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 Requiring Later Start Times For Middle Schools And High Schools Creates Uncertainty For Educational Agencies

By:Ruth Mendyk, Joshua Whiteside -

November 2019Number 66Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 328, which establishes new mandatory school day start times for most middle schools and high schools. SB 328 adds section 46148 to the Education Code, requiring high schools to set the beginning of the school day no earlier than 8:30 a.m., and middle schools at no earlier than 8:00 a.m. The reasoning behind this new law is based on studies showing increased academic performance, school attendance, and health for students at s...

California Expands Definition Of Domestic Partners To Include Opposite Sex Couples

By:Gabriela Flowers, Carolyn Gemma -

October 2019Number 63In California, registered domestic partners have "the same rights, protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under the law" as spouses. (Fam. Code § 297.5, subd. (a).) Existing law limits domestic partnerships, among other requirements, to two groups of individuals: (1) couples of the same sex or (2) couples of the opposite sex, one or both of whom are over the age of 62 and eligible for social security bene...

State Clarifies Compliance Timeline For Employer Harassment Prevention Training

By:Michelle Cannon, Kate Holding -

October 2019 Number 58 Senate Bill (SB) 1343, enacted in September 2018, required employers with five or more employees to provide two hours of interactive sexual harassment prevention training to supervisory employees, and at least one hour of interactive sexual harassment training to nonsupervisory employees by January 1, 2020. The harassment training must include information regarding sexual harassment, abusive conduct, and harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and se...

Final Rule Increases Minimum Salary Threshold For FLSA Overtime Exemptions

By:Gabriela Flowers, Niki Nabavi Nouri, Janae Castellani -

October 2019Number 59On September 24, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced its Final Rule, updating the minimum salary necessary for an executive, administrative or professional employee to be exempt from overtime pay requirements. Based on these revisions to the federal overtime rules, the DOL anticipates 1.3 million more employees will now be entitled to overtime pay.The DOL previously published updates to federal overtime regulations, effective December 1, 2016 (See 2016 Clie...

PERB Articulates Duties Of Employer When Faced With Internal Union Strife

By:Gabriela Flowers, Angela Okamura -

October 2019Number 56In City of Arcadia (2019) PERB Dec. No. 2648-M, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) grappled with a variety of issues surrounding a public employer's duties in the face of warring factions within one of its unions, as well as the propriety of "exploding" offers-an offer or proposal that expires on a given date-in the context of labor negotiations.PERB held that the City unlawfully interfered with internal union affairs when its police chief encouraged a union rep...

AB 5: New Law Further Limits Employers’ Ability To Classify Workers As Independent Contractors

By:Michelle Cannon, Travis Lindsey -

October 2019Number 53Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) on September 18, 2019, which takes effect on January 1, 2020. AB 5 codifies the California Supreme Court's decision inDynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles (Dynamex) (see 2018 Client News Brief No. 20), which made it more difficult to classify a worker as an independent contractor. This new legislation also creates additional protections for workers.In Dynamex, the Court held that, for purposes of Indu...

Department Of Labor Opinion Says Family Medical Leave Allowed For Parental Attendance At IEP Meetings At School

By:Gabriela Flowers, Michelle Sliwa -

October 2019Number 50On August 8, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor issued an opinion letter (Opinion Letter) stating that the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) covers intermittent leave to attend a child's Individual Education Program (IEP) meeting, so long as the child suffers from a qualifying "serious health condition" under the FMLA. Special education IEP meetings are convened to develop, review, and revise the written document created and implemented to meet the educational needs of a ch...

More Time For Paid Family Leave Is Now Available For State Employees

By:Dulcinea Grantham, Marina Ramirez -

September 2019Number 39Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed Senate Bill (SB) 83. SB 83 affects employees who are eligible for and pay into State Disability Insurance (SDI). SDI allows employees to receive income replacement for up to six weeks while disabled and off work. SB 83 extends the wage replacement benefits under SDI from six weeks to eight weeks effective July 1, 2020. In addition, SB 83 expands the uses for California's SDI to include:care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parents...

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...

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.