Hon. Michael Johnson (Ret.)


Judge Johnson brings a 41 year legal career to his dispute resolution practice – 20 years as a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, and 21 years as a civil litigator specializing in employment law and business litigation.

In his judicial career, Judge Johnson was a popular member of the bench, known for his diligence and productivity. He presided over a downtown independent calendar court, where he conducted trials, motions, pretrial proceedings, and settlement conferences in a wide variety of civil matters, including employment, business litigation, civil rights, real estate, and personal injury. Earlier in his career, Judge Johnson presided over criminal felony trials, including high profile complex trials at the downtown criminal courts building. In total, he presided over more than 400 civil and criminal trials – providing a valuable perspective for dispute resolution. Judge Johnson culminated his judicial career in 2017 with an appointment as a Justice Pro Tem of the California Court of Appeal, 2nd Appellate District.

In his career as an attorney, Judge Johnson was a partner in a major national law firm. He engaged in trial and appellate work in state and federal courts across the country, focusing on employment law, business litigation, and civil rights. Judge Johnson held leadership and management positions in his law firm, served as Chair of the State Bar Labor & Employment Section, and was twice appointed by the Governor to the California Fair Employment & Housing Commission.


Civil Experience, 2010-2018.

  • Civil Independent Calendar Court at the Stanley Mosk Civil Courthouse in Downtown Los Angeles. Managed a docket of approximately 450 civil cases from filing through trial or disposition, in the areas of business, employment, contract, real estate, personal injury, and other civil disputes.
  • Duties included a daily motion calendar, jury trials, court trials, case management, and settlement conferences. Participated in the court’s settlement programs for employment, business, and personal injury cases.

Appellate Experience, 2017.

  • Appointed as a Justice Pro Tem of the California Court of Appeal, 2nd Appellate District, March through July 2017. Served as a member of Division 3, hearing appeals from the Superior Court in civil, criminal, dependency and family law cases.
  • Authored 26 opinions and participated in 43 additional appeals with opinions authored by others.

Criminal Experience, 1997-2010.

  • Complex felony trial court at the Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Downtown Los Angeles. Managed a docket of selected complex felony cases through trial or disposition involving major crimes, multi-defendant cases, death penalty cases, white collar crimes, and gang crimes.
  • Criminal calendar court and felony trials at the Foltz Criminal Justice Center and Compton Courthouse. Managed a docket of cases through pre-trial proceedings and conducted assigned trials involving all manner of felony crimes.


Member of the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission, 1987-1991, 1995-1997.

  • Member of a quasi-judicial board that decided employment and housing discrimination claims, adopted civil rights regulations and policies, and conducted civil rights hearings.
  • Attended monthly public hearings, participated in joint decisions and authored separate opinions in appeals, and contributed to the preparation and approval of administrative regulations.


Baker & Hostetler, Los Angeles. National law firm of over 500 attorneys.

  • General Partner, 1990-1997.
  • Chair of the Los Angeles Labor & Employment group; member of the Executive Committee.

McCutchen Black Verleger & Shea, Los Angeles. California-based law firm of approximately 75 attorneys.

  • General Partner, 1984-1990. Associate, 1976-1984.
  • Chair of the firm’s Labor & Employment group; member of the Executive Committee; Partner in charge of attorney hiring.


University of California, Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco.

  • Juris Doctor; Honors Graduate; U.C. Towne Scholarship.

University of California, Los Angeles.

  • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science; Phi Beta Kappa; Magna Cum Laude Graduate.


  • 42 hours of mediation training, Straus Institute at Pepperdine, Mediating the Litigated Case, 2018.
  • Advanced training in ESI discovery by eDiscovery Education Center, 2017. Certified as an eDiscovery advanced specialist.
  • 30 hours of mediation training, Los Angeles County Bar Association, Civic Mediation Project, 2015.


Judicial Associations

  • California Judges Association; Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Association

California State Bar, Labor & Employment Section

  • Chair, 1995-1996. Vice-Chair, Secretary, and Executive Committee Member

Other Bar Memberships & Activities

  • Admitted to practice in all California state courts; all U.S. District Courts of California; U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th and 3rd Circuits; U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Member of the California State Bar, and Los Angeles County Bar Association. Participated in various sections and committees.


