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

Title IX has taken center stage on a number of fronts. Long before the national attention, Lozano Smith’s Title IX Impact Team was formed as a specialized group dedicated to the pressing issues faced by school districts. From athletics to sexual violence, this team advises, trains, and educates clients on the various components of Title IX – from prevention and mitigation to investigation and response. The Title IX Impact Team draws from multiple practice groups and focuses to streamline advice and counsel. Areas in which the group provides advice and training include:

  • Audit of athletic programs
  • Audit of grievance procedures and policies
  • Discipline of employees and students
  • Sexual misconduct and harassment
  • Student and employee protections
  • Investigations
  • Title IX Coordinator roles and responsibilities
  • District and employee liability
  • Interaction with law enforcement agencies
  • Litigation

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.


Los Angeles, San Diego dkameya@lozanosmith.com
Desiree  Serrano Senior Counsel
Eleanor M. Welke Senior Counsel
Erin M. Hamor 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
Roxana E. Khan Senior Counsel
Ryan P. Tung Senior Counsel
Los Angeles, Walnut Creek rtung@lozanosmith.com
Stephanie M. White Senior Counsel
Walnut Creek swhite@lozanosmith.com
Steve  Ngo Partner
Walnut Creek sngo@lozanosmith.com

New Law Clarifies Anti-Discrimination Laws Include Hair Discrimination

By:Gabriela Flowers, Joshua Whiteside -

August 2019Number 38The California Legislature recently passed Senate Bill (SB) 188, known as the CROWN Act, which amends the definition of "race" contained in state anti-discrimination laws under both the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Education Code to include "hair texture and protective hairstyles." The new law does not mean that public agencies have to change their dress codes unless specific hair texture and hairstyles are specified in their policy. Rather, the new law clarifie...

Supreme Court Curtails Availability Of Defense To Employers In Employment Discrimination Cases

By:Michelle Cannon, Courtney de Groof -

July 2019Number 36In Fort Bend County, Texas v. Davis, the United States Supreme Court held that the requirement to file an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") prior to filing a discrimination lawsuit, which is set forth in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), is not a "jurisdictional" requirement and is thus subject to waiver. This means that if an employer fails to promptly raise an objection based on an employee's failure to fil...

Court Reaffirms Absences To Attend Medical Appointments May Be Evidence Of A Disability

By:Dulcinea Grantham, Janae Castellani -

July 2019Number 34In Ross v. County of Riverside, decided on June 20, 2019, the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District reaffirmed that repeated or extended absences from work for the purpose of attending doctor's appointments amount to a limitation on a major life activity, thus physical impairments which cause such repeated or extended absences may meet the definition of a physical disability.Christopher Ross, a County of Riverside employee, brought a lawsuit against hi...

PERB Decision Provides Guidance Addressing “Public Hearing” Requirement

By:Jenell Van Bindsbergen, Meera Bhatt -

March 2019Number 17 In a recent decision, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) addressed the public hearing requirement an agency must satisfy before implementing its last, best, and final offer (LBFO), after completing applicable impasse procedures. In City of Yuba City (2018) PERB Dec. No. 2603-M, PERB upheld an administrative law judge decision dismissing an unfair practice charge brought against the City of Yuba City (City) by Public Employees Union Local 1 (Local 1) alleging viol...

Court Clarifies Interplay Between Education Code Discipline And The Brown Act’s 24-Hour Notice Requirement

By:Mark Waterman, Marisa Montenegro -

February 2019Number 14In Ricasa v. Office of Administrative Hearings, certified for publication on January 14, 2019, the California Court of Appeal attempted to harmonize an apparent dissonance between the Ralph M. Brown Act's personnel exception, and the disciplinary procedures of the Education Code. The opinion constitutes the first time an appellate court has ruled on the Brown Act's personnel exception in the context of community college districts, and the opinion's implications reach to ...

Court Of Appeal Shields Personnel Records From Disclosure

By:Manuel Martinez, Benjamin Brown -

February 2019Number 10In Associated Chino Teachers v. Chino Valley Unified School District (Nov. 29, 2018, E068163) ­­__ Cal.4th __, the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District determined that complaints regarding a high school teacher's alleged aggressive behavior were not substantial enough to require disclosure under the California Public Records Act (CPRA). Chino Valley Unified School District ("District") had sought to release these documents in response t...

Employees’ Representation Rights Now Expand Beyond Oral Interviews

By:Dulcinea Grantham, Jayme Duque -

January 2019Number 6Three recent decisions by the Public Employment Relation Board (PERB) have expanded or highlighted employees' rights to union representation when employees are asked to prepare a written statement or are searched unclothed.Written StatementsIn San Bernardino Community College District (2018) PERB Dec. No. 2599, PERB expanded the right to union representation to those circumstances where an employee is asked to provide a written statement. In this case, an employee was ques...

#MeToo Movement Leads to Increased Harassment Prevention Training and Related Requirements for California Employers

By:Thomas Gauthier -

December 2018Number 86Effective January 1, 2019, California employers, including public agencies, will be required to comply with new requirements aimed at preventing sexual harassment in the workplace as a result of the #MeToo movement that began in 2017. On September 30, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown approved Senate Bill (SB) 1300 and SB 1343, which both make significant changes to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).BackgroundUnder FEHA, it is unlawful to harass persons base...

PERB Admonishes School District for Blanket Prohibitions on Distributing Union Literature

By:Darren Kameya, Carolyn Gemma -

December 2018Number 87On October 22, 2018, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) upheld an administrative law judge (ALJ) decision finding that the Petaluma City Elementary School District/Joint Union High School District ("District") interfered with employee and organizational rights by: (1) directing employees not to distribute literature "of a political or union nature" on District property, including during non-work time and in on-work areas; and (2) directing employees not to dist...

Legislature Further Limits the Ability to Consider Expunged, Dismissed, or Sealed Convictions in Hiring Decisions

By:Gabriela Flowers, Benjamin Brown -

December 2018 Number 84 Senate Bill (SB) 1412, which takes effect on January 1, 2019, builds on prior law limiting consideration of expunged, dismissed, or sealed convictions in hiring decisions. SB 1412 prevents employers from requiring job applicants to disclose certain criminal convictions that have been expunged, dismissed, sealed, or statutorily eradicated. SB 1412 also provides that employers may only consider particular expunged convictions that are enumerated in the law when makin...

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.