LEWIS M. STEEL works on a wide range of class actions and individual cases, generally involving racial  and sexual discrimination matters as well as labor law violations. Presently, as a member of an Outten & Golden team, he has been ligating class action claims challenging  the invalidated use by employers of criminal records to deny applicants jobs, including the ground breaking Gonzalez v. Pritzker settlement  against the United States Census Bureau, for which Mr. Steel  and the team received  the 2017 Public Justice Award.  Mr. Steel has also been listed in Best Lawyers in America for more than twenty years.

Before joining Outten & Golden, Mr. Steel handled a wide range of civil rights cases involving housing and zoning discrimination, as well as police brutality and criminal cases. He served as co-lead counsel in the Rubin Carter/John Artis case for which he was honored by the New York Criminal Bar Association in 2000. Moreover, New York Law School has awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for his civil rights work and he has been an adjunct professor of law there.

Mr. Steel’s precedent-setting employment discrimination decisions include Sumitomo Shoji America, Inc. v. Avagliano, 457 U.S. 176, which established that American subsidiaries of foreign corporations must obey American civil rights laws. In the Sumitomo case and other employment discrimination class actions he has negotiated far-reaching settlements and monitored the companies’ performance. He now works on a range of class action cases involving sexual and racial discrimination, overtime claims, and tipping issues. Mr. Steel recently negotiated a ground-breaking settlement of pay, promotion, and retaliation claims for a class of African-American and Hispanic New York City Department of Parks and Recreation employees.

Mr. Steel graduated from Harvard College in 1958 and from New York Law School in 1963, where he was the Editor in Chief of the Law Review.

Find out more about Lewis M. Steel on his Wikipedia page.

(*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.)

Bar Admission and Professional Activity
  • Mr. Steel is admitted to practice law only in New York.
  • Mr. Steel is admitted to the following federal courts: The United States District Courts for the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of New York; and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the Third Circuit.
  • Mr. Steel, who began his career in 1964 on the legal staff of the NAACP, is a past president of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and has served on the Board of Directors of the New York County Lawyers Association.
Video & Podcasts

January 16, 2016

Outten Golden Senior Counsel Lewis M. Steel – The number of discrimination cases filed by city employees in New York has risen even as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has adopted a far less adversarial tone than his predecessor did in dealing with the city’s vast work force.

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Speaking Engagements


Blogs & Publications

Out of Prison, Out of a Job: “Ban the Box” Movement Seeks an End to Employers’ Insidious Use of Criminal Background Checks to Reject Qualified Applicants

70 million Americans – one in every three adults in the United States – has a criminal record of some sort. for many of these people, however, the cost of their crimes imposes a death sentence on their ability to find work. The impact is far reaching. According to…

Racial Discrimination from the Time of “The Butler’s Child” until Now

In The Butler’s Child, Outten & Golden Senior Counsel Lewis Steel describes his career spent seeking racial justice as a civil rights lawyer. The book, to be released on June 14th, is a fascinating chronicle of many landmark cases, and a fitting reminder of the…

Words Matter: Inherent Bias and Employment Discrimination

If the events of the past few weeks have shown us anything, it’s that – like Black lives – words matter. Both spoken and in writing, the language we use has the power to inspire, offend, unite, and divide. Sometimes, the use of seemingly harmless words, or even the…

The Butler’s Child: An Autobiography

Lewis M. Steel with Beau Friedlander, Thomas Dunne Books St. Martin’s Press, 2016

Exonerating the Innocent: Pretrial Innocence Prodecures

Lewis Steel, Co-Author with Tim Bakken, New York Law School Law Review, Volume 56, 2011/12

Jim Crow in the North

Lewis M Steel, In These Times, 2009

A Dream Deferred

Lewis M Steel, In These Times, 2007

Community Control and the Courts

Lewis M Steel, Institute for Community Studies, Queens College, 1969

Awards & Recognition
  • 1989-2024: Best Lawyers