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Cutting-Edge Employment Law Issues 2020: The California Difference

Speaker(s): Caroline P. Donelan, Erin Pulaski, Hillary Benham-Baker, Hon. Elizabeth D. Laporte (Ret.), Jennifer B. Zargarof, John F. Hyland, John T. Mullan, Karen M Goodman, Michael D. Weil, Oswald B. Cousins, Philip I. Person, Timothy J. Long, Wilmer Harris, Yaman Salahi
Recorded on: Sep. 23, 2020
PLI Program #: 278888

Caroline Donelan is a Partner in the Labor & Employment practice group at Blank Rome LLP’s Los Angeles office. She counsels and defends domestic and foreign corporations in all areas of employment law compliance, with significant experience litigating complex employment matters including wage and hour class actions, wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, trade secret disputes and data protection. Caroline has particularly deep experience representing employers in healthcare, security, hospitality and financial services.

Caroline’s proactive risk management practice includes drafting and auditing key workplace policies, practices and procedures, conducting onsite training, managing workplace investigations, and providing day-to-day counseling on the wide variety of employment issues her clients face. She is a frequent panelist and author on issues relevant to California wage and hour compliance as well as harassment prevention and promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Caroline also provides transactional support and advice on stock and asset purchase agreements, including buy- and sell-side due diligence and negotiating executive agreements.

Caroline is the co-founder of MAMAs LA (Mother Attorneys Mentoring Association), a family-friendly networking and support organization focused on the distinct issues women face while toggling the dual role of mother and attorney, including work-life balance, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and women’s advancement. She also devotes nearly 100% of her pro bono practice to helping non-profit organizations providing services to children.

Caroline received her BA at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with honors, and her JD at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.


ELIZABETH D. LAPORTE joined JAMS after more than two decades as a United States magistrate judge for the Northern District of California. From 2013 to 2015, she served as the chief United States magistrate judge for the Northern District of California. As a magistrate judge, she presided over numerous civil cases, with a robust docket that included matters of patent, trademark, copyright, business, class actions and mass tort, employment and discrimination, insurance, environmental, antitrust and civil rights litigation.

Judge Laporte is known for helping to shape patent and intellectual property case law and for advancing the court’s e-discovery procedures. Her colleagues and the legal community consider her among the leading legal thinkers on e-discovery issues. For her efforts, she earned the Judicial Leadership Award from the Electronic Discovery Institute in 2015. She also launched the Northern District’s Women Attorneys Advocacy Project, which seeks to promote gender equality in the legal community. 

Judge Laporte has received high praise for her legal acumen and settlement skills, most recently from the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary and the Daily Journal. She is regularly invited to speak on panels for continuing education of attorneys and judges on a variety of legal topics, including intellectual property, settlement, e-discovery, employment law and jury trials. She is also the author of numerous legal publications.

Judge Laporte previously served as the alternative dispute resolution magistrate judge for the Northern District of California. She has conducted hundreds of settlement conferences and resolved hundreds of discovery disputes, as well as presided over numerous cases from start to finish, including through summary judgment and/or trial.

Judge Laporte is currently a member of the Board of Governors for the Northern California Chapter of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers, and a member of the Cross-Border Privilege Issues Brainstorming Group, The Sedona Conference.

Judge Laporte is a graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School and is a Marshall Scholar, with an M.A. from Oxford University.

Erin Pulaski is a partner at Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe LLP, long recognized as one of California and the country’s leading law firms specializing in the representation of individuals and classes in employment disputes. 

Ms. Pulaski represents employees and executives in all aspects of individual and class action employment litigation, including wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, wage and hour, and unpaid commission claims. She has recovered tens of millions of dollars in damages for her clients. She has been an active member of numerous successful trial and arbitration teams in recent years, including several individual employment cases that resulted in $1 million-plus judgments.

She serves as a Contributing Editor of The Rutter Group’s California Practice Guide: Employment Litigation, and has authored or co-authored articles for publications such as the Daily Journal and CELA Voice. She is frequently invited to speak on employment law issues, including speaking engagements through the Bar Association of San Francisco, California Employment Lawyers Association, Legal Aid at Work and California Lawyers Association. She is a Supervising Attorney for the Workers’ Rights Clinic of Legal Aid at Work.

