Daily Journal Again Selects Donna Mezias and Gregory Knopp as Top Labor and Employment Attorneys in California
(San Francisco and Los Angeles) – For the fifth consecutive year, Akin Gump labor and employment partner Donna Mezias has been named one of Daily Journal’s “Top Labor and Employment Attorneys” in California, while partner Gregory Knopp, another multi-time winner, joins her on the list.
In its profile of her, the Daily Journal notes Ms. Mezias’ representation of employers in all types of litigation, including class actions and individual discrimination cases. The publication highlighted her success in defending companies alleged to be joint employers in wage and hour class actions, and her current representation of MediaNews Group Inc. and several subsidiaries in a representative action under California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) on behalf of newspapers carriers who are not employed directly by her clients, but rather are engaged by independent newspaper distributors.
In the Daily Journal profile, Ms. Mezias described the new twist that the California Supreme Court’s recent Dynamex decision presents in the joint employment context, and her analysis that a different Supreme Court test outlined in the Martinez v. Combs case continues to govern joint employment cases.
Ms. Mezias plans to use Martinez and other court rulings to her client’s advantage to establish that the relationship “between the plaintiff and her employer is with the distributor who engages the newspaper carrier workers.” She added that she hopes to have the case “resolved on motion practice at the summary judgment stage.”
Mr. Knopp, who serves as partner in charge of Akin Gump’s Los Angeles office, handles many closely watched employment disputes. The outcomes, Daily Journal notes, “often hold important implications for future case law in California and nationwide.”
With regard to PAGA disputes, Mr. Knopp said, there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding “what a plaintiff needs to do in order to proceed on behalf of a group of employees.” He represented Starbucks Corp. in one such case, in which the plaintiff claimed that the company systemically violated state meal-break laws throughout California.
Knopp said the favorable ruling Starbucks received was important because it reflected a road map of how to defend against a PAGA claim when class action rules do not apply. “The court had wide discretion to award PAGA penalties,” he said, but there are “often good arguments for why they should be far less than the maximum.”
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is a leading international law firm with more than 900 lawyers in offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
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