After a long and distinguished career in the federal government with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Ms. Wheeler joined Katz Banks Kumin in August 2015.

As an appellate lawyer with the EEOC, Ms. Wheeler was in the forefront of developing cutting edge legal arguments and theories to prove discrimination and harassment under Title VII, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Equal Pay Act.  Ms. Wheeler was an Assistant General Counsel in EEOC’s Office of General Counsel, Appellate Services Division, for 25 years, and for 12 years served intermittently as the Acting Associate General Counsel, with responsibility for managing the entire office and staff. 

As an Assistant General Counsel, she supervised six attorneys who prepared briefs and argued appeals in EEOC cases in all the federal courts of appeals, as well as the Supreme Court, and who filed briefs as amicus curiae in cases raising important legal issues under EEOC’s statutes. For example, Ms. Wheeler worked on the landmark case UAW v. Johnson Controls, which held that fetal protection policies that bar fertile women from particular jobs violate Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. 

Throughout her tenure with the Commission, Ms. Wheeler participated in countless conferences and internal training sessions on the import of the many decisions from the Supreme Court, and also conducted agency-wide internal training on all of the legislative and regulatory responses to the Court’s decisions.  In addition, she frequently spoke at labor and employment law conferences on topics ranging from harassment to retaliation as well as all the emerging issues of coverage and accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Upon her departure from the Commission, the agency acknowledged her achievements in developing the law and in mentoring and training several generations of EEOC lawyers and investigators.

During her tenure with Katz Banks Kumin, Ms. Wheeler’s practice has focused primarily on assisting clients with disability, age, gender, and race claims and she has resolved many cases through private settlements without the need for litigation.  She also handled the Title IX case brought on behalf of students at a college in Virginia which led to a favorable decision in the Fourth Circuit in Feminist Majority Foundation v. University of Mary Washington, holding the students had stated a viable sexual harassment claim based on anonymous, threatening social media posts.  She has also prepared a number of appellate briefs on behalf of amici such as the National Women’s Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association. 

Prior to joining the EEOC in 1988, Ms. Wheeler served for three years as Law Clerk to the Honorable Thomas Tang of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  She graduated from the University of Montana School of Law, with high honors, and is a charter-invited member of the Edward Coke Appellate Inn of Court, the only inn comprised exclusively of appellate practitioners.  Before attending law school, Ms. Wheeler taught English for 8 years at the Universities of Montana and Missouri, and Humanities and Women’s Studies for two years at the University of Montana.  She earned her A.B. and M.A. degrees in English with Honors from the University of Missouri, and completed all course work toward a Ph.D. in American Intellectual History at the University of Montana before attending law school.

During her time at Katz Banks Kumin, Ms. Wheeler has been involved in several cases, including: 

Feminist Majority Foundation v. University of Mary (Fourth Circuit)
Held that students had stated a viable sexual harassment claim based on anonymous, threatening social media posts.

Hamilton v. Dallas County (Fifth Circuit)
Drafted an amicus brief for the National Women’s Law Center in this case brought by women who work as Detention Service Officers (DSOs) at the Dallas County Jail, who challenged the County’s new scheduling policy that gave men in these positions the ability to take full weekends off but limited women to taking only weekdays or partial weekends off.  When the women asked why they could no longer take full weekends off, their supervisor stated that it would be “unsafe for all the men to be off during the week” and “safer for the men to be off on the weekends.” 

Chambers v. District of Columbia (D.C. Circuit)
Assisted in drafting an amicus brief for the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association supporting the plaintiff’s argument that being denied a lateral transfer to another job because of one’s gender constitutes an adverse employment action within the meaning of Title VII.

During the 2014 term, Ms. Wheeler worked with the Solicitor’s office on the following: 

Mach Mining v. EEOC
The Court held that lower courts may conduct only extremely limited and deferential review of EEO’s pre-suit conciliation efforts. 

Young v. UPS
The Court determined that Young had made out a prima facie case of pregnancy discrimination against her employer that denied her light duty request when she was pregnant, while providing light duty to a variety of other employees.

EEOC v. Abercrombie and Fitch
The Court held that the EEOC had established a viable claim of religious discrimination and failure to accommodate an applicant for employment who was not hired because she wore a head scarf for religious reasons.

Briefs in the Supreme Court are filed on behalf of the government by the Solicitor General.  Ms. Wheeler worked with the Solicitor’s office on a number of significant employment discrimination cases in which the Solicitor filed amicus briefs or briefs on behalf of the EEOC as a party.  A partial list of those cases follows: 

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar
Case in which the Court rejected arguments that the Title VII mixed motives proof framework should apply to retaliation claims. 

Vance v. Ball State 
Created a definition of supervisor status for harassment liability purposes. 

Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC
Affirmed the existence of a ministerial exception that allows religious organizations to make employment decisions about employees who qualify as ministers without being subject to liability under the anti-discrimination statutes. 

Thompson v. North American Stainless
The case that established that a close relative or friend can state a retaliation claim based on that friend or relative’s protected activity (third party retaliation).

Ricci v. DeStefano
A case involving a challenge to New Haven’s decision not to rely on a discriminatory exam used for choosing firefighters for promotion to captain positions.