Constitutional Rights Foundation

  • Mock Trial Competition Judge for high school students in Southern California, 1997-Present. Selected as Judge of the Year in 2006.

Woodrow Wilson High School

  • As an attorney, established a partnership program between Baker & Hostetler and this East Los Angeles high school. Received the American Bar Association Partnership Award.

Representative Cases

Cannabis Disputes

  • Dispute between two parties to a cannabis / CBD marketing and distribution contract. Claimant agreed to market and distribute the product, and Respondent produced the product. Claimant alleged that Respondent breached the agreement and failed to perform, by failing to provide product and agree on markets. Respondent asserted cross claims for breach of contract and misrepresentation, alleging that Claimant committed anticipatory breach of the contract and never intended to perform in the most desirable markets.
  • Dispute among joint venturers in a large cannabis grow operation. Plaintiffs were retained to grow and cultivate plants in an outdoor farm and enclosed hoops. The parties ultimately entered into a partnership agreement which provided for ownership rights and division of profits and expenses. After a period of performance, the parties had many disagreements and broke up. Plaintiffs sued for breach of the agreement, fraud and related claims. Defendants cross claimed with similar causes of action.
  • Business dispute between the shareholder of a cannabis dispensary and an edibles restaurant. Defendants were founding members, who sought to renegotiate the stock purchase price for the plaintiffs, who sued for breach of contract, specific performance, and fraud.
  • Dispute between three partners of a major cannabis dispensary. Although there was a master written contract that governed operation of the dispensary, the partners engaged in many side agreements and separate transactions that were not well documented. The case required a determination of the partners’ percentage interests in the dispensary and resolution of many breach of contract claims.
  • Dispute between two cannabis businesses. Plaintiff and Defendant discussed a joint venture to produce CBD oil. Plaintiff claimed that Defendant learned of Plaintiff's trade information and violated a non-disclosure agreement by misappropriating trade secrets and using them after the joint venture discussions collapsed.
  • Several disputes between cities and cannabis dispensaries concerning the appropriate location of dispensaries under zoning laws.
  • Dispute between competing cannabis dispensaries regarding their entitlement to operate. Zoning regulations limited the location and distance between dispensaries, and the issue was which dispensary had priority over the other.
  • Several lease disputes between landlords and cannabis dispensaries. Leases prohibited illegal activities by a tenant, and the question was whether the dispensary was operating in a legal manner.
  • Dispute between financial institution holding a deed of trust for property occupied by a cannabis dispensary. The question was whether the dispensary was operating in a legal manner or in violation of the deed of trust.

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Civil Rights, Official Misconduct

  • Claims for violation of federal civil rights laws (42 USC §1983) against various government entities and employees.
  • Claims for violation of state civil rights laws (Unruh Act, Ralph Act & Bane Act) against various public and private defendants.
  • Excessive force claims against a police department, involving officer conduct following a high speed vehicle pursuit.
  • FEHA claims for housing discrimination on various grounds, asserted against a variety of property owners and property management companies.
  • Claims against school districts for violation of students’ civil rights under state and federal law.
  • Quo warranto claim for removal of a city official for misconduct in office.
  • Qui tam action by an insurance company against healthcare businesses involved in worker’s compensation fraud.
  • Claims for invasion of privacy, unauthorized disclosure of personal information, discrimination, and federal civil rights violations by a public employee.
  • Claims under federal and state law for failure to provide proper medical care to county jail inmates.
  • Claim against a public prosecutor for malicious and discriminatory prosecution.
  • Various ADA and disability access claims against private businesses.

