Lozano Smith's attorneys serve as labor and employment counsel to hundreds of public agencies across the State of California. The firm's expertise covers the full spectrum of labor and employment law; from hiring employees and drafting employment contracts, to collective bargaining, contract grievances and matters of discrimination, retaliation, and misconduct, to layoffs, discipline, and dismissals. We are well qualified to provide legal assistance on virtually any labor and personnel issue involving certificated, classified, and administrative employees.

Areas of Practice

The attorneys in Lozano Smith's Labor and Employment Practice Group provide the following services, among others:

Human Resources/Personnel Matters

  • Legal counsel on major and minor discipline: counseling, warnings, reprimands, suspensions, demotions, and dismissals
  • Legal counsel on reductions in force (layoffs), last chance agreements, severance and settlement agreements
  • Legal counsel on fringe benefits issues for current and retired employees: health and welfare benefits generally and public pension benefits (CalPERS and CalSTRS)
  • Legal counsel on wage and hour claims and concerns
  • Legal counsel regarding subpoenas for employee records and employee testimony
  • Legal counsel regarding an employee's request for defense and indemnity for workplace actions
  • Legal counsel regarding issues of on-campus drugs, alcohol, firearms, child abuse, sexual misconduct, and other workplace safety concerns
  • Legal counsel regarding employee privacy rights whether at the workplace, off-duty, or in on-line activities
  • Legal counsel regarding leaves of absence, including FMLA, CFRA, PDL, ADA, industrial accident, differential, and catastrophic leave
  • Training services required by AB 1825 for anti-sexual harassment and discrimination, as well as workplace bullying
  • Conducting/overseeing workplace investigations, including complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and whistleblowing
  • Defense counsel in litigation regarding workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation
  • Defense counsel in DFEH, EEOC, DIR, and OCR complaints including preparation of employer responses and a defense against claims
  • Legal counsel regarding state and federal disability accommodations, including the interactive process and defending against claims

Employee Relations/Negotiations

  • Chief Negotiator, or advising and supporting the District's Chief Negotiator, on collective bargaining issues including, but not limited to, salaries and benefits, furlough days and salary rollbacks, work hours and work year, contracting out work, and the effects of non-negotiable decisions
  • Legal counsel in PERB statutory impasse procedures, including mediation, factfinding, strike preparations, and post-factfinding implementation
  • Defense counsel in contractual grievance arbitration
  • Legal counsel in PERB litigation on unfair labor practice charges that include bad faith bargaining, contracting out, interference, and discrimination/retaliation
  • Legal counsel regarding labor organizing, bargaining unit determination and modification, and employee representation rights

Employment Litigation

While a significant portion of our firm's efforts are dedicated to conducting labor negotiations and providing employment advice, our attorneys have extensive experience at trial and appellate level employment litigation on behalf of public agency and school district clients. Our advice and advocacy has been sought in numerous sensitive, high profile cases and our attorneys have argued before the California Courts of Appeal, the California Supreme Court, and administrative agencies including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).

Our attorneys have handled discrimination and civil rights litigation from the filing of the complaint through the rendering of a jury verdict in both state and federal courts.

Our attorneys are experienced in personnel disputes related to disabled employees and employees returning from work-related injuries. We have devised and implemented an interactive process to assist staff in reviewing requests for accommodation from employees with disabilities including returning employees to work.

We have represented and defended public sector employers in matters involving all of the following state and federal labor laws:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA)
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
  • Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1991
  • Unruh Civil Rights Act
  • The California Fair Employment and Housing Act

Investigations - Learn more

The inherent seriousness and sensitivity of workplace investigations often obligates an employer to hire an independent investigator to conduct a prompt and comprehensive investigation. Lozano Smith's Investigative Services Team, a specialist group within our Labor & Employment Practice Group, recognizes the challenges that come with investigations of employee, student, and parent complaints. These attorneys have expertly served as investigators and advisors to clients on a broad range of complaints and can help your district to navigate the investigations process. Working alongside K-12 school districts, community colleges, universities and other public agencies, the Investigative Services Team supports management in reviewing and responding to employee, student, and parent complaints in a fair, impartial, and legally compliant manner.

Title IX Impact Team

Lozano Smith’s Title IX Practice Area is comprised of specialists dedicated to the pressing issues faced clients. From athletics to sexual violence, this team advises, trains, and educates clients on the various components of Title IX – from prevention and mitigation to investigations resulting in disciplinary action. Areas in which the group provides advice and training include:

  • Sex-based discrimination
  • Issues relating to transgender employees
  • Developing and auditing complaint grievance procedures and policies
  • Responding to reports of sexual misconduct and harassment
  • Investigating complaints of sexual misconduct and harassment
  • Title IX Coordinator roles and responsibilities
  • District and employee liability
  • Reporting obligations
  • Interaction with law enforcement agencies
  • Discipline of employees
  • Litigation
  • VAWA/Clery Act
  • Trainings
Read More

Training and Preventive Measures

The Labor and Employment Practice Group conducts a Legal Consortium for clients and countless in-service trainings and webinars each year. The seminars are conducted throughout the state and also for individual clients, as requested. They provide in-depth information on a variety of topics to keep attendees informed on latest legislation, case law and legal trends. Recent topics include Teacher Classification, Employee Discipline, Employee Evaluations and Uniform Investigations and Complaint Processes.

The Labor and Employment Practice Group has expertly provided legal counsel to school districts and other public agencies in both high-profile disputes and everyday transactions. Our attorneys are acutely aware of the financial and practical constraints placed on school districts and other public agencies in the current economic climate and we work with our clients to explore all options toward achieving a practical, effective, and cost-efficient resolution of their concerns.

Proactive Resolutions

The firm encourages its clients to build strong institutional knowledge of best practices in personnel matters, to consider alternative dispute resolution (including mediation when feasible), and to be proactive in resolving issues before they become costly problems. When litigation is unavoidable, our attorneys have successfully defended clients and prosecuted their claims in administrative hearings and in the courtroom.


Carolyn L. Gemma Senior Counsel
Sacramento, San Luis Obispo colsonmurphy@lozanosmith.com
Los Angeles, San Diego, Bakersfield dkameya@lozanosmith.com
Eleanor M. Welke Senior Counsel
Fabiola M. Rivera Senior Counsel
Fresno, Sacramento, Bakersfield jbehrens@lozanosmith.com
Joshua  Whiteside Senior Counsel
San Luis Obispo jwhiteside@lozanosmith.com
Walnut Creek, Sacramento, San Diego krezendes@lozanosmith.com
Lauren A. Lyman Senior Counsel
Los Angeles, Bakersfield mkitabayashi@lozanosmith.com
Fresno, Monterey mlerner@lozanosmith.com
Sacramento, Fresno, San Luis Obispo msmith@lozanosmith.com
Roxana E. Khan Senior Counsel
Sarah E. Fama Senior Counsel
Walnut Creek sfama@lozanosmith.com
Steve  Ngo Partner
Walnut Creek sngo@lozanosmith.com

California Expands Public Access to Police Records

By:Jenell Van Bindsbergen, Jessica Mejorado -

October 2021Number 32Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 16 on September 30, 2021, expanding the types of police officer records subject to disclosure pursuant to a public records request. This is an expansion of provisions enacted in SB 1421, that went into effect on January 1, 2019. (See 2018 Client News Brief Number 60.) SB 1421 increased public access to certain police records related to incidents of discharge of a weapon at a person, incidents involving great bodily injury or death, ...

Assembly Bill 167 Further Details Independent Study and Attendance Accounting Requirements

By:Ruth Mendyk, Carrie Rasmussen, Allison Hernandez -

October 2021Number 31Governor Newsom signed another education omnibus budget trailer bill on September 23, 2021, Assembly Bill (AB) 167. This legislation further modifies independent study and ADA apportionment requirements for the 2021-2022 school year. AB 167 follows the Education Omnibus Budget Trailer Bill (AB 130) approved in July 2021 that made significant changes to independent study. (See Client News Brief Number 14.) A brief summary of AB 167’s provisions that impact instructio...

