Joseph M. Sellers
Suite 500 West
Washington, DC 20005
t: 202 408 4600
f: 202 408 4699
Joseph M. Sellers, a Partner at the Firm and head of the Civil Rights & Employment practice group, joined Cohen Milstein in 1997.
Mr. Sellers has represented victims of discrimination and other illegal employment practices individually and through class actions. He has tried several civil rights class actions to judgment before juries and has argued more than 25 appeals in the federal and state appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court. He has served as class counsel, and typically lead counsel, in more than 30 civil rights and employment class actions.
Those cases have included: serving as lead counsel in Keepseagle v. Vilsack (D.D.C.), which resulted in a settlement providing $760 million of relief and broad injunctive relief to Native American farmers and ranchers who were denied loans or loan servicing by the United States Department of Agriculture. In approving the settlement, the Court commended counsel saying, “[i]t’s probably the best negotiated agreement that this court has seen in its experience . . . the terms of this settlement are historic,” and Cohen Milstein has “demonstrated the highest level of skills and professionalism.” In addition, Mr. Sellers represented a class of women alleging sex discrimination in promotions and compensation in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (N.D. Cal.), where he presented oral argument on their behalf before the United States Supreme Court and continues to represent them in regional class actions formed in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling; he has successfully represented a class of more than 28,000 women employees at Boeing facilities in Washington state in Beck v. Boeing Company (W.D. Wash.), where they alleged sex discrimination in compensation and promotion practices and overtime decisions; Conway, et al. v. Deutsch (E.D. Va.), involving a class of female covert case officers at the CIA alleging sex discrimination in promotions and job assignments; Johnson v. Freeh (D.D.C.), involving a class of African-American FBI special agents alleging racial discrimination in promotion and job assignments; Neal v. Director, D.C Dept. of Corrections (D.D.C.), the first sexual harassment class action tried to a jury on behalf of a class of women correctional employees and women and men subject to retaliation at the D.C. Department of Corrections; and Trotter v. Perdue Farms (D. Del.), involving a company-wide collective action brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act for violations of federal wage and hour law.
Throughout his career, Mr. Sellers has also been active in legislative matters. He has testified more than 20 times before Committees of the United States Senate and House of Representatives on various civil rights and employment matters. He worked on the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act of 2009.
Mr. Sellers has trained lawyers at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice on the trial of civil rights cases and has lectured extensively throughout the country on various civil rights and employment topics. He was an Adjunct Professor at the Washington College of Law at American University, where he taught Employment Discrimination law, and at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he taught Professional Responsibility.
He served on the Obama/Biden Transition Team in 2008 and the Clinton/Gore Transition Team in 1992 and 1993. He also served as a Co-Chair of the D.C. Circuit Task Force on Gender, Race and Ethnic Bias to which he was appointed by the judges of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
At the request of the Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association, Mr. Sellers delivered a series of lectures and designed and delivered a mock trial on civil rights law to Chinese judges, lawyers and other government officials in China.
Mr. Sellers was recognized as one of the top lawyers in Washington and as one of the top 10 plaintiffs’ employment lawyers in the country. In 2010, he was recognized as one of "The Decade's Most Influential Lawyers" by The National Law Journal, in 2011 he was recognized as a Visionary in the legal profession by The Legal Times and in 2012 he was given the Wiley A. Branton Award by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs for his leadership in civil rights. He is served as a professionally-trained mediator and has served as the President of the Washington Council of Lawyers.
Prior to joining Cohen Milstein, Mr. Sellers served as head of the Employment Discrimination Project of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs for over 15 years.
Mr. Sellers received a J.D. from Case Western Reserve School of Law (1979), where he served as Research Editor of the Case Western Reserve Law Review, and a B.A. in American History and Literature from Brown University (1975).
Mr. Sellers is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia.