Payne & Fears LLP specializes in representing local, regional and national employers in all aspects of labor and employment law and related civil litigation. Our major areas of expertise include employment discrimination and wrongful termination litigation, wage and hour class action defense, union prevention and labor-management relations, unfair competition litigation, consultation and advice on a broad range of personnel matters, and immigration advice.  Demonstrating our level of expertise and experience, our attorneys frequently lecture and publish on employment law topics to teach other attorneys and business professionals about employment law.

The following are some of the areas in which we possess particular expertise:

Employment Discrimination

We have an extensive employment discrimination practice in the state and federal trial and appellate courts and before governmental agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. We regularly represent employers in response to charges, investigations and litigation involving discrimination and harassment claims. Our employment discrimination litigation practice runs the gamut from straightforward disparate treatment cases to class action lawsuits and other cases raising novel theories or posing the risk of substantial verdicts. We also defend administrative actions and civil litigation where property management firms are charged with housing discrimination.

Wrongful Discharge Litigation

Wrongful termination and related claims arising out of the employment relationship continue to proliferate in California. Tort and contract theories appear regularly in wrongful discharge cases and are often pled in sexual harassment actions as well. Intentional infliction of emotional distress and other related tort theories often accompany Title VII and other civil rights claims. We have significant experience handling such litigation, this being a major focus of our practice.

Labor-Management Relations

We represent companies in the traditional labor law field in matters arising under the National Labor Relations Act, including union organizing campaigns and unfair labor practice proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board and in the courts. We also represent employers in collective bargaining negotiations and arbitrations of grievances under collective bargaining agreements. Additionally, we represent our clients in federal court in contract actions and duty of fair representation matters, as well as litigation in both state and federal courts arising from picketing and strikes. We also provide union avoidance labor relations counseling programs to our clients.

Recent Successes

Jul 10

Court Denies De Novo Review in Favor of Request for Abuse of Discretion Standard

In a case brought in federal court under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) against our client, a national retailer, and its group health insurance plan for denial of an expensive surgery as not medically necessary, the court ordered briefing on the appropriate standard of court review. In ERISA cases, the standard of review is very important to determine whether the court will defer to the plan’s determination. Plaintiff filed a motion arguing for de novo review based on a California Insurance Code section he claimed...

Attorneys: Andrew K. Haeffele, Eric C. Sohlgren


Payne & Fears LLP Obtained Major Win in Widely Publicized Class Action

In late July, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ended a 23-year bid by a retired employee of the world's largest aerospace company to force the company's pension plan to retroactively recalculate decades of pension benefits she and other retirees commenced while working. The plaintiff, one of the original "Rosie the Riveters" who riveted planes during WWII, and who recently retired from making C-17s at the age of 95, claimed that her and other participants' pension benefits had been underpaid since at least 1989. In 2015, Payne...

Attorneys: Eric C. Sohlgren


Payne & Fears Obtains Summary Judgment in Multiple-Claim Wrongful Termination Case in Idaho

Payne & Fears obtained complete summary judgment on claims brought by a former employee in federal court in Idaho. The employee, a former truck driver, alleged that she was discriminated against due to her gender and due to a disability resulting from a work-related injury, and in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim arising from the injury. She brought seven claims under Idaho and federal law. The employer, a mining company, argued that the employee was accommodated by placing her in an office position, and that she...

Attorneys: James R. Moss, Jr.


Payne & Fears Successfully Defends Dismissal of Discrimination Claim at 10th Circuit and Supreme Court

Payne & Fears LLP defeated a race discrimination case brought to federal court in Salt Lake City, Utah for a large hotel and hospitality company. The employee alleged that his hours were reduced because of his race, and that he was ultimately was terminated because the employer hired an employee who was not African American and assigned him all of his work. Payne & Fears obtained complete dismissal of the case at the pleading stage in district court. The employee appealed to the 10th Circuit, which affirmed the district court’s...

Attorneys: James R. Moss, Jr.


Payne & Fears LLP Wins Two-Year Fight in the CA Court of Appeal to Keep Case in Arbitration

Payne & Fears LLP won a two-year fight to keep a case in arbitration after the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three, ruled in favor of the firm’s client. The Court of Appeal held that the former employee must arbitrate her disability discrimination lawsuit based on an arbitration agreement she signed upon her hire after she transferred back and forth between the parent company that hired her and a subsidiary corporation. The employee resisted arbitration on the theory that the agreement was limited to...

Attorneys: Alejandro G. Ruiz, Eric C. Sohlgren, Erik M. Andersen