David Paxton advises and represents businesses, business owners, and executives in the areas of labor & employment law, complex litigation and whistleblower claims, and also represents colleges and universities on a broad array of issues. He regularly advises businesses and non-profits in connection with executive compensation, nondisclosure agreements, and noncompete agreements, and represents parties in litigation involving claims of breach of contract, unfair competition and trade secrets. As the demand for internal investigations has grown, David has been engaged by businesses, financial institutions, colleges and universities, local government agencies and non-profits to lead and conduct investigations into allegations of misconduct or unlawful activities, and he works closely with the firm’s white-collar practice.

David serves as the key contact for the firm’s Chambers’ rated Labor & Employment Practice Group team, and has been a leader in ALFA International, the premier global legal network since 1988. He is a frequent guest speaker at national and regional employment law seminars and has consistently been named to Best Lawyers in America for Labor & Employment law since 2001. In 2021, David was named by Virginia Lawyers Weekly as one of Virginia’s “Go To Lawyers for Employment Law.”

  • Years with Gentry Locke
  • U.S. Supreme Court victory
  • Years married to an amazing woman
  • Movie premiere – Remember the Titans
  • You’ve been with Gentry Locke for over 30 years. What makes this firm unique?

    It is our culture. We make a point to look for ways to work collaboratively together, as opposed to fostering “Lone Rangers.” We recognize that everyone brings different strengths and weaknesses, and this has caused us to develop a fierce commitment to being a true partnership. We value thinking that is outside the box and creative solutions, and we challenge one another to bring our “A-game” at all times. What is important is that in the process, we have fun and really enjoy working and being together.

  • Tell us something interesting about your background.

    My family has deep roots in Virginia, so much so that when I was born in New York (my father was in the Air Force), my grandmother sent a Mason jar filled with rich dirt so she could say I was born on Virginia soil! My parents and I were soon back in Salem, Va., where I grew up. After college, I spent a full year traveling and living out of a backpack. I saw most of Western Europe and spent three months in Israel living on a kibbutz. Israel is an amazing place. I’ve been fortunate to have gone back three times.

  • How would your peers in the firm and your clients describe you?

    I hope they would say that I am hardworking, a good listener, compassionate, and not afraid to take on difficult issues or speak the truth.


  • University of Virginia School of Law, J.D.
  • U.S. Naval Justice School, Honor Graduate
  • Hampden-Sydney College, B.A. summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa; Omicron Delta Kappa; Baker Scholar


Complex & Multi-Party Litigation

  • Lead and directed a 13-month long internal investigative team, consisting of 70 lawyers, accountants, and IT members, tasked with investigating financial and business operations of a non-profit university over a 12-year time period
  • Represented Drummond Coal, an international mining company, in a week long jury trial in federal court in Roanoke, Virginia, in connection with a complex contract dispute with Norfolk Southern, which resulted in a verdict for Drummond and $35 million in relief granted; the jury verdict and relief awarded was upheld on appeal to 4th Circuit
  • Represented a national retail company and obtained summary judgment on all claims filed in federal court in Newport News, Virginia by a customer who alleged defamation and race discrimination, and the ruling was not appealed.
  • Represented a private equity and venture capital firm, and its owner in defense of a lawsuit filed in federal court in Roanoke, Virginia asserting ERISA and securities violations, and successfully obtained dismissal of all claims
  • Trial counsel for Rolling Stone and Sabrina Erdely in Eramo v Rolling Stone, a case tried to a jury for 3.5 weeks in federal court in Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Secured summary judgment for the plaintiff in Doe v Alger, a seminal case that recognized the due process rights of students at state universities accused of sexual misconduct based on a property right in continued enrollment
  • Represented and successfully defended defendant in special litigation committee investigation of a derivative action for breach of fiduciary duty, where state court dismissed the shareholder’s claims based on special litigation committee report
  • Represented President of Peanut Corporation of America in connection with Congressional and criminal food safety investigations, and in lawsuit to secure D&O coverage for defense costs
  • Represented national restaurant chain in connection with false “mouse in the soup” claims resulting in the felony criminal conviction of mother and son who made false allegations
  • Secured jury verdict for three members of insurance company’s Board of Directors in defense of claims brought by Commissioner of Insurance for fraud, fiduciary duty, conspiracy and securities violations. Also later recovered more than $3 million in attorney fees on indemnity claims in case affirmed by Supreme Court of Virginia in Gross v Weingarten
  • Trial and appellate counsel to college athlete accused of sexual assault and prevailed on the constitutional challenge to civil remedy under VAWA before U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Morrison
  • Secured summary judgment on multiple §1981 race discrimination claims brought by the Washington Lawyers Committee on behalf of customers and employees against large franchisee of national restaurant chain, and case not appealed.
  • Secured dismissal of anti-trust and constitutional claims brought against state association that regulates public school athletics in Virginia by local media organization seeking to broadcast playoff games