Ms. Pulaski has been consistently recognized for her advocacy on behalf of employees and executives. She has been named a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” and “Top Woman Attorney” in Northern California every year since 2015. She has also been named a Lawdragon 500 “Leading Plaintiff Employment Lawyer” and a “Lawyer of the Year” for Wage & Hour Law. Along with colleague David Lowe, Ms. Pulaski is the previous recipient of the “Top Settlements” award for the Largest Employment Law Settlement in 2015.

Prior to joining Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe, Ms. Pulaski worked as an attorney at Los Angeles employment and civil rights firm Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP. She also served as a law clerk to Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

She graduated Order of the Coif from Berkeley Law.

Jennifer B. Zargarof is a labor and employment partner based in Los Angeles. Jennifer advocates for employers in a broad range of employment-related disputes, with a focus on class actions and multi-plaintiff litigation. She serves as defense counsel in wrongful termination, discrimination, retaliation, wage and hour, Fair Credit Reporting Act, and other varied employment-related matters at both the trial and appellate levels. She also counsels clients on myriad labor and employment issues, including personnel policies and procedures, employee discipline matters, and employment contracts. Jennifer practices across several industries, including retail, healthcare, transportation, financial services, media, and technology.

Jennifer has nearly 20 years of experience arguing before US state and federal courts and in arbitration. She has received defense verdicts on behalf of clients, including jury verdicts in a whistleblower and retaliation case; a sexual harassment and retaliation case; and a multi-plaintiff meal and rest period case. She also received judgment in an overtime exemption class action at the conclusion of court trial.

Jennifer is a frequent speaker on various employment-related topics and conducts trainings on sexual harassment, discrimination, wage and hour issues, and other employment law issues.

Awards and Affiliations

Labor & Employment Star, West, Benchmark Labor & Employment (2018)

Recommended, Labor and Employment Litigation, The Legal 500 US (2015–2017)

Member, Labor Law Section, Los Angeles County Bar Association

Executive board member, Litigation Section, Los Angeles County Bar Association


New York University School of Law, 1999, J.D.

University of California, Los Angeles, 1995, B.A.

John F. Hyland has primarily focused his practice to employment law since his admission to the Bar in 1995.  Prior to forming Rukin Hyland LLP, John held an Of Counsel position with Paul Hastings, LLP in the firm's San Francisco office where he advised and represented companies in State and Federal court actions covering all areas of employment law, including wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, disability law, employee privacy, employee leaves, and wage and hour issues.  John has represented clients in jury trials and arbitrations, and has argued cases before the California Court of Appeal.  He continues to advise and represent clients in all areas of employment law and in commercial and business disputes. 

John serves as an editor and contributing author for the CEB Publication, Employee Leave Laws: Compliance and Litigation (2016).  John also serves as a contributing author to the Thompson Reuters Inside the Minds publications.   John regularly conducts training seminars and presents on a wide array of employment law issues.  He serves as an instructor for the Sonoma State University Human Resources Certification Program.

Law & Politics Magazine selected John as one of its Northern California Super Lawyers each year from 2006 through 2012, and again in 2014-17.  San Francisco's Best Lawyers named John in its 2012 edition, and The Best Lawyers in America selected John for inclusion in each edition since 2012.

In addition to his litigation and counseling practice, John devotes a significant part of his practice to serving as a mediator.  John obtained certification as an employment law mediator from Cornell University’s School of Industrial Relations.  He served as a mediator for the Sonoma County Superior Court ADR Program in which he mediated a wide array of civil cases, and he continues to serve as a panelist for the Court’s settlement conference program.  John is also a member of the Early Neutral Evaluation Program for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California for which he serves as an evaluator.

John received his B.S. degree from Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He earned his J.D. degree from Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco, where graduated in 1995 with highest honors and first in his class.  While at Golden Gate, John served as a contributing author and associate editor for the Golden Gate Law Review.

John T. Mullan is a partner at Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe LLP, long recognized as one of California and the country’s leading law firms specializing in the representation of individuals and classes in employment disputes. 

