Rachel Powitzky Steely

Partner

Overview

Rachel Powitzky Steely is a leading female trial lawyer in Texas. Rachel has been recognized as one of the top 50 female lawyers in Texas, selected as a Houston elite 100 lawyer, and was named a top 20 female trial lawyer by Texas Lawyer Magazine, the only trade secret/employment attorney to receive the honor. Rachel’s trial experience includes employment, commercial, corporate and insurance matters. She has won multi-million dollar verdicts and defended companies against claims exceeding 100 million dollars.

Rachel is regularly recognized by Best Lawyers and Chambers and has been a Texas Super Lawyer for almost twenty years. She was named as Houston Business Journal's Outstanding Business Leader in Professional Services and selected for Who's Who in Energy. She is a former student investigator for the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor and is Board Certified, Labor & Employment Law, by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Rachel is an expert in the field of unfair competition litigation, including extensive experience representing clients in prosecuting and defending expedited proceedings seeking emergency injunctive relief related to non-competes, trade secret theft and embezzlement, which allows her to provide quick, strategic and efficient representation for companies and executives.

Rachel also has particular expertise in wage and hour litigation, and a wide variety of employment matters, including disability laws; discrimination, retaliation and harassment; executive agreements; OSHA and safety; terminations, hiring and layoffs, and, severance agreements. She maintains an active trial docket while also providing the necessary preventative counseling to help clients avoid costly litigation.

Rachel serves as vice chair for the firm's Labor & Employment Practice, with the Houston office recognized as a Tier 1 practice by Best Lawyers.

Experience

Unfair Competition/Trade Secrets/Restrictive Covenants

  • Prosecuted or defended over 30 temporary restraining order or temporary injunction proceedings in state and federal court, primarily focusing on unfair competition, trade secret misappropriation, and non-solicitation and non-competition agreements
  • Lead trial attorney for an innovative plastics solutions company in a suit filed against former employees where a jury returned a multimillion-dollar verdict establishing the trade secret nature of the technology and the misappropriation by the defendants
  • Proactive defense in multi-million dollar trade secret and non-compete litigation against plastics company and executives resulting in quick and efficient resolution in favor of our client.
  • Lead trial lawyer in successful prosecution of multi-state trade secret, non-solicitation and partnership litigation involving expedited and Anti-SLAPP proceedings for companies in the amusement park industry
  • Defeated efforts by competitor to shut down construction of facility based on noncompete, trade secret and breach of fiduciary duties obligations
  • Successfully defended multi-national company against anti-competitive allegations of employee raiding and theft of trade secrets, resulting in the opponent paying 3 times more attorneys’ fees for a mere dismissal of claims
  • Represented several groups of departing executives and managers of international insurance brokerage company against former employer for claims of breach of partnership agreement, stock option, non-competition, non-solicitation and confidentiality agreements
  • Assistance with developing staffing company restrictive covenants
  • Prevailed with an injunction to stop competing energy technology company from building similar downhole tools in competition with client
  • Represented new insurance brokerage firm in lawsuit by former employer of executives for claims of tortious interference breach of noncompetition, non-solicitation and confidentiality agreements
  • Represented financial services firm after key sales employees joined a competitor and attempted to take key clients to the new firm
  • Represented fire and security company in several cases against employees for misappropriation of confidential information, breach of fiduciary duties and breach of non-solicitation agreements
  • Served as lead trial counsel against managers refusing to return incentive stock awards and payments as a result of violations of restrictive covenants
  • Lead counsel for multi-national supply chain technology company against employees leaving en masse to new competitor

Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation

  • Successful defense of claims in multi-plaintiff race discrimination case in federal court whereby the defense successfully excluded tape recordings and other evidence resulting in resolution of matter on the first day of trial
  • Prevailed on summary judgement in the defense of race and gender discrimination laws for homebuilder
  • Defense of numerous discrimination lawsuit for construction clients
  • OSHA representation for construction, agricultural and oil and gas clients involving fatalities, injuries and environmental issues
  • Advise to clients regarding and investigation of top executives for foreign companies after allegations of race and sex harassment, retaliation and discrimination
  • Represented numerous companies in many instances of litigation and EEOC Charges filed by former employees alleging race, disability, FMLA, age, religion, sex and national origin discrimination, harassment and retaliation
  • Represented numerous energy companies in many instances of litigation and charges filed by former employees alleging race, age, sex and national origin discrimination
  • Prevailed on summary judgment, and affirmed per curium by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, for chemical company on discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims
  • Represented a chemical manufacturer in defending claims regarding disability and age discrimination
  • Represented multiple companies in defense of claims of workers injury and retaliation
  • Represented multiple companies, including an oil and gas services company, in claims of same-sex harassment and sex discrimination
  • Represented title insurance company in race discrimination lawsuit associated with a mass layoff
  • Advised and defended clients from whistleblower claims under Section 806 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which has involved advising board of directors and officers with respect to employee investigations and appropriate actions
  • Represented employer in workers compensation retaliation litigation from trial to the Texas Supreme Court
  • Defended companies and others against DOL Solicitor for OSHA willful and serious citations, working cooperatively with the defense attorneys in accompanying personal injury actions
  • Represented oil and gas services company against harassment and discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in federal court
  • Represented accounting and consulting firm in action by former employee for job misclassification and Family and Medical Leave Act retaliation

Wage and Hour Collective Actions/Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)/Pay Disputes

  • Represented numerous oilfield companies in collective action lawsuits seeking overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act in issues such as bonus payments, waiting periods, fluctuating workweek, day rates, overtime, travel time, donning and doffing and independent contractor status
  • Lead counsel for dismissal of case at class certification stage for energy company.
  • Lead counsel in wage and hour collective action for multi-national technology company based on comp time, improper bonus scheme and overtime allegations
  • Audited companies to determine wage and hour/pay classifications and appropriate payment of overtime under Fair Labor Standards Act requirements
  • Lead counsel for E&P company against misclassification allegations under the Fair Labor Standards Act for wellsite supervisors and other positions
  • Represented and advised energy companies in litigation, DOL investigations and self-audits regarding payment of employees, including independent contractor status, overtime payments and FLSA exemptions
  • Assisted employers in classification of employees as exempt or nonexempt and provide advice with regard to competitive pay strategies
  • Represented distributors, construction companies, retailers and restaurants in wage and hour disputes under the Fair Labor Standards Act for improper payment or classification of workers, including collective actions

Executive and Employment Related Trial Experience

  • Assisted several multi-national companies with employee embezzlement investigations and claims, including coordination with the FBI and state and local offices.
  • Assisted federal and state prosecutors with mail and wire fraud charges
  • Served as a summary witness for federal prosecutors in embezzlement case against former manager after conducting lengthy investigation into the background of the claims
  • Negotiated and drafted executive and employee employment agreements containing stock option, noncompetition, commission, 409A and intellectual property rights provisions
  • Represented pension plan fiduciaries in dispute over appropriate investment choices
  • Represented construction companies in OFCCP and FLSA investigations and litigation
  • Represented employer in litigation of OSHA safety violations in the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Represented employer in threatened union concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act
  • Represented companies against executives claiming amounts owed pursuant to "change of control" and "good reason" termination provisions in executive agreements
  • Represented homebuilder in claims by executive of unpaid bonuses and commissions
  • Represented Chief Risk Officer in an employment dispute and investigation by SEC
  • Represented partners on several occasions in partnership dissolution litigation involving theft of inventory, breach of fiduciary duties and winding down
  • Represented large insurance underwriter in action by former employee for amounts due under executive contract
  • Assisted employers in the documentation and initiation of terminations and mass layoffs in conjunction with federal and state laws, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, FMLA, ARRA and WARN
  • Represented several corporate officers upon termination of employment regarding Cause issues and the negotiation of severance agreements
  • Investigated employee and shareholder whistleblower, discrimination, safety and theft complaints

Strategic Consultations for Boards and Managers on Trial and Employment Related Issues

  • Assisted employer in monitoring and training managers to enhance employee performance through toolbox series and effective performance management and evaluation
  • Teamed with companies and boards with a focus on preventative measures to reduce litigation and whistleblower and safety complaints including development of operational strategies to incentivize employees towards maximizing output and safety, training managers regarding strategies to avoid litigation and governmental investigations, coordinating programs to ensure compliance with different federal and state laws and advice regarding policies and procedures and guidelines to help companies comply with federal and state laws
  • Conducted many confidential company investigations reporting directly to the Board of Directors, with matters including harassment, retaliation, embezzlement, discrimination and theft
  • Advised clients regarding new laws and decisions affecting clients' workforce, policies and benefits
  • Consulted with American companies on employment agreements and issues for overseas workers
  • Provided monthly and quarterly lunch seminars on important employment topics and strategies

