Areas of Practice
  • The George Washington University National Law Center, J.D., with highest honors
  • Golden Gate University, M.S., Information Systems
  • Roosevelt University, B.S., Computer Science, with honors
  • United States Air Force Academy, B.S., Astronautical Engineering, with honors
Bar & Court Admissions
  • Arizona
  • US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
  • US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Steven D. Wheeless

201 E. Washington Street
Suite 1600
Phoenix AZ 85004
TEL: +1 602 257 5234
FAX: +1 602 257 5299

Steptoe partner Steve Wheeless leads the firm's nationwide labor & employment group.  He practices nationally, representing clients large and small in numerous industries and locations.  Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Wheeless served as a United States Air Force F-16 Instructor Pilot and a Diplomatic Exchange Officer to the Royal Danish Air Force.  His primary areas of practice include:

Employment Class Action and Complex EEO Litigation

Mr. Wheeless serves as lead trial and appellate counsel for employers defending against wage-and-hour putative class and collective actions. For example, he led the litigation and appellate team that prevailed on all class and individual claims in Osuna v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 214 Ariz. 286 (ct. App. 2007) (affirming denial of class certification and dismissing wage-and-hour class claims by putative class of 50,000 current and former employees). See also, Carrillo v. Schneider Logistics, Inc., et al., (counsel of record in federal wage and hour class action). In a recent case in the Western District of New York, he led the team that litigated a wage-and-hour class action under the FLSA’s and New York state’s stringent notice and paystub requirements for employers who take a tip credit. He also defends clients facing complex EEO and EEOC Commission-initialed Charges and Complaints, including for example claims of systemic and disparate-impact discrimination as in Tempesta v. Motorola,Inc., 21 Fed. Appx. 700 (9th Cir. 2001) (affirming summary judgment on race claims challenging the employer's system-wide RIF policy).

Steptoe's Labor & Employment Group, led by Mr. Wheeless, regularly blogs on topics of interest to HR professionals on Steptoe's Labor & Employment Blog.


Mr. Wheeless represents clients nationwide with:

  • Strategic Labor Relations Workforce Planning
  • State and Federal Labor-Related Litigation
  • NLRB representation hearings and unfair labor practice proceedings
  • Collective bargaining, contract interpretation, and arbitrations
  • Union organizing campaigns
  • Supervisor Leadership Workshops

Clients have selected Mr. Wheeless to serve as lead trial counsel in connection with over 2000 employer and union-initiated unfair labor practice allegations, labor-related civil suits, and arbitration matters such as:

  • Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2016 WL 4191886 (obtained dismissal of nationwide complaint targeting all non-union employees in America on jurisdictional grounds)
  • Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, et al. (obtained statewide injunctive relief against trespass by Union and its allies in CA, TX, FL, MD, AR, OH, and CO; defeating Union’s motions to dismiss based on preemption, SLAPP, and anti-injunction act grounds)
  • Flagstaff Medical Center v. NLRB, 715 F.3d 928 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (reversing NLRB on CEO statements to employees and employee discharge)
  • National Basketball Association, 2-CA-40518 (2011) (surface bargaining claims settled)
  • Flagstaff Medical Center, 357 NLRB No. 65 (2011) (rejecting joint employer, subcontracting, and discrimination claims filed during multi-year corporate campaign)
  • Marceau v. IBEW, 618 F. Supp. 2d 1127 (2009) (union’s motions to dismiss and summary judgment on client’s RICO claims denied)
  • Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 351 NLRB No. 103 (2008), and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 339 NLRB No. 153 (2003) (establishing an employer’s right to lawfully place visiting, high-ranking managers in a facility experiencing organizing without creating an inherent and unlawful solicitation of grievances)
  • UFCW, Int’l. v. NLRB, 519 F.3d 490 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (affirming that petitioned-for unit was inappropriate after unilateral changes in employee job duties)
  • Sam’s Club, 349 NLRB 1007 (2007) (upholding disciplinary decisions, dress code rules, and campaign messages)
  • Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 349 NLRB No. 102 (May 18, 2007) (establishing an employer’s right to impose time, place, and manner property access rules for leased exterior property)

National and multi-national clients also call on Mr. Wheeless for advice and counsel on merger and acquisition issues involving organized work forces as well as labor-related antitrust issues as they affect key offensive and defensive business decisions.  Mr. Wheeless also helps clients deal with Lanham Act issues arising in the context of evolving “work center” corporate campaigns. 


Mr. Wheeless also represents businesses in state and federal court at the trial and appellate level in complex commercial litigation involving contract, partnership, and financial disputes.  See, e.g., State ex. rel. Goddard v. Western Union Financial Serv., 216 Ariz. 361 (Ct. App. 2007).


