Terry O’Neill is a feminist attorney, law professor, and social justice leader. As Executive Director of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA), O’Neill oversees NELA’s mission to advance equality and justice in the workplace and ensure that individuals have effective legal representation to enforce their rights to fair wages, good benefits, and freedom from discrimination and harassment. O’Neill utilizes her legal and policy expertise, skill in coalition building, and organizational management experience to extend the reach of the largest plaintiff-side employment lawyer network in the nation.
Prior to joining NELA, O’Neill served as president of the National Organization for Women from 2009 to 2017, where she directed NOW’s multi-issue programs, presided over the NOW Foundation, and chaired the NOW Political Action Committee. O’Neill led NOW to embrace intersectional feminism, putting marginalized women at the center of analysis and policy formation.
O’Neill developed and led several successful NOW national action campaigns on issues such as protecting immigrant women’s rights, including working with allies to stop the Trump administration’s Muslim ban; voting rights and awareness-building about the impact of voter suppression schemes on women of color, low income persons, seniors, and younger people; fair treatment for public school students who have experienced sexual trauma or other abuse; and ending the culture of domestic violence in the National Football League (NFL). The NFL campaign received the 2015 Bulldog Gold Award for Best Campaign Under $25,000.
In 2011, O’Neill co-authored a white paper, “Breaking the Social Security Glass Ceiling: A Proposal to Modernize Women’s Benefits,” with Carroll L. Estes, Ph.D., Chair of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation, and Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., President of the Institute for Women’s Policy Studies. Going against the grain of inside-the-beltway calls for cutting Social Security benefits, the paper called for expansion of benefits including a caregiver’s credit for those forced out of the paid workforce to provide unpaid care for family members. A number of benefit-expansion bills have now been introduced on Capitol Hill.
O’Neill has authored amicus briefs for state affiliates of NOW, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood. She has been a regular blogger on Huffington Post and has contributed op-eds to The Hill, USA Today, and U.S.News.com. O’Neill has also published a number of law review articles, the most recent being “What Does the Minimum Wage Have To Do With Reproductive Rights?” in the June 2016 issue of the Akron Law Review.
Before moving to Washington, DC to work full-time in the women’s movement, O’Neill taught at the University of California Davis School of Law and Tulane Law School, where her courses included corporate and partnership law, legal ethics, and feminist legal theory. Upon graduating from law school, she served as a staff attorney at the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, and practiced corporate securities and finance law before going into law teaching.
O’Neill holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and a Juris Doctor degree from Tulane Law School in New Orleans. She has one child, a daughter who is a proud feminist.