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Tech Sector Employment Law Hot Topics for the California Lawyer

Speaker(s): Jennifer Reisch, Katherine L. Kettler, Michelle G. Lee, Nicole Baarts, Patricia K. Gillette, Steven Blackburn, Theodora R. Lee, Ulrico S. Rosales, Valerie Sharpe
Recorded on: Jan. 25, 2018
PLI Program #: 236627

Michelle Lee represents workers in both individual and class action cases, enforcing state and federal laws which protect workers who have been treated unfairly by their employers.  She is experienced in wage theft, wrongful termination, discrimination, retaliation, harassment, sexual assault, breach of contract, and trade secrets matters.   

Michelle has represented a broad range of workers throughout the country involved in industries such as retail sales, restaurant, music and recording arts, education, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, finance, and tech.  Throughout her career, Michelle has successfully recovered millions of dollars in damages for her clients from some of the largest employers in California.   

Michelle has tried complex cases in court and arbitration, including serving as second chair on the trial team in the landmark sex discrimination case Ellen Pao v. Kleiner Perkins that highlighted the barriers facing women in venture capital and tech industries.  She has also tried cases involving breach of contract, wrongful termination, and unpaid equity claims.    

Michelle has been selected as one of the Top Women Attorneys in Northern California by San Francisco Magazine, a Northern California “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyers, and one of Lawdragon’s 500 Leading Plaintiff Employment Lawyers in the United States.  She is a frequent speaker at conferences and panels on employment law issues, as well as on topics related to bias and diversity.  

Before joining Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe, Michelle was an associate at a prominent national litigation firm, where she handled a wide variety of complex cases ranging from intellectual property disputes to securities lawsuits.  Ms. Lee also served as a law clerk for the Honorable William Alsup of the Northern District of California and as a law clerk at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Georgia.  Michelle is a graduate, cum laude, of the University of Michigan Law School where she was an editor for the Michigan Journal of Law Reform.  Ms. Lee received her undergraduate degree in biology from Yale University. 


Jennifer Reisch has devoted her legal career to advocating for under-represented individuals and communities.

Jennifer became the Legal Director of Equal Rights Advocates in September 2012, assuming responsibility for directing ERA’s efforts to seek equality and justice for women and girls in schools and workplaces across the country. She manages a team of dedicated attorneys, law fellows, and law clerks who make an impact through litigation and direct legal services, bold policy reform initiatives, and innovative community education and outreach campaigns.

Jennifer is proud to have helped pass the strongest equal pay law in the nation, the California Fair Pay Act of 2015 (SB 358 – Jackson), and been part of the team representing Betty Dukes and other women in their history-making case against Wal-Mart. Jennifer has served as lead counsel in dozens of cases brought on behalf of women workers, including Aviles v. BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair, a Title VII class action sex discrimination suit which resulted in a $4.6 million settlement and significant policy changes designed to prevent harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against women working in a highly male-dominated industry.

As a leader in the field of workers’ rights and employment litigation, Jennifer has received numerous honors for her work and frequently is invited to speak on these topics. In 2015 and 2016, she was named one of the Top 75 Labor & Employment Lawyers in California by the Daily JournalSuper Lawyers magazine recognized her as a Rising Star among plaintiff-side employment litigators each year from 2009-2012.

Prior to joining ERA, Jennifer focused on representing low-wage and immigrant workers in individual and class action suits challenging unlawful employment practices and other civil rights violations. As a partner at Talamantes Villegas Carrera, LLP, she served as co-lead counsel in Bojorquez v. ABM Industries, Inc., a sexual harassment and retaliation case which she successfully tried before a San Francisco jury (with Equal Rights Advocates), obtaining a verdict for plaintiff on all claims and a damages award of over $812,000. 

