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
Chelsea  Olson Murphy Senior Counsel
Sacramento, San Luis Obispo colsonmurphy@lozanosmith.com
Los Angeles, San Diego dkameya@lozanosmith.com
Desiree  Serrano Senior Counsel
Eleanor M. Welke Senior Counsel
Erin M. Hamor Senior Counsel
Fabiola M. Rivera Senior Counsel
Fresno, Sacramento, Bakersfield jbehrens@lozanosmith.com
Walnut Creek, Sacramento, San Diego krezendes@lozanosmith.com
Los Angeles, Bakersfield mkitabayashi@lozanosmith.com
Fresno, Bakersfield msmith@lozanosmith.com
Roman J. Muñoz Senior Counsel
Roxana E. Khan Senior Counsel
Ryan P. Tung Senior Counsel
Los Angeles, Walnut Creek rtung@lozanosmith.com
Sarah E. Fama Senior Counsel
Walnut Creek sfama@lozanosmith.com
Sirenia  Jimenez Senior Counsel
Steve  Ngo Partner
Walnut Creek sngo@lozanosmith.com

New California Law Provides COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for Food Service Workers, Health Care Providers and Emergency Responders

By:Ryan Harrison, Sr., Scott Cross -

October 15, 2020Number 71Recently enacted Assembly Bill (AB) 1867 created new Labor Code sections 248 and 248.1 which require employers to provide additional COVID-19 paid sick leave (CPSL) to food service workers, health care providers, and emergency responders. AB 1867 went into effect immediately upon being signed on September 9, 2020.Sections 248 and 248.1 codified Governor Newsom’s prior Executive Order (EO) N-51-20 pertaining to CPSL, and also added additional provisions and clari...

New CFRA Bill Expands Job-Protected Leave

By:Sarah Kaatz, Angela Okamura -

October 15, 2020Number 72On September 17, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 1383, a bill which expands the reach and application of the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), by applying it to employers with five or more employees, by expanding the list of family members with serious health conditions that an employee may take leave to care for, and by eliminating other limitations for use. The bill goes into effect on January 1, 2021.By implementing these changes, ...

The Effect of SB 820 on the Recording of Distance Learning

By:Gabriela Flowers, Sabrina Buendia -

October 2020Number 70As school districts and county offices of education across California prepared to open their schools in a virtual distance learning format, electronic recording of remote instruction sessions became a topic of interest in labor negotiations. Existing law on the issue did not contemplate distance learning and the needs of students using a remote platform.On August 22, 2020, the Legislature released the August budget trailer bills, which made a number of major changes conce...

California Court of Appeal Upholds Certificated Dismissal for School Counselor’s Facebook Comments

By:Gabriela Flowers, Jonathan Berry-Smith -

September 2020Number 66On August 11, 2020, California's Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the dismissal of Patricia Crawford (Crawford), a certificated guidance counselor for the Jurupa Unified School District (District), on the grounds that her comments on a colleague's Facebook post concerning students were immoral and demonstrated she was unfit for service. Crawford v. Commission on Professional Competence (August 11, 2020, E071770) __ Cal.App.5th __) sheds much-needed light on a scho...

Governor’s Executive Order Impacts Collective Bargaining Deadlines, Administrative Hearings, and POST

By:Jenell Van Bindsbergen, Lauren Lyman -

August 2020Number 62On May 7, 2020, California Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-63-20 (EO N-63-20) as part of his broad response to COVID-19. EO N-63-20, among many things, extends multiple statutory and regulatory timelines. Below is an outline of the extensions and exemptions that affect collective bargaining, administrative hearings, and Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) requirements. Subsequently, on June 5, 2020, and June 30, 2020, further Executive Orders were signed t...

Attorney General Confirms Board or Council Member Health Care Benefits cannot be more Generous than Employee Benefits

By:Regina Garza, Jessica Mejorado -

August 2020Number 64The California Attorney General, in a recent opinion, has concluded that members of legislative bodies may not receive health and welfare benefits not widely offered to the agencies' employees and officers and that mistakes made in determining benefit plans offered to legislative body members can yield serious consequences.BackgroundThe City of Moreno Valley (City) provided its City Council members with benefit contributions at a flat rate plus a percentage of the average ...

Questions Remain Regarding Face Coverings in Schools

By:Harold Freiman, Sophia Cohn -

July 2020Number 59As California's local educational agencies (LEAs) examine how and when schools can reopen, a frequent question has been the extent to which face coverings will be required for staff and students. While there have been numerous questions and some confusing guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the issue has come more into focus with the latest guidance. Based on the July 17 CDPH "COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs" school ...

Layoffs Under SB 98

By:Gabriela Flowers, Michelle Cannon, Allison Hernandez -

July 2020Number 55After much anticipation, following the Governor’s grim May Revise, Governor Newsom and the California Legislature reached an agreement for the 2020-21 California state budget. The final 2020-21 state budget and the enacting legislation, including the Education omnibus budget trailer bill (SB 98), reflect the profound impact COVID-19 has and continues to have on the economy and on state revenues. While cuts to K-12 public education were spared, under SB 98 various layof...

Distance Learning & In-Person Instruction Requirements Under SB 98

By:Aimee Perry, Marisa Montenegro -

July 2020Number 56On June 29, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 98 (SB 98) into law. Though SB 98 is a budget bill, it includes requirements regarding distance learning and in-person instruction, among other topics, for the 2020-2021 school year. This CNB addresses distance learning, while other CNBs cover SB 98 as it relates to special education, charter schools, employee lay-offs CNB 55, and LCAP CNB 52.It should be noted at the outset that while there has been much discussion regard...

Teachers’ Union Prevails at PERB in Effort to Organize Charter Schools

By:Edward Sklar -

July 2020Number 54The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) recently held that a teachers' union's petitions for recognition at three charter schools were appropriate under the Education Employment Relations Act (EERA). Most importantly, PERB held that the union demonstrated sufficient majority support among employees of the schools to be certified as the exclusive representative of each school.In this case, the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) filed three separate petitions for recognit...

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.