Since joining the firm in 2002, Mr. Mullan has worked extensively on the firm's wage and hour class action litigation in state and federal courts, as well as the litigation and negotiation of individual employment law claims, including claims for wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.

Mr. Mullan has been a contributing author on several amicus briefs pertaining to employment matters filed on behalf of the National Employment Lawyers Association, the National Employment Law Project, and the AFL-CIO. In addition, he is a Supervising Attorney for the Workers' Rights Clinic of the San Francisco Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, and has spoken on employment law issues for the Labor and Employment Section of the State Bar of California, Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB), the Practicing Law Institute (PLI), and the Employment Law Center. Since August 2010, Mr. Mullan has been a contributor to the Fair Labor Standards Act treatise published by the American Bar Association Section of Labor and Employment Law, and, beginning in 2011, he is a Chapter Editor for The Rutter Group’s Employment Litigation California Practice Guide.  He is co-author, along with his colleague, David A. Lowe, of The Recorder’s 2012 publication, “California Employment Law Forms,” and a co-author, along with his colleague, Chaya Mandelbaum of The Recorder's 2016 publication, "California Business Litigation" (Employment Law Chapter).

Mr. Mullan has been recognized as a Northern California Super Lawyer since 2013.  Prior to that, he was recognized as a "Rising Star for Northern California" by Super Lawyers. He is a member of the Labor and Employment Section of the State Bar of California, the Labor and Employment Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco, the National Employment Lawyers Association and the California Employment Lawyers' Association. Mr. Mullan is a member of the State Bar of California.

Mr. Mullan received both his J.D. and his B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley.

Karen Goodman represents business owners and professionals in and out of the courtroom in matters pertaining to professional liability, real estate and employment. Certified as a Legal Specialist in Legal Malpractice Law by the California Board of Legal Specialization, Karen is also the attorney other attorneys and licensed professionals consult for advice on ethical questions. Her ability to quickly evaluate the merits of a case is a powerful asset in shaping outcomes for her clients. She says that “rectifying messy situations and righting wrongs” is what gets her up in the morning.

Karen has received numerous accolades and recognitions over the years, including the Martindale-Hubbell rating of AV Preeminent® with a score 5.0 out of 5.0. She has been named a “Super Lawyer” of Northern California, one of “Top Women Lawyers in Northern California,” and one of “Best Lawyers–Real Estate.” She has received the Harry Sondheim Ethics Award from the State Bar of California and the Frances Newell Carr Award from the Women Lawyers of Sacramento.

Throughout her career, Karen Goodman has been an active member of the legal community, providing leadership and support in a variety of organizations. She has chaired the Committee of Bar Examiners, the California State Bar Task Force to Revise Discipline Standards, and the American Bar Association GP/Solo Litigation Committee. She is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates where she serves on the Sacramento Chapter’s Board. She has also been a staunch advocate for women who practice law. Karen has serve as president of California Women Lawyers and also President of Women Lawyers of Sacramento. For a complete list of Karen Goodman’s professional and civic involvement, download her CV (PDF format).

Karen has had a distinguished legal career. After graduating with honors from University of San Francisco School of Law, she was recruited by a large Sacramento firm before she had even taken the bar exam. After spending a month trying cases with the district attorney’s office, she found she had a knack for connecting with juries—a realization that would shape the trajectory of her professional future. She was made a partner of a San Francisco based professional liability firm when she was 30 years old, but eventually came to the conclusion that what she really wanted was to take charge and start her own firm. In 2003, she founded Goodman Law Corporation (originally Goodman & Associates) and has been busily serving her clients ever since.