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Commercial Contract, General Business, Partnership Dissolution

  • UCC dispute between the seller of wood supplies and a buyer who used wood in the manufacture of products. The seller sued for cost of several purchases. The buyer refused payment, contending the goods were defective and cross-claimed for recovery of replacement costs and other losses. The case turned on whether defects were caused by the seller or the buyer.
  • Defendants purchased plaintiffs’ business. Defendants failed to make all payments due under the purchase agreement, claiming plaintiffs misrepresented material aspects of the business operations. Plaintiffs sued for remaining purchase price and defendants cross-claimed for misrepresentation and concealment.
  • UCC dispute between a distributor of beauty and healthcare products and the warehouse that received orders and shipped products to customers. Plaintiff alleged breach of contract and claimed damages for lost and delayed orders.
  • Dispute between attorney and his former law firm partnership. After a period of disagreements, the partnership expelled Plaintiff from the firm. Plaintiff sued for claims of breach of contract, bad faith, breach of fiduciary duty, and age discrimination, seeking amounts owed under the partnership agreement, value of partnership, general damages, and other relief.
  • Dispute between retail grocery chain and broker for food producers. Plaintiff alleged claims for interference with contract and prospective economic advantage, stemming from Defendant’s termination of business relations with Plaintiff.
  • Dispute between equal owners of tech firm involved in search engine optimization. Cross-claims for breach of fiduciary duties, conversion of intellectual property, and related claims. Case required termination of business and division of assets and I.P.
  • Dispute among shareholders of an extended family-owned corporation. Derivative claims and cross-claims by both parties, and petition for appointment of a provisional director.
  • Claim by law firm for recovery of legal fees. Defenses and cross-claims by client for overbilling, improper services, and misconduct by attorneys.
  • Cross claims by two investors in business, one providing capital and the other providing expertise and product development. Claims included breach of contract, bad faith, breach of fiduciary duty, and conversion.
  • Dispute between private boarding school and parents of expelled student. Claims for breach of contract, bad faith, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and related theories.
  • Dispute between business owners involving claims for breach of an LLC agreement, breach of fiduciary duties, fraud, and dissolution of the LLC.
  • Dispute between investors in real estate developments involving claims for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud.
  • Dispute over fees owed to an agent under an artist management agreement.
  • Allegations of misappropriation of likeness, invasion of privacy and similar claims by a plaintiff who believed that his image had been improperly used in a popular video game.
  • Dispute between a closely held corporation and a key employee, alleging breach of an agreement to pay stock dividends and bonuses.
  • Dispute between a law firm and a former partner over amounts owed under the partnership agreement upon dissociation from the firm.
  • Dispute between LLC members concerning amounts owed upon dissolution of the LLC.
  • Claim that a physician’s hospital privileges were terminated in retaliation for complaints about patient safety, raising issues under Health & Safety Code § 1278.5, Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200, and other statutes.
  • Dispute between a consultant, a bank, and a property owner concerning an inspection and consultation agreement for rehabilitation of property.
  • Claim for breach of contract by a marketing firm that acquired corporate sponsors for a major sports event.
  • Breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud claims arising from a joint venture real estate development agreement and related loans.
  • Claim for recovery of past and future royalties under a performing artist’s recording contract.
  • Breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and related claims among members of a venture capital LLC.
  • Contract and loan disputes among members of a limited liability company involved in the operation of adult day health care centers.
  • Claims for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty by a plaintiff who claimed that defendants misled him into purchasing forged artwork.
  • Claim alleging breach of a partnership separation agreement in a wholesale food business.
  • Breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and related claims among members of a medical partnership.
  • Claims for fraudulent concealment and fraudulent transfers of assets to frustrate collection of a judgment.
  • Claims for breach of a joint venture agreement for development of an industrial park in the People’s Republic of China.
  • Breach of contract, fraud and related claims against a religious and educational institution.
  • Dispute over amounts owed under a gas supply contract, raising issues of contract interpretation and joint corporate and alter ego liability.
  • Consumer action under Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200 and 17500, claiming deceptive advertisements for food products.
  • Claims under the Uniform Voidable Transfers Act, alleging fraudulent transfers of real and personal property to avoid payment of a civil judgment.
  • Unfair business practices, fraud and similar claims against a travel agency that marketed discount travel services.
  • Claims by consumers against a holder in due course of automobile installment sales contracts.
  • Claims for interference with contract and prospective business advantage by a business entity that attempted to purchase restaurants.
  • Dispute between individuals operating a non-profit corporation engaged in the performing arts.
  • Dispute over a physician’s stock purchase agreement in a medical practice.
  • Claim for recovery of legal fees by a law firm acting as local counsel for an out of state law firm and client.
  • Dispute involving breach of contract and related claims between manufacturers and distributors of various products – consumer electronics, power tools, and housewares.
  • Claims for fraud, quiet title, cancellation of instrument, unjust enrichment and declaratory relief against a real estate broker and an agent.
  • Claims for fraud and promissory estoppel by an employee who contended that a company owner promised him an ownership interest in his business.
  • Unfair competition and misrepresentation claims by commercial tenants against a shopping center.
  • Action for breach of warranty and equitable indemnity by a business that purchased computer chips manufactured by the defendant; the plaintiff claimed losses resulting from patent infringement claims against the defendant’s chips.
  • Claims for misrepresentation, concealment and rescission, and cross-claims for breach of contract and misrepresentation; all arising from construction, partnership and operating agreements for a night club.
  • Breach of contract and breach of warranty claims concerning clothing manufactured for a clothing distributor.
  • Claims for intentional and negligent misrepresentation against an insurance broker, based on misleading descriptions of worker’s compensation insurance premiums.