  • Chambers USALabor & Employment (Arizona), 2012-2017
  • Southwest Super Lawyers, Employment and Labor, 2014 - 2017
  • Best Lawyers in America, Labor Law: Management, Litigation: Labor and Employment, 2013 - 2018
  • Developing Labor Law, Co-Editor, 2013 - 2016
  • Martindale-Hubbell  Arizona's Top Rated Lawyers, Labor & Employment Law, 2012 - 2016
  • Martindale-Hubbell “Preeminent AV” Peer Review Rating (5.0/5)

Professional Affiliations

  • Immediate Past Management Chair, Developing Labor Law Committee, American Bar Association
  • Labor Lawyers Advisory Council to National CUE Association
  • National Financial Institutions Employment Lawyers Committee

Recent Publications and Speaking Engagements

  • Steptoe's 14th Annual Labor Relations Conference: Significant NLRB Cases 2016-2017 and The Increasing Use of the One-Day "Walkoff" in a Non-union Context: How Should you Prepare/React? (4/27/2017)
  • CUE/LLAC: A Reversal of Fortune: Arguing Temp Employees Into a Proposed Unit (10/6/2016)
  • Steptoe's 13th Annual Labor Relations Conference: NLRB Micro-Bargaining-Unit Decision After Specialty Healthcare and NLRB Expansion of "Protected Activity": Employer Policies and Procedures (5/25/2016)
  • The Legal Council: Joint Employer Liability Under the New NLRB Standard: What Does It Mean? and Expedited Election Rules: How Do They Affect Your Risk Mitigation Duties? (10/15/2015)
  • Steptoe's 12th Annual Labor Relations Conference: Preparing for Expedited Elections; Defenses to the Undersized Bargaining Unit; and Responding to Sit-Ins, Quickie Strikes, and Demonstrations (5/7-8/2015)
  • ABA Annual Labor and Employment Law Conference: Alternate Organizing Campaigns; The Future is Here (11/7/2014)
  • Steptoe’s 11th Annual Labor Relations Conference: Most Important NLRB Decisions in the Last 12 Months; Responding to Micro-Unit Organizing Campaigns and Expedited Elections; The Rise in “Alt-Labor” and the Push for Higher Entry-Level Wages; Surviving Long-Term Union Corporate Campaigns and the Years of ULP Charges (5/2/2014)
  • ABA Webinar: NLRB Update: What’s on the NLRB’s Agenda in 2014 (12/11/2013)
  • CUE National Fall Conference: The “Alt-Labor” Movement: New Union Strategies and Employee Responses (9/29/13 – 10/1/13)
  • American Concrete Pumping Association: To Be or Not To Be: A Party to a Pumping Contract (5/17/13)
  • Steptoe’s Tenth Annual Labor Relations Conference: Dealing with Union-Backed “Community Organizations”; NLRA Rights of Off-Duty and Off-Site Employee (5/2-3/13)
  • Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America, Annual Convention: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Key Factors for Human Resource Professionals (11/6/12)
  • American Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Conference: Professional Sports and the National Labor Relations Act: A Permanent Time-Out For Federal Labor Law? (11/1/12)
  • Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Conference:  Is Federal Labor Law A Threat To Tribal Sovereignty? (8/15/12)
  • Steptoe's 9th Annual Labor Relations Conference, Labor Law Developments and Collective Bargaining Initiatives (5/4/12)
  • National Auto Care Association, 10 Tips for Effective CBA Administration (4/13/12)
  • National Business Institute: Employment Laws Made Simple (12/6/11)
  • American Bar Association: Anti-Trust Law Labor Exemptions (11/05/11)
  • CUE Fall Conference: Micro-Bargaining Units and Expedited Elections, a One-Two Punch To Employers (10/11/11)
  • EZ Energy USA, Inc.: Petroleum Distributors’ Share Group:  Addressing ADA III Accessibility Issues (10/26/11)
  • Edison Mission Energy: Seven Key Skills to Create and Maintain Employee Loyalty (10/17/11)
  • CUE Fall Conference: Expedited Elections in Micro-Units: Nightmare or Just A Bad Dream? (10/11/11)
  • Arizona Chamber of Commerce Labor Law Presentation: New Rules, New Regulations, New Mindset: What’s Going on at the DOL, EEOC, OFCCP and NLRB? (10/7/11)
  • SIGMA HR Convention: Telecommuting and the Modern Workforce (10/5/11)
  • Food Processing Industry HR Share Group Meeting: Social Media and the American Workplace: Trends, Tactics, and Teachable Moments (9/12/11)
  • Cement Employers Association Annual Meeting: Federal Labor & Employment Regulators Changing the Rules (9/20/11)
  • Annual KIA Dealers Convention: Labor Law In Transition: Planning for the Spotlight (9/21/2011)
  • Associated General Contractors, Strategic Planning Conference: A New Day at the NLRB: What Expedited Elections Mean (7/28/11)
  • National Webinar On The SEC’s Whistleblower Bounty Provisions: New Rules, New Mindset (7/27/11)
  • Steptoe Annual Labor Relations Conference: Managing a Partially Unionized Workforce: Opportunities and Challenges (5/20/11)
  • Society for Independent Gasoline Marketers of America:  Recent Employment Law Developments at the USSC (4/5/11)
  • Arizona Chamber of Commerce: Labor Legislation Updates (SB 1363 and 1365) (2/9/11)
  • American Bar Association Midwinter Convention: How To Take A ULP Case To Trial (11/6/10)
  • American Bar Association Developing Labor Law Committee: The Ethics of Social Media in Labor Relations (3/2/10)

Select News & Events

Selected Publications

More Publications »