Mr. Harris graduated from Stanford University in 1986 with an A.B. degree in Economics, with Distinction, and Honors in Humanities. He was elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa in 1985. Mr. Harris graduated from UCLA School of Law in 1990, earning Order of the Coif honors and American Jurisprudence Awards in Evidence, Moot Court and Remedies. Mr. Harris worked as Law Clerk to the Honorable David W. Williams for one year after his law school graduation. He entered private practice thereafter, practicing business litigation for two years. In January 1994, Mr. Harris joined the Law Offices of Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. His practice area changed dramatically as he began representing clients in civil rights cases. In August 1995, Mr. Harris joined the firm Schonbrun Seplow Harris Hoffman & Zeldes where he has concentrated primarily on the representation of employees in disputes with employers and individuals in civil rights cases. Mr. Harris speaks regularly on employment law issues for the State Bar of California, Los Angeles County Bar Association and California Employment Lawyers Association. Mr. Harris has been selected as a “Southern California Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine for several years. Mr. Harris served on the Board of Directors of the California Employment Lawyers Association from 2007-2014. In 2005, he was selected to sit on the California State Bar Labor & Employment Executive Committee. He served as the Chair of the State Bar Labor & Employment Section for the 2010-2011 term. In May 2017, Mr. Harris secured a jury verdict of over $5 million for which he was nominated for Consumer Attorneys Association Los Angeles’ Trial Lawyer of the Year Award in 2017.

Philip I. Person focuses his practice on representing employers in wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wage and hour, trade secret misappropriation, non-competition, non-solicitation, and whistleblower claims. Philip is an experienced litigator, having defended employers against single-plaintiff and class action litigation in both federal and state courts. He also represents employers in labor and employment arbitrations.

Additionally, Philip counsels and advises his clients on employment issues pertaining to leaves of absences, disciplinary actions, terminations, restructurings, reductions in force, employee classifications, handbooks, and policies. Philip coordinates with executives and management to develop and implement plans to mitigate the employer’s risk.

Timothy Long has deep experience litigating complex labor and employment issues, having served as lead counsel in multiple class, collective, and representative actions and advising on dozens more. Tim litigates wage-and-hour matters, including exemption, incentive compensation, independent contractor, off-the-clock, and pay practice claims. He also has defeated class and collective certification (including at Stage One) in exemption, off-the-clock, and pay practice cases.

Tim advises businesses on employment litigation and other types of claims. He litigates employment discrimination and wrongful termination claims, as well as matters involving trade secrets. Tim provides counsel on many corporate matters and often advises entertainment industry employers on emerging issues. Tim has both prosecuted and defended employers in trade secret and unfair business practices litigation. He has also resisted competitor efforts to enjoin the lawful practices of his clients.

Tim represents employers before state and federal administrative agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH), Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), and Employment Development Department (EDD). He also conducts workplace investigations and audits.

Tim has wide-ranging experience handling traditional labor relations matters, including advising on certification and decertification elections. Throughout his career, he has litigated dozens of traditional labor disputes, representing clients in courts, before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and in private arbitration. Tim also advises clients on labor relations issues that arise in mergers and acquisitions.

Yaman Salahi is a partner in our San Francisco office, with prior experience at the ACLU of Southern California, Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, and clerking for the Honorable Edward M. Chen in the Northern District of California. Yaman currently works on the firm’s antitrust cases related to “no poaching” agreements between employers that have the effect of suppressing worker salaries, and has also worked on the firm’s employment discrimination and wage and hour cases and other antitrust matters.

Yaman graduated from Yale Law School in 2012, where he participated in the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic to defend Latino residents of East Haven, Connecticut from racial profiling by local law enforcement. At Yale, Yaman also studied Arabic on a Fields Language Study Fellowship, participated in the Middle East Legal Studies Seminar, and interned at the Urban Justice Center-Community Development Project in New York City and Bay Area Legal Aid in Oakland.

Out of law school, Yaman was an Arthur Liman Fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California defending civil liberties of Muslim and Middle Eastern communities and litigating the First Amendment photography rights of photographers. Yaman also worked in the National Security and Civil Rights program at Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, including on Omar v. Kerry, a lawsuit successfully challenging the summary confiscation of a San Francisco grandfather’s U.S. passport based on a coerced confession of immigration fraud.