Commercial and Corporate Litigation

  • Represented landowner in pipeline condemnation dispute
  • Lead counsel in multi-state distribution agreement dispute for agricultural client
  • Representation of amusement park in customer personal injury claims
  • Represented large refinery in claims against service provider for breach of contract
  • Lead counsel in physician office dispute between doctors involving Stark Law and numerous Medicare issues
  • On many occasions, have represented partners in partnership disputes, including trial victories resulting in the reimbursements of attorneys’ fees   

Professional Affiliations

  • Board Certified, Labor & Employment Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization
  • Member, Houston Bar Association
    • Former Chair, Lawyers in Public Schools
    • Former Member, Adopt an Angel Program Committee
    • Former Member, Speakers Bureau Committee
    • Former Member, Special Olympics Auction Committee
  • Fellow, Texas Bar Foundation
  • Former Member, Women’s Energy Network, Houston
  • Former Member, Texas Young Lawyers Association
    • Former Vice Chair, Crossing the Line and Borders & Boundaries Program
  • Former Board Member, Houston Young Lawyers Association
    • Former Chair, Crossing the Line and Borders & Boundaries Program

Community Involvement

  • Texas A&M University 12th Man Foundation
    • Member, Legal and Governance Committee
  • Corporate Guild Board Member, Dress for Success Houston
    • Chair, "A Night Out" (fundraiser held annually) (2011-2014)
  • Coach, West University Girls Softball Association (2008-present)
    • Auxiliary in support of WUSA
    • WUSA Auction Committee
    • Coach, WUSA Summer All-Stars
    • Coach, WUSA Spring and Fall Ball
  • Volunteer, St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church
    • Member, Capital Campaign Committee
    • Volunteer, Lord’s Day Program
    • Volunteer, Fall Festival
  • St. Vincent De Paul Catholic School
    • School Board Member (2012-2015)
    • Co-Chair - Annual Fund
    • Member, Parent Teacher Organization
    • Member, Gala Committee
    • Member, Breakfast with Santa
  • Former Board Member, Friends of the Ronald McDonald House
  • Former President and Board Member, Young Friends of the Ronald McDonald House
  • "Cookie Mom," San Jacinto Girl Scouts, Troops 25272 and 25199

Honors & Awards

  • Recognized, The Best Lawyers® in America (Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith eds., Woodward/White Inc.)
    • Employment Law - Management (2018-2020)
  • Recognized, Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business (Tom Wicker ed., Chambers & Partners)
    • Labor and Employment (2016-2020)
  • Recognized, Texas Super Lawyers®, a Thomson Reuters business, as published in Texas Super Lawyers Magazine
    • Employment Litigation: Defense (2003-2020)
  • Recognized, Houston Chronicle, Best Lawyers in Texas (2018)
  • Recognized, Houstonia's Top Lawyers,Houstonia Magazine, A SagaCity Media Publication (2017)
  • Recognized, Women Who Mean Business, Houston Business Journal (2017)
  • Recognized, Who's Who in Energy, Houston Business Journal (2016)
  • Recognized, Top Female Litigator in Texas, Texas Lawyer Winning Women (2014)
  • Recognized, Houston’s Top Lawyers, H Texas Magazine
    • Labor and Employment  (2004, 2011, 2012)
  • Recognized, Professional on the Fast Track, H Texas Magazine (2005, 2008, 2009)
  • Recognized, Texas Rising Star by Super Lawyers®, a Thomson Reuters business, as published in Texas Super Lawyers Magazine (2005)

Education

  • South Texas College of Law (J.D., 1994)
    • Member, National Order of Barristers
    • Member, The Order of Lytae
    • Finalist, ABA Appellate Advocacy Competition (1994)
    • Finalist, American Trial Lawyers Association Mock Trial Competition (1993)
  • Texas A&M University (B.S., 1991)
    • Economics

Admissions

  • Texas State Courts (1994)
  • Supreme Court of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern, Southern and Western Districts of Texas
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth and Ninth Circuits