In addition to her litigation and policy work, Jennifer has taught courses of her own design as an adjunct faculty member at U.C. Hastings College of the Law and at the University of San Francisco School of Law. She is a longtime member of the California Employment Lawyers Association and the National Employment Lawyers Association and has volunteered as a supervising attorney with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center’s Workers’ Rights Clinic for many years. In 2016, Jennifer was appointed to serve on both the California Pay Equity Task Force and the DFEH Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. She is a member of the Advisory Board of the East Bay Community Law Center and lives in Oakland with her family. Jennifer graduated from Yale University in 1996 and U.C. Berkeley (Boalt Hall) School of Law in 2002.

Katherine L. Kettler is the Director of US Legal Investigations/Employment Law.  She leads a team of investigators who review internal claims of harassment, discrimination and retaliation.  Katherine has been an employment law attorney for almost 20 years with a focus on employment litigation and counseling in all aspects of labor and employment law, including ADA and leave of absence compliance, discrimination avoidance, sexual harassment and diversity/inclusion programs.


J.D. summa cum laude  – Boston College Law School; Newton, MA
M.S.W. – University of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, PA
B.A. -- Bar College; Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

Prior Law Firm Affiliations

Miller Law Group
Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker
Ropes & Gray

Professional Recognition

Named a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers – Northern California magazine in 2010 and 2011


Federal Court, District of Massachusetts

Bar Admissions


Nicole Baarts is a partner in the Labor & Employment department of Seyfarth Shaw LLP's San Francisco office.  Ms. Baarts is a trial attorney with a diverse background in litigating employment law, medical malpractice, personal injury law, education law, and construction defect in both state and federal courts.  Ms. Baarts also has significant experience providing general counsel advice to, and litigating on behalf of public and private employers in a variety of matters, including employment, and representing employers in agency proceedings including EEOC, DFEH, EDD, and the California Department of Labor.  She provides ongoing employment counseling and training to her clients to facilitate compliance with federal and state employment laws, such as those governing payment of wages and wage statements, reasonable accommodations, employee exemptions, and workplace investigations.  Ms. Baarts also practices with an emphasis on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and state laws effecting background screening.

Ms. Baarts represents public and private employers in employment-related litigation in the areas of discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, retaliation, pay equity, wage and hour claims, breach of contract, and misappropriation of trade secrets, among others.  Ms. Baarts has been a member of multiple trial and arbitration teams that have secured defense verdicts for employers.

In 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 Ms. Baarts was recognized by Northern California Super Lawyers as an Employment & Labor "Rising Star," an exclusive designation awarded to only 2.5% of qualified attorneys.

J.D., University of Oregon, School of Law (2003)
B.A., University of California, Davis (1999)


U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Eastern and Northern California

California State Bar Association (2003–present)
Queen's Bench Bar Association (2011–2013)
Stanislaus County Bar Association (2003–present)
Wray Ladine Inns of Court (2005–2010)
Court-Appointed Special Advocate, Stanislaus County, Volunteer Advocate (2003–2006) 

Co-Author, “No Summer Break for Employers: New Duties Start July 2017,” California
        Peculiarities, Seyfarth Shaw LLP (June 29, 2017)

Co-Author, “2016 California Labor and Employment Legislative Update: It’s Final!”   
        California Peculiarities, Seyfarth Shaw LLP (October 3, 2016)

Co-Author, “Breaking News: EEOC Revised EEO-1 Report Finalized - Employers With 
        More Than 100 Employees Will Be Required to Submit Pay Data to EEOC,” 
        Management Alert, Seyfarth Shaw LLP (September 29, 2016)

“Barflies or Worker Bees: Alcohol at Work, What’s the Deal?” California Peculiarities, 
        Seyfarth Shaw LLP (June 23, 2016)

Co-Author, “Beware of the Ides and Other March Madness,” California Peculiarities, 
        Seyfarth Shaw LLP (March 9, 2016)

Co-Author, “Double-Bagged: Governor Signs Second Piece of Grocery Worker 
        Retention Law,” California Peculiarities, Seyfarth Shaw LLP (September 22, 2015)

“California Employment Legislative Update—What’s Coming in 2017?,” Webinar,
        Seyfarth Shaw LLP (October 6, 2016)

Community Involvement
Board Member, Anka Behavioral Health, Inc

Pat Gillette is one of the country’s leading experts and most sought-after speakers on gender diversity and equality.  Rated as a top employment litigator and trial lawyer by Chambers and other organizations for 40 years and as a leader and rainmaker in her firms, Ms. Gillette’s legal career focused on assisting Fortune 500 companies with their most difficult issues and challenges.  At the end of 2015, she resigned from her firm to pursue her passion for empowering women through keynote speaking and writing.  She was also invited to join JAMS in San Francisco and she now spends some of her time mediating employment cases. 

Ms. Gillette’s newly published book, “Rainmakers:  Born or Bred” is filled with practical tactics and strategies that can be easily implemented to enhance business development skills and expand books of business.  In the book, Ms. Gillette highlights the nationally acclaimed Rainmaker Study and includes helpful tips from rainmakers and clients across the country.  Using the research studies Ms. Gillette commissioned, her own experiences, and her charismatic style, Rainmakers: Born or Bred inspires attorneys to think differently about how they can realize their personal and business goals.

Ms. Gillette has been recognized for work to advance women in the profession in many forums and has received several awards including the ABA Golden Hammer Award, the California Women Lawyers Association’s Fay Stender Award, the Transformational Leadership Award as one of the Top Women Rainmakers, and the Barristers Association of San Francisco Award of Merit. 

Ms. Gillette is the co-founder of the Opt-In Project, a nationwide initiative focused on changing the structure of law firms to increase the retention and advancement of women. Ms. Gillette has been a Commissioner on the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, a member of ABA’s Gender Equity Task Force, Co-Chair of the BASF No Glass Ceiling Initiative, and she serves on several non-profit boards dedicated to protecting and promoting women, including Equal Rights Advocates and DirectWomen,

Ms. Gillette is the proud mother of two successful and enlightened sons and lives in Kensington, California with her husband of 40+ years.  She has served as an elected official of her town and is active in political and community organizations and activities.

For more information about Ms. Gillette, you can visit her website at or contact her at 510.604.6252. 

Steven Blackburn is a Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice and the Managing Shareholder of firm's San Francisco office. Mr. Blackburn's experience includes: 

  • Extensive trial experience in all aspects of labor and employment law in a variety of different industries throughout the United States
  • Representing employers in employment litigation matters before various courts, administrative agencies, arbitrators and mediators
  • Counseling clients on day-to-day compliance with employment laws and presenting training programs for managers on employment law issues.

Mr. Blackburn is actively involved in many community-related activities in San Francisco. He has served on the Boards of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the Fort Mason Foundation, the Family Service Agency of San Francisco, and the Advisory Council of the San Francisco Salvation Army.

Prior to joining Epstein Becker Green, Mr. Blackburn was a partner with a San Francisco-based labor and employment firm. Prior to his admission to the California State Bar, Mr. Blackburn practiced employment law in Nashville, Tennessee, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Mr. Blackburn was selected to the Northern California Super Lawyers list (2014 - 2017) in the area of Employment & Labor.


Vanderbilt University (J.D., 1984)
Indiana University (B.S., 1981)

Bar Admissions



American Bar Association, Labor and Employment Law Section
San Francisco Bar Association, Labor and Employment Law Section
State Bar of California, Labor and Employment Law Section

Theodora R. Lee, a senior shareholder/partner and trial lawyer in the San Francisco and Walnut Creek offices of Littler Mendelson, defends employers in complex wage and hour class actions, discrimination class action lawsuits and general employment litigation. Ms. Lee has extensive courtroom experience, and specializes in all aspects of employment and labor relations law, including wrongful termination litigation; National  Labor Relations Board matters, including representation cases, unfair labor practice proceedings,  grievance arbitrations; Title VII and FEHA proceedings, including race, sex, religious and age harassment and discrimination; and unfair competition proceedings. She also counsels employers on day to day employment issues such as covenants not to compete, hiring and termination of employees, the Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, the California Business and Professions Code, the Family and Medical Leave Act, federal and state wage and hour issues, pre-employment screening, litigation avoidance, reductions in force, the development of personnel policies and procedures, workplace violence, employee terminations, employment agreements, drug and alcohol testing, and risk management protocols. Ms. Lee’s energy and enthusiasm for labor and employment law translates into an intense focus on providing value to clients through innovative and superior quality work with exceptional client service.

Ms. Lee is a settlement commissioner, Early Neutral Evaluator, AAA certified arbitrator and mediator, and has concluded more than 5,000 matters through use of private arbitration or mediation, including large, complex, class actions, multi-party litigation actions, and individuals suing their employers. She has been a contributing writer to numerous employment law publications and presents seminars on a wide variety of employment issues and regularly conducts in-house employment law training programs, including Pay Equity, Implicit Bias, Managing the Whistleblower, among other topics.

Ms. Lee regularly appears on TV and Radio, including NPR and PBS, speaking on various employment topics. She is an Advisor to the Executive Committee of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California and serves as a Board Member of various community organizations, including YMCA - San Francisco. She is Co-Board Chairman of the Dallas Post Tribune Newspaper. She is Past President of Bay Area Black United Fund and the Alameda County Community Food Bank, and Past Vice President of the United Negro College Fund San Francisco Advisory Board. She has been recognized as one of the Leading Law Firm Rainmakers by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, named to the Best Lawyers in America© and named as a Super Lawyer - Northern California. She is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA).  Apart from the practice of law, Ms. Lee is an award-winning vintner, and owner of Theopolis Vineyards. In the wine world, Ms. Lee is known as Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards. Wine Critics, including Robert Parker, Antonio Galloni Presents Vinous and Wine Enthusiast Magazine, have consistently bestowed on wines from Theopolis Vineyards 90 Plus Points. She is a graduate of Spelman College and the University of Texas School Of Law. Prior to entering the practice of law, Ms. Lee worked as a Senate intern in Washington D.C. for Senator Sam Nunn.

Rico leads the employment law practice at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.  He has practiced employment law in Silicon Valley for nearly 30 years, and has seen virtually every type of employment issue faced by technology and growth companies. Rico's practice encompasses all aspects of employment law, including counseling and representing clients in litigation matters.

Rico has represented clients in several jury and non-jury trials, including discrimination, wrongful termination, and class action matters. He has successfully tried numerous discrimination cases, including race, sex, age, and disability cases. His trial experience also includes successfully defending cases against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). Rico also routinely handles litigation matters involving wrongful termination, sexual harassment, constructive discharge, breach of contract, wage and hour and fraud.

Rico draws on his extensive litigation practice when counseling clients. On a daily basis, he consults with board directors, executives, and human resources professionals regarding all aspects of the employment relationship. These issues include preventive personnel practices, employee terminations, workplace investigations (including those involving sexual harassment), wage and hour matters, independent contractor audits, and reductions in force. He also advises companies regarding employment due-diligence matters in the merger and acquisition context. In addition to the hundreds of clients Rico advises in the technology field, he frequently advises venture capital firms on employment matters and also is called upon to advise the management teams of companies being acquired by other companies.

A significant portion of Rico's practice involves advising companies on employee mobility and trade secret misappropriation issues, including the interpretation and enforceability of non-compete agreements, employee raiding and solicitation matters, and counseling clients as to preventive measures designed to minimize the risks associated with hiring competitors' employees or having employees depart to work with competitors. Rico has counseled hundreds of technology companies dealing with such issues and has represented companies in approximately 25 court actions involving these matters. For example, he represented Broadcom in GlobeSpan v. O'Neil, which resulted in a California federal court decision declaring that the inevitable disclosure doctrine is not the law of the state.

Rico is a frequent speaker on employment matters. He has also commented for numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury News, Business Week, and legal-profession newspapers. Since 2001, San Jose Magazine has identified him as one of Silicon Valley's best employment lawyers. In addition, he provides pro bono legal services to several Bay Area nonprofit organizations. 

Rico is a former co-chair of the firm's Nominating Committee and a former member of its Policy and Strategic Practice Development Committees. 

Rico is a former law clerk to the Honorable Zita L. Weinshenk of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.