At the Asian Law Caucus, Yaman helped prepare a report requesting that the Office of the Inspector General investigate a wave of illegal passport confiscations at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a that left dozens of American citizens stranded abroad. After a thorough investigation, in October 2018, the OIG published a report concluding that the State Department indeed failed to follow relevant guidance related to the revocation and confiscation of passports of at least 30 Americans in Yemen. While working at the Asian Law Caucus, Yaman also received the Kathi Pugh Award for Exceptional Mentorship from U.C. Berkeley School of Law for his supervision of law students in the Civil Rights Outreach Project.

In 2017, Yaman served as a Commissioner on the Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission. In 2018, after clerking but before returning to Lieff Cabraser, Yaman spent five weeks as a volunteer attorney with Centro de los Derechos del Migrante in Mexico City, advising Mexican migrant workers about their rights under the H-2A, H-2B, and TN temporary visa programs and conducting intakes with persons facing abuse or underpayment in the work place.


Hillary Benham-Baker is the Principal Attorney at Benham-Baker Legal. Hillary is proud to have dedicated her career to representing employees and civil rights litigants.  

Hillary is a frequent speaker on employment law topics and has recently spoken on California disability accommodation law, equal pay litigation, employee leave laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and pre-litigation strategies.  She is also the author of the "Damages for Wrongful Termination and Other Tort Claims" chapter in Employment Damages and Remedies (CEB 2019) and co-author (with Julia Campins) of the Alternative Dispute Resolution chapter in Employee Leave Laws: Compliance and Litigation (CEB 2021). 

Super Lawyers magazine has named Hillary a "Rising Star" among Northern California attorneys every year since 2011. 

In 2008, Hillary served as an Extern to the Honorable Claudia Wilken in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.  As a student at the University of California Hastings College of Law, Hillary was awarded the Tony Patiño Fellowship. 

Michael Weil represents employers in a wide range of employment disputes, with a focus on class and representative actions asserting multimillion dollars in damages and high stakes noncompete, employee mobility, and trade secrets matters arising from a variety of industries, including life sciences, technology, retail, and financial services, throughout the United States. He also regularly handles complex single- or multi-plaintiff matters involving independent contractor status, wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Michael has a deep background in trade secrets and noncompete cases involving a variety of intellectual property, including organic chemistry, genetic sequencing, chemistry lab processes, client lists, and shipping cost information, among many others.


Oswald Cousins defends and advises clients on complex employment law challenges. His 25 years of experience as a trial lawyer and high-level advisor to both established and emerging companies on all aspects of employment law further strengthen the capabilities of Morrison & Foerster’s Employment + Labor practice. Mr. Cousins’ experience includes: wage-and-hour compliance and litigation, Private Attorney General Act litigation, equal pay claims, discrimination and harassment, whistleblower and retaliation, reductions in force and disability accommodation.

He has tried cases to verdict before federal and state court juries and judges, and has served as lead counsel in arbitrations and administrative proceedings.

In addition to his legal work, Mr. Cousins is a frequent speaker and authority on legal developments, theories, and practical aspects related to employment law and litigation. He is a member of the American Employment Law Council (AELC), the American Bar Association, Labor and Employment Law Section, and the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Mr. Cousins is admitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and to the U.S. Supreme Court.


  • Large national retailer misclassification case: As co-lead counsel, Mr. Cousins successfully tried a store manager misclassification case to verdict for a large national retailer. This was a significant victory, because if plaintiff had won, it would have opened the door to hundreds of other claims.
  • Emerging tech companies counsel: Advise and counsel emerging tech companies, including leading software development hosting organization and prominent social media website, on variety of employment issues, including wage-and-hour compliance, and ongoing employee-relations issues.
  • Cybersecurity company counsel: Lead counsel for cyber-security company in FCRA background check class action.
  • Whistleblower actions litigation: Litigated multi-plaintiff whistleblower actions for large health care provider; obtaining favorable settlements.
  • National photography chain defense: Successfully defended national photography chain in arbitration of wrongful termination claims by former executive.
  • Bio-sciences company defense: Defended emerging bio-sciences company in trade secret and wrongful termination litigation by former CEO.
  • Large hospitality defense: Defended large hospitality organization in complex, multi-plaintiff discrimination lawsuits, including two jury trials.


  • California


  • University of Vermont (B.A., 1990)
  • University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law (J.D., 1994)