Governor Newsom Relaxes Procedural Requirements for Hiring Retired Teachers

By:Sochie Graham, Darren Kameya, Janae Castellani -

September 2021Number 30On August 16, 2021, California Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-12-21 in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and increased spread of the Delta variant. The Executive Order, among other things, aims to provide the public school system with increased flexibility to hire retired teachers to ensure continuity of education in the face of rising COVID-19 cases.Generally, among other post-retirement work restrictions, retirees from the California State Teachers&r...

Appellate Court Ruling Sheds Light on the Government Claims Act, Sexual Abuse Cover Up and Related Damages

By:Sloan Simmons, Everett McLean II -

August 2021Number 21In its recent decision in Los Angeles Unified School District v. Superior Ct., Los Angeles County (2021) 64 Cal.App.5th 549, the California Court of Appeal held that a school district is immune from an award of treble damages in a tort action for childhood sexual assault where the assault occurred as the result of a cover up. In reaching its decision, the court distinguishes between primarily punitive damages, for which a public entity maintains immunity, from normal tort...

PERB Holds that Employers Have a Duty to Negotiate in Good Faith Regarding the Effects of Mandatory Vaccination Policies Prior to Implementation

By:Sarah Kaatz, Brooke Bolton Tiutan -

August 2021Number 22On July 26, 2021, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) issued a decision finding that while the decision to adopt a mandatory influenza vaccination policy implemented by the Regents of the University of California (University) was outside the scope of representation, the University's failure to meet and confer in good faith over the effects of the policy, prior to implementation, constituted an unlawful unilateral change in violation of the Higher Education Employe...

School District Properly Placed Coach on Leave After He Refused to Cease Public Prayers Following Football Games

By:Sloan Simmons, Alyssa Bivins -

August 2021Number 20In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (9th Cir. 2021) 991 F.3d 1004, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Ninth Circuit) upheld the Bremerton School District’s (District) placement of high school football coach Joseph Kennedy (Kennedy) on paid administrative leave when Kennedy refused to stop conducting public prayers and religious motivational speeches at the 50-yard line with students following football games. The Ninth Circuit reasoned that the District appropria...

"On the Basis of Sex" Interpreted: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protected Under Title IX

By:Stephanie White, Jonathan Berry-Smith -

July 2021Number 15On June 16, 2021, the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Notice of Interpretation [1] explaining that discrimination “on the basis of sex” under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) encompasses both sexual orientation and gender identity. This interpretation clarifies how OCR will enforce Title IX moving forward, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County Georgia...

Significant Changes to Independent Study for the New School Year

By:Carrie Rasmussen, Ruth Mendyk -

July 2021Number 14The 2021-2022 Education Omnibus Budget Trailer Bill (Trailer Bill) includes significant short-term and long-term changes to independent study. (See Ed. Code, § 51745, et seq.) For the 2021-2022 school year only, school districts and county offices of education (COE) will be required to offer an independent study program to meet the educational needs of pupils. Charter schools are not required to provide independent study, but charter schools that do offer independent st...

Face Coverings Still Required in Certain Circumstances under New Rules

By:Karen Rezendes, Joshua Whiteside -

June 2021Number 10The past two weeks have seen a flurry of changing guidance regarding the use of face masks at workplaces and schools. On June 17, 2021, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopted revised COVID-19 workplace rules and the Governor signed Executive Order N-09-21 making these rules effective immediately. The same day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance for fully vaccinated individuals to address changing rules on ...

New Juneteenth Federal Holiday's Effect on California School Calendars

By:Louis Lozano, Eleanor Welke -

June 2021Number 11On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed legislation known as the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,” which amends Title 5 of the United States Code, Section 6103 (“Section 6103”), designating June 19 as a new “legal public holiday” to be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day.California school districts have asked whether the new federal holiday requires California schools to close on each June 19, and, if so, whether s...

Representative Cases

Lozano Smith represented the City of Los Angeles in one of the largest class action disability lawsuits in the country. In Willits, Mark, et al. v. City of Los Angeles, the plaintiff filed an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complaint to install curb cuts and sidewalk repairs throughout the City, to enforce the ADA. This case involved extensive E-Discovery of the City and its various departments’ internal data management system. The recently negotiated settlement will allow the City to completely revitalize its public right-of-ways to assure that all of the residents and visitors are able to fully participate in all of the available programs and services offered by the City.
In Avila v. City of Los Angeles, et al., U.S.D.C. Central District of California, Case No. 2:11-cv-1326-SJO-FMO, Lozano Smith successfully defended the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles Police Department in an employment case. Following testimony, Lozano Smith asked the judge to dismiss certain claims because the officer had not introduced sufficient evidence. The judge agreed in part, and the jury was only asked to consider the officer's claims concerning retaliation under the FLSA and due process violations. The City and the LAPD prevailed on the due process claim, and liability for the FLSA claim was limited to 1% of the damages sought by the plaintiff.
Shiell, et al. v. County of Los Angeles, et al., Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BC208582, Equal protection action claiming staff members of a non-profit, public benefit corporation were entitled to the same rights, salaries and benefits of County employees because they performed the same work. A dispositive motion was brought on 3 issues: 1) statute of limitations; 2) entitlement to civil service; and 3) entitlement to County retirement benefits. The motion was decided in the County's favor.
Hall, et al. v. County of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BC208583, Approximately 200 female attorneys of a non-profit, public benefit corporation brought a sex discrimination suit claiming they were not receiving the same salaries and benefits as male employees of the County, even though they were doing the same work. The County brought a dispositive motion on the grounds that plaintiffs were using improper male comparators and had not shown any indicia of discrimination. The motion was granted in the County's favor.
Chisom v. Board of Retirement of County of Fresno Employees' Retirement Association (2013) 218 Cal.App.4th 400. A recent published decision upholding a decade-old settlement agreement and rejecting a group of retired Fresno County employees' attempt to use parole evidence to advance an interpretation of the settlement agreement that would have allowed the former employees to pursue their claims for an "enhanced" non-service-connected disability retirement benefit.
McIntyre v. Sonoma Valley Unified School District (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 170. Lozano Smith attorneys successfully defended the school district against employee challenge to status and nonreelection. The California Court of Appeal reaffirmed key legal principles by holding that the school district correctly classified the employee as a temporary employee and then properly converted her to a probationary employee and properly and timely nonreelected employee during her second year of probationary employment.
Hildebrandt v. St. Helena Unified School District (2009) 172 Cal.App.4th 334. Lozano Smith attorneys authored an amicus brief on behalf of the California School Boards Association (CSBA) and asserted arguments that were adopted by the Court of Appeal in regard to bumping rights in a certificated layoff. This important case established a school district's right to refuse to "split" an existing full-time certificated position during a certificated layoff to accommodate a more senior employee's desire to "partially bump" into a more junior employee's assignment.
In Rimando v. Alum Rock Union Elementary School District, et al. (9th Cir. 2009) 356 Fed.Appx. 989, Lozano Smith successfully argued that a California public school district is a "State employer" for purposes of the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) and consequently suits against school districts under USERRA must be filed in state court. The Rimando decision is the first of its kind by the Ninth Circuit to address USERRA suits brought against California public school districts.
Atwater Elementary School Dist. v. Department of General Services (2007) 41 Cal.4th 227. Lozano Smith attorneys successfully represented a school district and convinced the California Supreme Court to issue a landmark decision holding that the four-year limitations period for a school district to bring dismissal charges against a teacher is not absolute. As a result, the Supreme Court adopted the school district's contention that the four-year period should be extended based on principles of equity to permit the District to introduce evidence of sexual misconduct that was discovered by the district many years after it occurred. This important case strengthens the ability of all public school districts to impose discipline against certificated employees.