Wood W. Lay

Wood Lay is a partner in the firm’s Charlotte office and serves as chair of the office’s labor and employment practice group.

Mr. Lay regularly represents clients in employment, ERISA, non-competition, and trade secret litigation in jurisdictions throughout the country. He also has significant experience managing employment litigation dockets for large employers and implementing nationwide arbitration programs with class action waivers.

In addition to litigation, Mr. Lay regularly advises clients on the investigation, discipline, and termination of employees; wage and hour issues; layoffs and the shutdown of facilities, including advice on the WARN Act and severance issues; harassment or discrimination complaints; employee attendance or leave issues under the FMLA, ADA, state workers’ compensation laws, and ERISA benefit plans; fatality investigations, and employment agreements, including non-competition and confidentiality agreements.

ERISA Litigation Experience

  • Defended Fortune 100 financial institution against multi-plaintiff breach of fiduciary duty and denial of benefits claims arising out of alleged pension eligibility and calculation issues.
  • Part of a team that defended a client against a multi-plaintiff breach of fiduciary duty, denial of benefit, and equitable estoppel claims brought by retirees under ERISA after modifications to retiree health insurance.
  • Regularly defends clients against ERISA denial of benefits claims involving medical, long-term disability, severance, or other welfare benefit plans.

Additional Litigation, Arbitration, and Administrative Agency Experience

  • Regularly defends employers in all types of employment litigation, including against claims alleging Title VII, ADEA, ADA, FMLA, or state-law wrongful termination claims.
  • Co-led team that successfully defended employer against a purported California class action for misclassification of employees and unpaid overtime.
  • Advised large employer during an internal investigation of a significant number of employees for the use of fraudulent documents to withdraw funds from an ERISA plan. Successfully defended the employer in five subsequent labor arbitrations, after which the union withdrew all remaining grievances. Also, successfully defended the employer in government investigations arising from the matter. The arbitrations received regular coverage by local media.
  • Obtained dismissal on Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss of 21-page complaint alleging race discrimination for failure to satisfy the Twombly/Iqbal pleading standard.
  • Defended clients in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia against significant OSHA fines, including the largest proposed fine in North Carolina history at the time, and fines arising out of employee fatalities.

Mr. Lay received a B.A. in History in 1988 from the University of Virginia and a J.D., cum laude, in 1991 from Washington and Lee University School of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the Washington and Lee Law Review and elected to Order of the Coif.

Honors & Awards

Mr. Lay has been listed for Employment in Chambers USA every year since 2007. In that publication, clients have stated that they “put complete confidence in him” and have described him as, “tireless in coming up with creative solutions to complex legal matters.” Mr. Lay has also been listed in The Best Lawyers in America since 2013 in the practice areas of Employment Law – Management and Labor Law – Management.


Mr. Lay serves on the firm’s recruiting and pro bono committees. In 2013, he served on the Steering Committee for the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s (MCCA) Honors Gala. Mr. Lay is also a member of the American, North Carolina, Virginia, and Mecklenburg County bar associations.


Mr. Lay’s recent presentations include:

  • “Employment Arbitration Agreements,” Charlotte, NC, February 20, 2013
  • “A Year After AT&T v. Concepcion:  Evaluating, Drafting, and Enforcing Arbitration Agreements in 2012,” Los Angeles, CA, October 25, 2012
  • “Class Action Waivers in Employment Arbitration Agreements Post-Concepcion,” eLunch, February 16, 2012
  • “Untangling the Web of Leave Laws,” Chicago, IL, November 9, 2011
  • “New Media in the Workplace: Social Networking and Employment Decisions,” eLunch, April 21, 2011
  • “New Media in the Workplace: The Interactions Between Social Networking Sites and Employment Decisions,” Chicago, IL, October 22, 2010  
  • “Successfully Litigating Employment Discrimination Cases: Preparing the Case,” Charlotte, NC, November 17, 2010
  • “Document Retention and Destruction in North Carolina: Retention of Documents Related to Litigation,” Charlotte, NC, July 13, 2010
  • “Advanced Employment Law: Working through Common Problems,” Charlotte, NC, June 23, 2010