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee.
- Secured summary judgment for a long-term care consulting company in an age discrimination lawsuit filed by two former employees.
- Secured summary judgment for a national association in a lawsuit alleging defamation, invasion of privacy and tortious interference, and won plaintiff’s appeal of the summary judgment decision at the appellate court level.
- Prepared and argued two successful motions to dismiss lawsuit alleging breach of contract, statutory wage payment and whistleblower claims and a retaliatory discharge claim by a former employee of an air ambulance company.
- Secured summary judgment for a graphic design company in a lawsuit alleging breach of contract and fraud.
- Prepared three successful motions to dismiss and presented oral argument on last motion, which was granted by the court with prejudice, ensuring full dismissal of lawsuit alleging various wage-related claims filed against a pool supplies company.
- Prepared successful motion to dismiss and secured dismissal with prejudice of a lawsuit filed against a former company executive, based on lack of personal jurisdiction.
- Secured summary judgment for a division of an international investment bank in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
- Secured summary judgment for a national distributor of small store items in a religious discrimination lawsuit.
- Secured summary judgment and won a Seventh Circuit appeal for a nationwide retailer in a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit.
- Successful prosecution and settlement secured for a national hospital collection company in a breach of restrictive covenants action.
- Successful prosecution and settlement secured for a finance executive in an AAA arbitration over separation-related agreements and benefits.
- Successful defense of various-size companies and organizations in hundreds of administrative charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and parallel administrative state agencies alleging discrimination based on race, national origin, sex, religion, age, disabilities, marital status, and other protected categories.
Employment Counseling/Investigation Experience:
- Conducted an investigation of a C-suite executive of an international company leading to a fulsome report and recommendation that was upheld following trial.
- Advise companies on and conduct internal investigations, including those involving high-level executives and allegations of sexual and other types of harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.
- Provide multifaceted, employment-related counseling and advice to companies, organizations and associations through all stages of the employment relationship, including the pre-hire stage, employee performance and conduct-related issues, and separations and reductions-in-force.
- Negotiate employment and separation agreements on behalf of companies and individuals.
- Conduct various employment-related trainings and seminars, including on preventing discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the workplace, leave-related matters, and workplace technology and social media.
- Review and revise employee handbooks and various stand-alone policies.
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
- U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois