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 use of personal devices for public business, social media, appropriate use of the internet, and bring your own device (BYOD) policies

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
Dana  Lui Associate
Los Angeles dlui@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
Kara R. Walton Senior Counsel
Walnut Creek, Sacramento, San Diego krezendes@lozanosmith.com
Kendra G. Tovey Senior Counsel
Fresno, Monterey mlerner@lozanosmith.com
Sacramento, Fresno, San Luis Obispo msmith@lozanosmith.com
Sarah E. Fama Senior Counsel
Walnut Creek sfama@lozanosmith.com
Steve  Ngo Partner
Walnut Creek sngo@lozanosmith.com

Updates to Masking Requirements for Students and Employees

By:Sloan Simmons, Joshua Whiteside -

March 2022Number 16The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released new guidance, which includes changes to the legal requirements for face masks and new health and safety recommendations for local educational agencies to consider.On February 25, 2022, the CDC released new guidance describing how the CDC now measures the impact of COVID-19 on local health and healthcare systems within each U.S. county. This new guidan...

California Whistleblower Retaliation Claims Subject to Statutory Test Rather than Higher Federal Standard

By:Mark Waterman -

March 2022Number 13In Lawson v. PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc. (2022) 12 Cal.5th703, the California Supreme Court determined that the proper method for presenting and evaluating a claim of whistleblower retaliation under Labor Code section 1102.5 is the framework prescribed by statute in Labor Code section 1102.6 rather than the well-established burden shifting framework set forth in McDonnel Douglas Corporation v. Green (1972) 411 U.S. 792.Background From April 2015 until he was fired in 2...

Additional COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Now Available

By:Dulcinea Grantham, Rebecca Seldin -

February 2022Number 12Since the State-provided Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (Senate Bill 95) expired at the end of September 2021, and with the recent COVID-19 surge due to the Omicron variant, both employees and employers have wondered whether the Legislature and Governor would again grant additional paid sick leave to employees affected by COVID-19. On February 9, 2022, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 114 into law providing COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave for employees. SB 114...

Cal/OSHA's Enforcement and Citation Powers Expand Under SB 606

By:Chelsea Olson Murphy, Stephanie Rector -

February 2022Number 11On September 27, 2021, Governor Newsom approved Senate Bill (SB) 606, which added and amended multiple sections of the Labor Code. SB 606 took effect January 1, 2022, and expanded the enforcement powers of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), with costly implications for employers that do not heed the new changes.In brief, Cal/OSHA’s new authority under the Labor Code includes (a) penalties for employers cited for “egregio...

Court of Appeal Clarifies Executive Order's Effect on Government Claim Deadlines

By:Steve Ngo, Matthew Lear -

February 2022Number 9In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-35-20 on March 21, 2020 (Executive Order). The Executive Order extends the time by which a claim must be presented to a public entity under the Government Claims Act by 60 days. Subsequent orders issued by the Governor further extend or clarify the time to submit a claim as originally stated in the Executive Order. Recently, the California Court of Appeals for the Second Appellate Distric...

New Law Prohibits Employers from Preventing Employee Disclosure of Alleged Workplace Discrimination and Harassment

By:Gabriela Flowers, Claire Chang -

February 2022Number 6Effective January 1, 2022, Senate Bill (SB) 331 makes it unlawful for employers to enter into agreements with employees in exchange for employees’ silence on information concerning claims or complaints of workplace discrimination or harassment, subject to certain exemptions.BackgroundSB 331 builds on SB 820 which was passed in 2018 and went into effect January 1, 2019, preventing employers from prohibiting employees from disclosing information about alleged sexual h...

Important Changes to PERB Regulations Effective January 1, 2022

By:Michelle Cannon, Courtney de Groof -

January 2022Number 3Various amendments to the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) regulations took effect on January 1, 2022, which are likely to impact public agencies with unfair labor practice charges and other matters pending before PERB. These changes include new deadlines for the filing of motions before a formal hearing, amended procedures for the use of subpoenas, new requirements for requesting a continuance of a formal hearing, and new procedures and deadlines for filing except...

The Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights Will No Longer Enforce a Portion of the 2020 Amendments to Title IX Regulations

By:Sarah Fama, Carolyn Gemma -

January 2022Number 1Following a recent decision by a federal district court in Massachusetts, the United States Department of Education (DOE) published a bulletin stating that its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will no longer enforce the “Suppression Clause” of the 2020 Amendments to the Title IX Regulations (2020 Amendments). The impact of this decision is that educational institutions who receive federal funds (Recipients), can individually decide whether they want to remove the ...

REMINDER: The New Requirements for Postsecondary Institutions to Address Sexual Harassment of Students Become Effective January 1, 2022

By:Sarah Fama -

December 2021Number 49On September 29, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 493, requiring postsecondary institutions to take certain actions and implement certain procedures related to sexual harassment prevention and handling complaints of sexual harassment. Lozano Smith Client News Brief Number 81 provides an overview regarding the new requirements and provides important takeaways for Postsecondary Institutions. Postsecondary Institutions must be in compliance with the new require...

New Penalties for Failure to Provide Unions with Employee Contact Information

By:Dulcinea Grantham, Crystal Pizano -

December 2021Number 45On September 27, 2021, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 270, which becomes effective July 1, 2022, and amends the Public Employee Communications Chapter (PECC), codified in Government Code section 3555, et seq. Specifically, SB 270 authorizes public employee unions to file unfair practice charges with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) against public employers that fail to comply with existing law requiring disclosure of employee information to the union...

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.