Employment Litigation

  • Represented national, privately held company and obtained summary judgment dismissing claims filed in federal court in Roanoke, Virginia by a former employee alleging wrongful discharge and unpaid commissions and district court’s decision was affirmed by 4th Circuit
  • Represented subcontractor and successfully defended a FLSA collective action filed in federal court in Roanoke, Virginia by a large class of drywall workers who alleged unpaid overtime
  • Represented high-tech manufacturer and successfully defended claims filed in federal court in Lynchburg, Virginia by a former employee who claimed to be an atheist and alleged religious discrimination and retaliation
  • Represented publicly traded, national restaurant chain and successfully defended claims filed in federal court in Newport News, Virginia by a kitchen staff member who alleged race discrimination
  • Represented private college and successfully defending claims filed in federal court in Roanoke Virginia by a professor who alleged disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, retaliation and FMLA violations
  • Represented US subsidiary of multinational company and successfully defend a complex whistleblower claim brought under the Energy Reorganization Act before OSHA Administrative Law Judge and Administrative Review Board in Washington, DC
  • Directed internal investigation conducted by former FBI agent of senior officials of a local governmental agency accused of various act of misconduct, which led to no charges or litigation
  • Directed internal investigation conducted by former FBI agent into alleged claims of misconduct of a senior executive of large regional financial institution, which lead to a resolution with no subsequent litigation
  • Obtained $4 million jury verdict in federal court in Abingdon, Virginia for a privately held company against its former president on claim to recoup bonus paid under theory of unjust enrichment
  • Represented and successfully prosecuted claims on behalf of a US subsidiary of an international pharmaceutical company against a former employee and a newly formed company on claims of breach of contract and tortious interference; Shire, LLC v Mickle, a case brought in federal court in Roanoke, Virginia
  • Represents employers on a broad cross-section of industries on Title VII and ADEA claims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation, as well as wage and hour disputes in federal and state courts
  • Represented multiple employers and employees in litigation involving claims of theft of trade secrets, unauthorized disclosure of confidential information, violations of non-competition/restrictive covenants, and other business torts
  • Represented national manufacturer and retailer on claims of sexual harassment by former female employee to successful, pre-litigation resolution
  • Represented national manufacturer on claims involving age and disability discrimination to successful resolution

Colleges & Universities

  • Represents and advises college and university administrators on a broad cross-section of issues relating to governance and compliance issues, student misconduct, Title VI, Title IX, Clery Act, FERPA, campus security issues, health and safety issues, including COVID related concerns, vendor contract review and negotiation, student educational and intern programs, faculty issues, including tenure, and EEO and general employment issues
  • Prepares policies and procedures, and provides training on Title IX and other legal requirements; advises Title IX Coordinators on Title IX requirements in connection with student, faculty and student claims; and represents and defends private colleges before EEOC, DOE, and in federal court on claims of alleged violations of Title IX, Title VI and common law claims
  • Conducted multiple internal investigations for colleges and universities into Title IX claims and other allegations of employee misconduct resulting in corrective action and no litigation
  • Represented college coaches against public universities on breach of contract, and on matters where there are alleged NCAA violations