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Discovery Reference

  • In an employment case, appointed by the court to review over 1,200 documents contained in an electronic data base, identifying documents containing privileged matters.
  • In an entertainment royalties case, appointed for all purposes to determine discovery disputes involving claims of trade secrets, privilege, scope of data base searches, and privacy.
  • In an employment case, appointed for all purposes to determine discovery motions and set appropriate boundaries for discovery of multiple entities involved in the ownership and operation of the defendant employer.
  • In an employment case, appointed to preside over contentious depositions and rule on privilege and privacy claims.
  • As a Superior Court Judge in an Individual Calendar Court, Judge Johnson heard hundreds of discovery motions and disputes concerning all manner of discovery issues. Each was addressed in a detailed written ruling.
  • As a Superior Court Judge in an Individual Calendar Court, Judge Johnson participated in informal telephone conferences that addressed immediate issues, such as disputes during depositions or property inspections, or that attempted to resolve or narrow discovery disputes before a motion was filed.
  • Judge Johnson has experience with, and has completed training in, discovery of electronically stored information (ESI discovery).

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  • Plaintiff worked as an instructor for a private college and was terminated for poor performance. Plaintiff sued, alleging age discrimination and related claims. Plaintiff was 59 at the time of her termination.
  • Plaintiff was employed as an admissions director of a private university. Plaintiff resigned and claimed constructive termination and other claims, alleging that his supervisor required him to engage in unlawful and unethical admissions practices.
  • Plaintiff was employed as a personal caretaker for defendant, who terminated plaintiff’s employment. Plaintiff sued for various employment claims – FEHA, wrongful termination, and wage/hour violations. Defendant cross-claimed for elder abuse.
  • Plaintiff, who was employed by a hospital, asserted claims for disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, and wrongful termination of employment.
  • Plaintiff was employed as a finance director for a hotel. Plaintiff asserted claims for retaliation and related causes of action, alleging he was terminated for complaining about financial irregularities.
  • Plaintiff, a classified employee of a school district, was terminated during reduction in force. Plaintiff suffered from disabilities and claimed that the district denied her bumping rights that would have maintained her employment, because of her disabilities. Plaintiff alleged claims for disability discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, and related theories.
  • Wage and hour claims by four employees of a personal spa. Plaintiffs claimed that Defendant improperly handled and accounted for tips by customers.
  • Wage and hour class action and PAGA action by transportation employees against the employer and alleged joint employer that contracted for transport services. Plaintiffs claimed misclassification and entitlement to overtime, meal and rest periods, other compensation, and PAGA penalties.
  • Disability discrimination and related claims by physician assistant employed by county medical agency.
  • Action by former maintenance employee of a private university. Claims for disability discrimination, race discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination of employment.
  • Action by former city manager against city, claiming breach of contract and negligence in payment of PERS retirement contributions, resulting in reduction of city manager’s retirement benefits.
  • Sexual harassment action by nurse against a medical center and a physician who practiced at the center.
  • Disability discrimination and retaliation claims by manager of a medical office.
  • Claims by agency operators for a car rental chain. Plaintiffs asserted employee status, misclassification, and entitlement to overtime and other employment benefits.
  • FEHA and Title VII claims for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and related claims against a variety of private employers – retail sales, restaurants, manufacturing, insurance, construction, property management, aviation, clothing design and distribution, healthcare, and maritime.
  • FEHA and Title VII claims for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and related claims against a variety of public employers – counties, cities, municipal utilities, school districts, law enforcement, and public hospitals.
  • Disputes concerning trade secrets and covenants not to compete, in the context of employment termination and competition by former employees and executives.
  • Disability discrimination claim against Los Angeles County, raising issues concerning the effect of rulings by the Civil Service Commission.
  • Constructive discharge and retaliation claims by a community college employee, raising issues under the faculty collective bargaining agreement and the college regulations.
  • Sexual harassment claims by a former employee, with a cross-claim for defamation by a company manager.
  • Breach of contract claims arising from an agreement that settled an action for sexual harassment and employment discrimination, including non-disclosure provisions.
  • Breach of contract claims concerning retirement contribution provisions of a settlement agreement between a community college and a former professor.
  • Sexual harassment claims against a gay supervisor and his employer.
  • Violation of Lab. Code § 970, based on a plaintiff’s claim that he relocated because of misrepresentations about the terms and conditions of his employment.
  • Claim for unpaid compensation and benefits by a former in-house attorney.
  • Police officer’s claim for disability and medical condition discrimination.
  • School teacher’s claims for race discrimination and wrongful termination of employment against a public school district.

