William H. Kleindienst
Associate / Charleston
Will is an associate in the Charleston office. He focuses his practice on construction litigation, personal injury defense, premises liability, employment defense, commercial litigation, and general insurance defense and coverage. He represents design professionals, architects, contractors, subcontractors, developers, and suppliers in lawsuits involving construction related disputes. Outside of litigation, he provides legal counsel to construction clients, engineering and design firms, clients in the medical field, and the food and beverage industry.
Prior to joining Copeland, Stair, Kingma & Lovell, Will’s practice focused on real estate, corporate, and environmental transactions. Will was past General Counsel for the Board of the Palmetto Society of Human Resource Management. He has served on the Board of Assessment Appeals since 2014 and serves as a Vice-Chairman for the North Charleston Housing Authority. He enjoys giving back to his community and volunteers his time as an attorney for Palmetto Community Care and South Carolina Equality’s Litigation Team.
He was published in the S.C. Young Lawyer magazine (Spring, 2016) for his scholarly article “Environmental Liability in Commercial Real Estate Transactions: BFPPs and VCCs.” He frequently speaks on legal topics, most recently at the Palmetto Society for Human Resource Management on “Social Media in the Workplace.”
Will attended New York Law School, where he was honored to make the Moot Court team and be appointed to the Moot Court Executive Board. While on the Board, he co-authored the law school’s moot court competition – the nation’s largest labor and employment competition. During law school, he worked with the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of the Solicitor and clerked with the Honorable Devin P. Cohen at the Kings County Civil Courthouse.
As an undergraduate, Will attended the University of California, Irvine where he was a double major and graduated with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and Psychology & Social Behavior. He also studied at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain in 2008.
When he is not practicing law, he can be found playing tennis around the Lowcountry, dining at one of Charleston’s great restaurants, at his partner’s design studio in Park Circle (Iola Modern), or spending time with their pug, Nola.
William Kleindienst and Robin Schmidt Obtain Dismissal of all Claims in Professional Negligence Case
July 22, 2019
William Kleindienst and Robin Schmidt of our Charleston office obtained dismissal of all claims against their engineering and design client in a dispute related to design issues in Horry County, South Carolina. Will argued at the motion hearing that the plaintiff had not met its statutory obligations under the South Carolina Code when bringing suit for professional negligence. The judge granted the motion to dismiss to all causes of action.
For informational purposes only. Past success does not indicate the likelihood of success in future cases.
Sarah Butler Presented at the SCDTAA Diversity & Inclusion Seminar in Columbia, SC – February 20, 2020
February 20, 2020
Sarah Butler co-presented at the South Carolina Defense Trial Attorneys' Association's Diversity and Inclusion Seminar on Thursday, February 20, 2020 in Columbia, SC. This seminar gave attendees the opportunity to speak openly about diversity, equality, acceptance and inclusion in the legal profession. Sarah's presentation, So, Now What? A Candid Look at the Progress of Women in the Practice of Law, focused on the obstacles women lawyers face in their occupation, namely sexism and discrimination. They discussed how the passage of time, political climate and the Me-Too Movement has impacted women in law. Sarah is a member of Copeland Stair's Diversity Committee and President-Elect of the SCDTAA. Laura Paton and Will Kleindienst were also in attendance. Laura, Chair of CSKL's Diversity Committee, serves on the Board of Directors for the South Carolina Women Lawyers Association and is a member of the National Association of Women in Construction. Will is Vice-Chairman for the North Charleston Housing Authority, a member of the firm's Diversity Committee and often volunteers his time as an attorney for Palmetto Community Care and South Carolina Equality Litigation Team. For more information about this seminar or the SCDTAA, please click here.
Will Kleindienst Volunteered for SC Bar’s Ask-A-Lawyer – September 17, 2019
September 17, 2019
Charleston Associate Will Kleindienst volunteered for the South Carolina Bar's Ask-A-Lawyer on September 17, 2019. Airing on local news station WCSC-TV from 4:00 pm-6:30 pm, lawyers responded to phone-in questions as well as online. The public called in with any legal questions they had. For more information on Ask-A-Lawyer or the SC Bar, please click here.
William Kleindienst Volunteering for SC Bar’s Ask-A-Lawyer Webchat – May 21, 2020
May 21, 2020
William Kleindienst is participating in the South Carolina Bar's Ask-A-Lawyer on Thursday, May 21, 2020. Airing on local news station Live 5 News from 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM, attorneys will respond to the public's online and phone-in legal questions. Will is an active volunteer in his community and frequently works with the SC Bar's Pro Bono Hotline. For more information on Ask-A-Lawyer or the South Carolina Bar, please click here.
William Kleindienst Volunteers for the ABA & SC Bar’s COVID-19 Pro Bono Hotline
May 4, 2020
William Kleindienst has joined the collaborated effort of the South Carolina Bar and the American Bar Association in helping those in the community confronted with civil legal problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Qualifying low-income individuals and families across the state are now able to call a toll-free legal assistance hotline to be matched with a volunteer South Carolina lawyer for free legal help. In addition, Will has been donating his time to the temporarily expanded South Carolina Free Legal Answers online legal service by helping members of the public handle the unexpected legal matters they face resulting from the pandemic. The online clinic is confidential, answering questions related to landlord/tenant concerns, family law, foreclosure, unemployment and benefits, debt, and bankruptcy. The temporary expansion of this service allows those in the state that fall below the federal poverty level to qualify for SC Free Legal Answers. For more information, please click here.