Gross v. FBL Financial Services
A case in which the Court rejected the government’s argument that victims of age discrimination should be allowed to prove their claims under the same mixed motives standards applicable in Title VII cases. 

Crawford v. Metropolitan Gov’t of Memphis
A case involving retaliation against a harassment witness, in which the Court agreed with the government’s argument that witnesses are protected by Title VII’s retaliation provision. 

Toyota v. Williams
Disability case that led Congress to reexamine the meaning of “substantially limited.” 

Sutton v. United Airlines, Murphy v. UPS, and Albertson’s v. Kirkingburg
This trilogy of disability cases spurred the amendments to the ADA expanding the coverage of individuals with disabilities. 

Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services
Sexual harassment case recognizing that same-sex harassment is actionable, as advocated by the government.

Faragher v. City of Boca Raton and Ellerth v. Burlington Industries
These cases led to the creation of an affirmative defense for supervisory sexual harassment, consistent with the agency principles of liability espoused by the EEOC. 

Harris v. Forklift Systems
Sexual harassment case recognizing that harassment victims do not need to prove they were emotionally devastated to the point of being unable to work to establish actionable harassment. 

UAW v. Johnson Controls
Ms. Wheeler worked on this landmark case that held that fetal protection policies that bar fertile women from particular jobs violate Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. 

Publications

Speaking Engagements

Navigating the New Normal: Accommodations in the Pandemic Era 
April 19, 2021
Katz Banks Kumin senior counsel Carolyn Wheeler participated in a panel hosted by the ABA Section of labor and Employment Law, which examined the developing law around disability and religious accommodations and best practices in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
April 7, 2022
Katz Banks Kumin senior counsel Carolyn Wheeler gave a presentation to the Florida Bar Labor and Employment Law Section providing a review and preview of Supreme Court cases during the 2021 term.  She explained the Court’s recent decisions in an ERISA case about fiduciaries’ duty of prudence, Hughes v. Northwestern University, a First Amendment case finding that a college board member had no claim based on his censure by the board, Houston Community College System v. Wilson, and an arbitration case holding that federal courts have no jurisdiction over suits seeking to set aside arbitration awards, Badgerow v. Walters.  In addition, she explained the lower court decisions and issues before the Supreme Court in a number of other First Amendment and arbitration cases, as well as a number of cases raising novel statutory questions. 
April 2, 2022
Katz Banks Kumin senior counsel Carolyn Wheeler participated on a panel at the American Bar Association National Conference on Equal Employment Opportunity Law in Memphis, Tennessee, entitled “Hope and a Prayer: Religious Liberty at Work.”  Carolyn focused on recent developments in the courts dealing with employee requests for religious accommodations related to employers’ imposition of vaccine mandates and on the expansive interpretations of who qualifies as a “minister” for purposes of religious employers’ assertion of the “ministerial exemption” from challenges to employment decisions under the anti-discrimination statutes. She prepared a paper for the conference that can be accessed here.
April 4, 2019
Katz Banks Kumin senior counsel Carolyn Wheeler spoke at the 2019 National Conference on Equal Employment Opportunity Law on the panel, “Age Discrimination – It Never Gets Old.”
December 5, 2018
Katz Banks Kumin senior counsel Carolyn Wheeler spoke at an ALI-CLE course, “Changing Employment Law Currents: Examining This Administration’s Impacts.”
November 8, 2018
Katz Banks Kumin senior counsel Carolyn Wheeler spoke at the 12th Annual Labor and Employment Law Conference on the panel, “Perspectivers from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”
April 25, 2018
Katz Banks Kumin senior counsel Carolyn Wheeler spoke on the panel, “Strengthening Protections: How to Improve Title IX & Keep Campuses Safe,” at the 2018 Enough is Enough Summit.
March 16, 2018
Katz Banks Kumin senior counsel Carolyn Wheeler spoke on a panel at the National Conference on Equal Employment Opportunity Law Conference, where she spoke about the Supreme Court’s decisions in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and EEOC v. Abercrombie.
Talking about Sexual Harassment at Work
November 13, 2017
Katz Banks Kumin senior counsel Carolyn Wheeler appeared as a guest on The Lorne Epstein Show in a segment titled, “Talking about Sexual Harassment at Work.”

Advanced Religious Discrimination Issues​
April 1, 2017
Katz Banks Kumin senior counsel Carolyn Wheeler spoke on a panel entitled “Advanced Religious Discrimination Issues” at the American Bar Association’s 2017 National Conference on Equal Employment Opportunity Law.

Developments in Discrimination Litigation: Harassment, Race, Gender, Age, Pregnancy, and National Origin
March 17, 2016
Katz Banks Kumin senior counsel Carolyn Wheeler gave a presentation entitled “Developments in Discrimination Litigation: Harassment, Race, Gender, Age, Pregnancy, and National Origin” at the Advanced Employment Law and Litigation 2016 continuing legal education seminar, hosted by the American Legal Institute.

Women’s Work is Never Done
February 26, 2016
Katz Banks Kumin senior counsel Carolyn Wheeler delivered the keynote address, entitled “Women’s Work is Never Done” for the St. Louis Law Review symposium “Shattering the Glass Ceiling: the Status of Women in the Workplace and the Change Needed for Equality.”

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