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Legal Malpractice

  • Claims for legal malpractice against an attorney who represented an investor in several real estate developments. There was a cross-claim by the attorney for recovery of unpaid fees.
  • Legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty claims arising from divorce and marital property settlement proceedings. Cross-claim by defendant for recovery of unpaid attorney fees.
  • Dispute involving attorneys’ claims for recovery of legal fees. The client defendant’s defenses and cross-claims were based on legal malpractice and fraud.
  • Legal malpractice claim arising from an attorney’s preparation of a client’s estate plan.
  • Legal malpractice claim arising from an attorney’s representation of a client in a personal injury action.
  • Claims for legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty against an attorney who represented a plaintiff in marital dissolution proceedings; cross-claim for recovery of the attorney’s legal fees.
  • Legal malpractice claim arising from an attorney’s representation of a client in medical malpractice litigation.
  • Legal malpractice claim arising from an attorney’s representation of a client in a contractual arbitration and subsequent court proceedings to confirm and enforce the arbitration award.
  • Legal malpractice claim against an attorney who represented the plaintiff in a criminal action.

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Personal Injury, Torts, Elder Abuse

  • Uninsured motorist claims arising from a multi-car freeway collision. Plaintiffs claimed they were hit and injured by a driver who fled from the scene.
  • Claims for financial elder abuse, quiet title, and cancellation of deeds arising from a series of real estate transactions.
  • Claims for elder abuse based on neglect, physical abuse, and medical malpractice, against physicians, nursing homes and hospitals.
  • Personal injury claims arising from a multi-vehicle collision with a commercial truck and a mass transit bus.
  • Personal injury and wrongful death claims arising from the plaintiff’s exposure to asbestos and secondary exposure to the plaintiff’s family members.
  • Wrongful death action by the families of university students killed in a criminal attack, alleging failure of the university’s security measures.
  • Personal injury actions by plaintiffs injured at a construction site.
  • Personal injury claim by an employee against an employer who did not have worker’s compensation insurance; principal issues were whether the injuries were incurred in the course of employment, and the nature and extent of the injuries.
  • Claim by a patient who suffered serious personal injuries from a collision with the medical transport vehicle in which he was riding.
  • Defamation claim based upon internet postings.
  • Claims of assault, battery and negligent injury against a retail security guard and his employer.

