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
Walnut Creek, Sacramento, San Diego krezendes@lozanosmith.com
Los Angeles, Bakersfield mkitabayashi@lozanosmith.com
Fresno, San Luis Obispo msmith@lozanosmith.com
Roxana E. Khan Senior Counsel
Ryan P. Tung Partner
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

SB 95 - COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

By:Michelle Cannon, Marina Ramirez -

March 2021Number 7On March 19, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 95 into law. SB 95 provides COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave (COVID-19 SPSL) to covered employees until September 30, 2021. The new sick leave is in addition to any existing sick leave granted under California or federal law, and any other sick leave offered by employers, including under any collective bargaining agreement.SB 95 is a response to the continued impacts of COVID-19 on the workforce subsequent...

CDPH Guidance for Schools Creates Challenges and New Reopening Criteria

By:Michelle Cannon, Aimee Perry, Joshua Whiteside -

February 2021Number 3On January 14, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued new guidance (the Guidance) for all of California's local educational agencies (LEAs), including county offices of education, school districts, charter schools, and private schools, including nonpublic and nonsectarian schools. The Guidance includes new guidelines affecting how LEAs should proceed with providing in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, redefines wha...

Expiration of Expanded and Supplemental Leave under Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act and AB 1867

By:Kate Holding, Gabriela Flowers -

February 2021Number 2FFCRA LeaveIn March of 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was passed by Congress. The FFCRA provided, among other things, expanded Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for child care, and also required employers to provide up to 80 hours of Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) to employees for COVID-19 related reasons. Our Client News Brief discussing leave provisions granted by the FFCRA can be found here: 2020 Client News Brief Number 17. The FFC...

CAL OSHA Implements Temporary Emergency Regulations

By:Jenell Van Bindsbergen, Mayra Sandoval -

December 2020Number 84The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board recently adopted new COVID-19 emergency temporary standards. The temporary standards became effective on November 30, 2020, and expire October 2, 2021. The temporary standards apply to almost all employers and places of employment, with very few exceptions. The exceptions include workplaces where there is only one employee who does not have contact with other people, employees who work from home, and certain e...

Public School Districts Cannot be Sued Under California's Unruh Civil Rights Act for Disability Discrimination

By:Sloan Simmons, Erin Frazor -

December 2020Number 83In a case of first impression, the California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District, recently held that a school district is not a "business establishment" and therefore cannot be liable for disability discrimination under California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, Civil Code section 51 (Unruh Act). (Brennon B. v. Superior Court of Contra Costa County (Nov. 13, 2020, A157026) _ Cal.App.5th _.) The court in Brennon B. concluded the Unruh Act imposes liability only on...

New Amendments to Title 5 Regulations Impact How Community Colleges Must Process Unlawful Discrimination Complaints, Including Student Complaints of Sexual Misconduct

By:Trevin Sims, Stephanie White, Erin Frazor -

November 4, 2020Number 80On September 18, 2020, amendments to title 5 of the California Code of Regulations (Title 5), which were previously adopted by the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges, took effect. The changes impact the procedures community colleges must follow when addressing employee and student complaints of unlawful discrimination, including complaints under Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972 (Title IX). The stated purpose for the changes is to...

California Adopts Extensive New Requirements on Postsecondary Institutions to Address Sexual Harassment of Students

By:Trevin Sims, Sarah Fama -

November 4, 2020Number 81On 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. The new law requires compliance no later than January 1, 2022.Key Elements of SB 493Definitions. SB 493 modifies or adds definitions for important terms. Most notably, the bill (1) expands the definition of “sexual har...

New Law Clarifies That Paid Administrative Leave is Creditable for CalSTRS

By:Thomas Manniello, Janae Castellani -

October 22, 2020Number 79The following Client News Brief provides an update regarding how paid administrative leave and other discretionary leaves granted by public school employers will be treated in the California Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS). Earlier this year, Lozano Smith published Client News Brief Number 10, explaining the history of this issue and recent developments, and explained that the matter was under review by CalSTRS.Due to the significant concerns that were rai...

Bullying Victims Granted Expanded Transfer Rights

By:Ruth Mendyk, Crystal Pizano -

October 20, 2020Number 74Assembly Bill (AB) 1127 amended Education Code section 46600 to now require California school districts to approve intradistrict and interdistrict transfer requests by victims of an act of bullying. Previously, Education Code section 46600 simply gave priority for an interdistrict transfer request from a student who was the victim of bullying. These new requirements became effective January 1, 2020, but are now more relevant as students begin to return to campus.Intra...

California Supreme Court Affirms, for the First Time, a Reduction of Public Pension Benefits without an Off-Set

By:Mary Lerner, Shane Strong -

October 20, 2020Number 75The California Supreme Court recently upheld, for the first time, unilateral state reductions to pension calculations without a corresponding off-set for employees, despite the “California Rule.”  The “California Rule” generally prohibits public employers from making detrimental changes to a public retirement plan unless the employer provides the plan members some off-set that keeps the retirement benefits, more or less, unchanged.  O...

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.