Labor & Employment

  • Represents management in preparing executive employment agreements and in disputes with senior executives, and also represents senior executives and professionals in contract negotiations and in resolving disputes with companies, professional organizations, and non-profits, including cases governed by arbitration
  • Represents and advises management from a broad cross-section of industries on full range of labor and employment issues that arise on a daily basis such as hiring, E-verify, I-9s, FMLA/ADA, USERRA, wage and hour, Affirmative Action Plans, COBRA, OFCCP audits, harassment and discrimination complaints, investigation of misconduct, OSHA complaints, termination, EEO charges, DOL investigations, and union avoidance
  • Represented executive management team in negotiation of executive employment contracts which included equity compensation packages in connection with a $250 million private equity deal
  • Represented publicly traded company in contractual dispute with former employee and obtained a favorable court settlement of claims involving the valuation of stock options settlement
  • Represented senior executive in a dispute with high-tech company and obtained a favorable out-of-court settlement of claims involving vesting and valuation of stock option rights.
  • Represented founder and CEO of high-tech company in negotiation of executive employment contract in anticipation of venture capital investment
  • Represented U.S. based companies in establishing indigenous workforce for new operations in India
  • Represents management in various industries in planning and implementing workforce reductions
  • Represents local school boards and police departments on employment-related matters

Religious Organizations

  • Provides general corporate, governance, and employment advice to non-profit organizations and to Christian churches and ministries
  • Represented Board of Directors of a Christian non-profit organization in disputes with its founder and key members of management which led to agreed-upon separation without litigation
  • Represented company in acquisition of large network of Christian radio stations


  • Fellow, Virginia Law Foundation (Inducted 2014)
  • Chair, ALFA International Labor and Employment Law Section (2015-2018), Member of Labor & Employment Law Section Steering Committee (1996-Present); Member, ALFA International Board of Directors (2014-2017)
  • Member, Labor & Employment Law Section, American & Virginia Bar Associations (1986-Present)
  • Member, Virginia CLE Steering Committee, Labor & Employment Section (2000-2012), Chair (2010-2011)
  • Board of Directors, Positive Alternative Radio, Inc. (2017-Present)
  • Board of Directors, VHSL Foundation, Inc. (2004-2009)
  • Board of Directors, Interfaith Hospitality Network of Roanoke Valley (2005-2009)
  • Member, Planning Committee, Gridiron Club, Hampden-Sydney College (2007-2011)
  • Member, Church Council, St. John Lutheran (2006-2009). President (2008-2009)


  • Recognized as an AV Preeminent® rated attorney specializing in Civil Rights Law by Martindale-Hubbell® (2023)
  • Named one of The Best Lawyers in America® for over twenty consecutive years in the area of Labor Law – Management (2024), Employment Law – Individuals & Management (1999-2024), and Labor & Employment Litigation (2011-2024), named “2017 and 2024 Roanoke Lawyer of the Year” for Labor & Employment – Litigation and “2020 Roanoke Lawyer of the Year” for Employment Law – Individuals
  • Named to the “Virginia’s Top 50 List” of Virginia Super Lawyers (2007) and Virginia Super Lawyers in the area of Employment & Labor Law (2007-2024), included in Super Lawyers Corporate Counsel edition (2009-2011) and Super Lawyers Business Edition US in the area of Employment & Labor (2012-2014)
  • Named “Go To Employment Lawyer” by Virginia Lawyers Weekly (2020, 2022)
  • Listed in Benchmark Litigation as a Local Litigation Star for Labor & Employment and General Commercial (2012-2018) and Insurance (2018); and Benchmark Plaintiffs for Labor & Employment (2012-2014), General Commercial, and Insurance (2014)
  • Designated one of the “Legal Elite” in the Labor/Employment Law field by Virginia Business magazine (2000-2016, 2018-2023)
  • Designated as a Fellow of the Virginia Law Foundation (2014)
  • Named a “Legal Eagle” for Employment Law – Individuals, Employment Law – Management, Labor Law, and Litigation – Labor & Employment by Virginia Living magazine (2012)
  • Voted Top Employment & Labor Attorney by readers in The Roanoker magazine’s “Best Of” (2012)
  • Named a Top Rated Lawyer for Labor and Employment law and Commercial Litigation by American Lawyer Media (2013)
  • Inclusion on the Virginia Amateur Sports Wall of Honor in its inaugural year (2009)
  • Navy Commendation Medal, Distinguished Legal Work (1983)

Published Work

The results of client matters depend on a variety of factors unique to each matter. Past successes do not predict or guarantee future successes.
David Paxton Virginia attorney