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WJA 2021: Deborah Blakely

During work hours, Deborah Blakely is a competent advocate for her clients in the Kansas City employment law realm. Evenings and weekends, she devotes her time to outdoor activities on her family’s acreage away from the city.

blakelyAs an attorney, Blakely is a champion of those who have been hurt or treated unfairly by their employers. “I’m a fierce advocate for victims of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, race discrimination, retaliation, whistleblowing and other workplace-related violations,” she says. “I understand how deeply the case — and the original incident itself — impacts each victim’s personal life, business and overall well-being.”

Her legal career focuses on employment law in various settings, including mediation, arbitration and litigation. Her clients value her ability to hold a wrongful party accountable, no matter the reputation and size of the company.

“The appalling and discriminatory behavior of many employers and/or their managers has a long history,” Blakely says. “The fact that such behaviors still exist in the workplace in 2021 is shocking.”

One of Blakely’s most memorable cases began when she was with one firm and went through the appeal stage after she had moved to another firm. The court’s decision helped modify Missouri law with a broader selection of remedies for victims of fraudulently induced settlements.

“When a settlement makes a huge difference for a client and the client’s life is going to change because of it, they are so appreciative,” Blakely says. “The client is often a blue collar employee, and they are able to get back on their feet and get moving again.”

Outside the office and courtroom, Blakely enjoys using her education and training as an attorney to help lead nonprofits and benefit the public. She assists with drafting and submitting complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and the Kansas Human Rights Commission.

Blakely serves as vice-chair of the board of directors for HorsePower — a Kansas City nonprofit geared to helping children in the foster care program — and also mentors children in the program. These are children who have been adopted, who are in in-patient and residential treatment facilities, who have a psychological diagnosis, or who are abused. They learn trust from working with the horses. The longest-running therapeutic and mental health equine program in the Kansas City area, HorsePower has been around for about 20 years and continues to grow.

Blakely also volunteers with the Boy Scouts of America, Mid America Combined Training Association, City Union Mission, The Salvation Army, and is active in the Kansas City Cowboys For Cops downtown trail ride annual fundraiser for Jackson County first responders.

“I tried family law,” Blakely says. “I worked for the State of Missouri doing child support enforcement. I clerked for one year in domestic relations. When I got into employment law, I realized this is for me. The feeling of representing the underdog and achieving justice for victims of discrimination and harassment in the workplace is rewarding.”

Women's Justice Awards 2021