Will Kleindienst Appointed as Vice-Chairman of the North Charleston Housing Authority
January 8, 2020
At the annual meeting of the North Charleston Housing Authority on January 8, 2020, Will Kleindienst was unanimously appointed as the Vice-Chairman for the 2020 term. Will has been an active member of organization since early January 2019. The North Charleston Housing Authority provides low income families with affordable housing options in North Charleston, South Carolina. Their goal is to help provide low income families the opportunity to move from subsidized housing to home ownership by offering a variety of programs and services to help those in need of housing assistance. For more information on the North Charleston Housing Authority, please click here.
Publications and Presentations
Landmark Supreme Court Ruling Delivers on Equal Rights Hopes for LGBTQ Community – Insurance Coverage Corner Blog Post by Will Kleindienst
June 17, 2020
Insurance Coverage Corner Blog Post by Will Kleindienst. On June 15, 2020, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, 590 U.S. _____ (2020), a decision written by Justice Gorsuch, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 vote that even if Congress did not have discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status in mind when it enacted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII’s ban on discrimination protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees. The case was originally brought by three separate plaintiffs and was consolidated into one case when it reached the Supreme Court. In each of the cases, the employer did not dispute that they fired their employees for being homosexual or transgender. Rather, they contended that even intentional discrimination against employees based on their homosexual or transgender status is not a basis for Title VII liability. The first case involved a Clayton County, Georgia employee who was fired for conduct “unbecoming” of a county employee when he began participating in a gay recreational softball league. The second involved a skydiving instructor who was fired days after he mentioned to his employer that he was gay. The third case involved a transgender woman who presented as a man when she was hired but was fired after she informed her employer that she planned to “live and work full-time as a woman.” The circuit splits between the Eleventh, Second, and Sixth Circuit that resulted from the three cases set this case up for adjudication with the Supreme Court. The question on certiorari before the court was “[w]hether discrimination against an employee because of sexual orientation constitutes prohibited employment discrimination ‘because of... sex’ within the meaning of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42U.S.C. § 2000e-2.” Justice Neil Gorsuch framed the question before the court as a straightforward one: “Today,” he wrote, “we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender.” The answer to that question “is clear.” When an employer fires an employee “for being homosexual or transgender,” that employer “fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.” Justice Gorsuch wrote that “[Congress] might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result.” But, he added “they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees.” However, he continued, the “limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands.” When the text of a law and “extratextual considerations” point in different directions, the “written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefits.” The majority opinion states that sexual orientation and gender identity are “inextricably bound up with sex,” and that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity involves the application of “sex-based rules.” As an example, Justice Gorsuch offers that “an employer that announces it will not employ anyone who is homosexual intends to penalize male employees for being attracted to men and female employees for being attracted to women.” Gorsuch “agree[s] that homosexuality and transgender status are distinct concepts from sex. But, as we’ve seen, discrimination based on homosexuality or transgender status necessarily entails discrimination based on sex; the first cannot happen without the second.” “As enacted, Title VII prohibits all forms of discrimination because of sex, however they may manifest themselves or whatever other labels might attach to them.” Justice Gorsuch then concludes in the opinion that “[i]n Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee. We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” Justice Alito, joined by Justice Thomas, wrote a dissent that can be summed up by its first sentence: “[t]here is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation.” Justice Alito writes that last year, “the House of Representatives passed a bill that would amend Title VII by defining sex discrimination to include both ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity,’ but the bill has stalled in the Senate.” His dissent is biting against the majority and states that the “brazen abuse of [the Supreme Court’s] authority to interpret statutes is hard to recall.” He calls the majority’s reasoning that the opinion is merely enforcing the terms of the statute “preposterous.” He argues that the question before the court is “not whether discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity should be outlawed. The question is whether Congress did that in 1964.” He concludes that “[i]t indisputably did not.” Justice Kavanaugh writes in a separate dissent that the question before the court was “whether Title VII should be expanded to prohibit employment discrimination because of sexual orientation.” In his opinion, he opines that it is the responsibility of “Congress and the President in the legislative process, not to this Court.” He continued that “the public understandably becomes confused about who the policymakers really are in our system of separated powers, and inevitably becomes cynical” when judges make decisions that appear to the personal preferences rather than based on the law. He concludes by acknowledging “the important victory achieved today by gay and lesbian Americans. Millions of gay and lesbian Americans have worked hard for many decades to achieve equal treatment in fact and in law. They have exhibited extraordinary vision, tenacity, and grit—battling often steep odds in the legislative and judicial arenas, not to mention in their daily lives. They have advanced powerful policy arguments and can take pride in today’s result.” The ruling in this case is based on statutory interpretation grounds. It makes immediately clear to employers that Title VII prohibits discrimination against job applicants or employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Title VII applies to private sector employers with 15 or more employees, as well as public sector employers, e.g., local, state, and federal employers. Title VII does not include private sector employers with less than 15 employees, whereby local or state laws could fill in the gap. The ruling also addresses the possibility of certain employers claiming an exception to Title VII’s reach if an employer claims that it violates their sincerely held religious belief. Justice Gorsuch notes that the court is “deeply concerned with preserving the promise of the free exercise of religion enshrined in our Constitution; that guarantee lies at the heart of our pluralistic society.” Justice Gorsuch writes that “how these doctrines protecting religious liberty interact with Title VII are questions for future cases.” Notably, there are currently cases pending certiorari to the Supreme Court that may answer this question in the future. The ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County impacts Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 protections for transgender students since Title IX cases look to Title VII for guidance. Title IX states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Furthermore, Bostock has implications for transgender individual’s protection under the Affordable Care Act since the ACA looks to Title IX for guidance. It follows that the Supreme Court ruling under Title VII would affect Title IX cases and also cases involving the ACA since all are incorporated by reference. The implications from the Bostock ruling have yet to be seen, but these are a few areas to monitor closely. To subscribe to our Insurance Coverage Corner Blog, please click here.