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Real Estate

  • Dispute over real estate purchase agreement for commercial property. Seller cancelled escrow and sold the property to a new buyer. Original buyer sued the seller, new buyer, brokers, and others for breach of contract and tort claims. Seller cross-claimed against the original buyer and brokers.
  • Dispute between Plaintiff property owner and Defendant billboard company that operated a billboard on Plaintiff’s property. Plaintiff claimed breach of the lease and operative agreement and continued operation of the billboard after the agreement’s termination. Plaintiff asserted causes of action for breach of contract, bad faith, and trespass.
  • Action by 90 residents of a mobile home park against the park owner, landlord, employees, and security personnel. Plaintiffs alleged 20 claims including violations of mobile home residency laws (failure to maintain common areas, unlawful billing practices), nuisance, racial and national origin discrimination, retaliation, trespass, battery, and breach of lease.
  • Real estate purchase dispute involving a large commercial property. Buyer terminated the transaction in escrow, claiming that seller and broker made misrepresentations regarding earnings and capitalization rates, status of tenants, and other material terms. Buyer sued for damages, and seller cross-claimed for the escrow deposit and expenses.
  • Landlord tenant commercial dispute. Tenant claimed landlord refused in bad faith to approve assignment/sublet to purchaser of tenant’s store, resulting in lost sale and damage to business.
  • Estate sued to cancel deed and return property, claiming fraud and forgery, with related claims for loss of property income and damages. Cross-claim by purchaser for bona fide purchaser and cost of improvements. Cross-claim by lender for bona fide encumbrancer and fraud against purchaser.

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Real Property

  • Boundary dispute between residential property owners, involving fence location, drainage easement, access easement, and similar issues.
  • Claims for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract by a property owner against a licensed real estate agent.
  • Dispute between owners of two large apartment complexes concerning an access easement, vehicular right of way, and extensive construction on disputed land.
  • Dispute among family members over title to real property and contributions to improvements.
  • Tenant claims for failure to repair and breach of habitability.
  • Claims for fraud, constructive fraud, and unjust enrichment among investors in commercial property.
  • Border dispute between owners of adjacent apartment complexes, involving claims and cross-claims for trespass, encroachment, nuisance, violation of reciprocal covenants, removal of lateral and adjacent support, and declaratory relief.
  • Inverse condemnation claims by commercial property owners against an electric utility, concerning damage resulting from an electrical fire and resulting smoke and gas.
  • Claims for cancellation of instruments and quiet title based upon fraud and forgery; cross-claims for collection on a promissory note.
  • Dispute between domestic partners concerning their ownership rights in real and personal property.
  • Zoning dispute concerning the location of a medical marijuana dispensary.
  • City’s claims against a property owner for zoning violations connected with property improvements.
  • Breach of contract claims arising from consulting and construction contracts for remediation of mold and similar infestations.
  • Action for inverse condemnation brought by a group of homeowners, claiming impairment of views caused by city trees.

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  • Defendant manufactures stone tiles, countertops and similar products. Plaintiff worked as a fabricator in defendant’s plant. Plaintiff developed respiratory problems and was diagnosed with silicosis, then filed a workers’ compensation claim and received an award. Plaintiff sued defendant, seeking recovery on a toxic tort theory of recovery. Defendant was not included in the workers’ compensation award and release, as the insurance was held by a payroll processing company retained by Defendant. Issues relate to workers’ compensation exclusivity and construction of workers’ compensation insurance policy, award and release.

Wage & Hour

  • Plaintiffs were five drivers who transported participants to and from an adult/senior daycare center. Plaintiffs sued for wage and hour violations. Defendant contended that plaintiffs were independent contractors and their daily rate was sufficient to cover wage and hour obligations.
  • Multiple cases involving wage and hour claims (misclassification, minimum wage, overtime, rest periods and meal breaks) against a variety of employers – restaurants, security companies, manufacturers, personal services, construction, home care health services, car rental, car repair and service, and household services.
  • Multiple cases involving PAGA wage and hour claims against a variety of employers.
  • Class action by managers and assistant managers against a property and rental management company, claiming misclassification and failure to pay minimum wage and overtime and failure to provide rest periods and meal breaks.
  • Class action by assistant managers against a chain of retail bookstores, claiming misclassification, failure to pay overtime, and failure to provide rest periods and meal breaks.
  • Class action by insurance company customer service representatives, claiming the company’s log in and log out procedures deprived them of pay and overtime.

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