Shannon J. Lawless

Shannon J. Lawless



Shannon enjoys partnering with human resources professionals, business owners, and benefits experts to help them achieve practical and legally compliant solutions to their workforce issues. She represents employers in a diverse range of employment law matters, with a particular emphasis on leave of absence and paid time off laws.

One of Shannon’s favorite parts of her practice is serving as outside employment counsel for businesses ranging from 5 to 1500 employees, responding to a broad variety of issues that would be handled by in-house employment counsel at a larger company. She spends time getting to know her clients’ unique workforces and business goals, which enables her to advise not only on what is legal but also on what makes good business sense when employee issues arise. Each day, she looks forward to fielding a stream of unexpected and often time-sensitive questions ranging from “Can I terminate an employee for their [violation of company policy]/[excessive absences]/[unseemly face tattoo, etc.]?” to “How do I accommodate my employee’s [disability]//[childcare issues]/[service miniature horse*], etc.?” Workplace issues are often better than fiction, and Shannon finds that her days are rarely predictable but always interesting.

Shannon also enjoys strategic workforce planning and crafting employee policies for companies of all sizes, particularly helping clients navigate the complex web of federal, state, and local laws on leaves of absence and paid time off. She advises leave of absence and disability administration (LADA) specialists, benefits companies, and in-house employment counsel to large companies on interpreting the nuances of the proliferating new law in this area. Shannon continues to closely track the implementation of Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML), and has provided public comment and testimony on the law and its implementing rules. She has also authored many articles and presented frequently on PFML. Representative clients for Shannon’s PFML work include Zillow Group, American Seafoods, and Seattle University. Shannon also regularly drafts and reviews employee handbooks, non-competition and non-solicitation agreements, and other employee contracts and policies.

When disputes arise, Shannon represents employers from small businesses to large, national companies in federal and state court lawsuits and private arbitrations. She regularly responds to investigations and charges from government entities such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Washington Department of Labor & Industries, and the Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS). Shannon’s litigation work strengthens her advising practice by allowing her to observe how workplace issues will ultimately be viewed by a judge or jury. She also appreciates the strategy and storytelling involved in litigation.

Shannon started her law practice at Ryan Swanson working on a broad range of commercial litigation and business matters, including real estate, contract disputes, and securities law. Before joining Ryan Swanson, Shannon clerked for (Retired Chief) Justice Mary Fairhurst of the Washington State Supreme Court.

*Expressly legally protected under RCW 49.60.040(24)!


Representation of:

  • National airline in securing summary judgment dismissal of employee’s federal court claims of discrimination on the basis of race, national, origin and discrimination, affirmed by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • National railroad in federal court jury trial, securing defense verdict against claims of disability discrimination, affirmed by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Large technology company in settling employee’s state court claims of failure to accommodate and disability discrimination
  • Home health care company in securing “no reasonable cause” finding in EEOC charge alleging race and age discrimination
  • Local hardware company in negotiating early settlement of employee’s claim of retaliation due to workers’ compensation claim

Representation of:

  • Large technology company as outside counsel for all manner of employment issues, including COVID-19 response, employee workplace conduct violations, disability accommodations, and setting and administering leave policies
  • Local engineering firm in properly classifying employees as overtime-exempt, drafting paid time off policy, and navigating strategic economy-based workforce reductions
  • Fast-growing technology start-up in all employment law issues, including performing employee trainings, assisting human resources in crafting company policies, and strategizing on employee accommodations and terminations
  • National non-profit organization in designing and administering state-approved PFML voluntary plan compliant with Washington’s legal requirements and integrated with policies in other states
Professional & Community Activities
  • Advisory Council Member, Seattle Repertory Theatre
  • Trustee of the King County Bar Association, Labor and Employment Law Section (2019-present)
  • Artsfund Visionaries (2019-present)
  • WSBA Labor & Employment Section (Executive Committee Member – Defense, 2018-present)
  • Pacific Coast Labor & Employment Conference Planning Committee (2014-present; Subcommittee Chair 2017-2018)
  • King County Bar Association Labor & Employment Section (2014-present)
  • Washington Women Lawyers State Board (2011-2018; Board President 2015-2016)
  • Mother Attorneys Mentoring Association of Seattle (2013-present)
Speaking Engagements
  • Institute of Real Estate Management From the Front Lines Podcast, “COVID at your Property and Legal Considerations” (2020)
  • Washington State Bar Association Solo and Small Practice Section Roundtable, presentation on leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (2020)
  • CEOtoCEO Breakfast, “Employment Standards for 2020: New Overtime Rules, Non-Compete Agreements, and Paid Family & Medical Leave Update” (2020)
  • Puget Sound Chapter, Association of Legal Administrators, “Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave: A Practical Approach to Law Firm Compliance” (2019)
  • Washington State Bar Association Labor & Employment Section, “Designing Effective and Compliant Leave Policies” (2019)
  • Ryan Swanson Webinar, “Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave: Is Your Company Ready?” (2019)
  • Regular trainings for clients on various topics, including:
    • “Creating a Harassment-Free Workplace”
    • “How to Interview Legally”
    • “Employment Law Basics for Managers”
    • “Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave: Is Your Company Ready?”
  • Washington State Bar Association Corporate Counsel Section, “Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave: Is Your Company Ready?” (2019)
  • Washington State Auto Dealers Association Engage Conference, “Not Your Parent’s Dealership: HR Challenges in the Modern Workplace” (2019)
  • Ryan Swanson’s Annual Employment Law Seminar
  • Co-presenter, panel for human services organizations organized by The Partners Group, “Surviving Allegations of Sexual Abuse, Harassment, & Discrimination” (2019)
  • Washington State Bar Association Labor & Employment Law Section CLE, “Representing Parties using the Seattle Labor Standards: Enforcing Workers’ Rights and Ensuring Business Compliance” (2019)
  • Association of Washington Business – Workplace Summit, “Ask a Lawyer: Legal Considerations for Workplace Practices” (2019)
  • Association of Washington Business – Webinar, “Preparing for Paid Family Leave & Medical Leave in Washington” (2018)
  • CEOtoCEO Breakfast, “Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave: Are You Ready?” (2018)
  • The Riveter, “Preparing for Paid Family and Medical Leave in Washington” (2018)
  • NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, “Frequently Asked Questions About Employment Law” (2018)
  • Association of Washington Business Workplace Summit, “Legal Considerations for Workplace Practices” (2018)
  • Association of Washington Business Workplace Summit, “Generational Issues in the Workplace” (2017)
  • AMIN (Advertising & Marketing Independent Network Agency) HR Workshop, “Wage and Hour Compliance for Marketing Agencies” (2015)
Honors & Awards
  • Order of the Coif
  • Named to Washington Rising Star® list (2016-present)
  • Named to Top Women Attorneys in Washington® list (2016)


Shannon grew up in Ballard when it was less hipster and more Scandinavian fishing neighborhood. She is the third generation of attorneys with the last name “Lawless.” Shannon is passionate about increasing the representation of women in positions of leadership and influence in the business world, and is proud of her work on the Washington Women Lawyers board and informally in the community supporting other women professionals. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, playing fetch with her dog, practicing yoga, hiking, running, golfing, and attending Seattle theater performances.