It’s About People

Wu_James_webWelcome to the September 2014 edition of the Contra Costa Lawyer! It is truly about people.

First, I’d like to take this opportunity to give a heartfelt THANK YOU to Lisa Reep, who will be retiring this month as Executive Director. Lisa has dedicated years to the Contra Costa County Bar Association. Her leadership, professionalism, and friendly and vibrant personality have propelled the CCCBA to one of the nation’s leading bar associations.

On a personal note, I have been fortunate to work with Lisa for several years and count her as a wonderful friend and colleague. Please join us on September 19 at the Lafayette Park Hotel to celebrate Lisa and her many contributions to the CCCBA.

Thankfully, the CCCBA will be in great hands after Lisa’s departure. Many of you already know that our very own Theresa Hurley will become the next Executive Director. Theresa has already devoted several years to the CCCBA, and I have no doubt that she will give her all to the new role and help the CCCBA thrive and flourish for years to come.

This month’s magazine focuses on Employment Law. The CCCBA is fortunate to have a very vibrant and collegial Employment Law Section that puts together MCLE events nearly every month and collaborates frequently. When the opportunity arose to host an edition of this magazine, the Employment Law Section jumped at the opportunity, and we are all the beneficiaries of the following excellent articles:

In June 2014, the California Supreme Court decided an important case regarding the impact of immigration status in California employment law cases. Ralph L. Jacobson and Yen P. Chau provide an excellent review of Salas v. Sierra Chemical Co. and have not only focused on its impact on employment law, but also the potential ramifications the decision has on personal injury cases. All attorneys should read this article even if their practice does not focus on immigration, personal injury or employment law.

Patricia M. Kelly also presents excellent insight into another recent development in employment law. Her article focuses on the new wage and hour requirements regarding live-in personal care attendants. Pat’s article highlights many traps for the unwary employer.

Often, a plaintiff in an employment law claim will have suffered significant and quantifiable economic damages, including back pay, front pay, loss of employee benefits and other measurable damages. Douglas Kelly dives into the situation where “emotional distress” damages overshadow any economic damages. Doug analyzes issues for litigating and defending cases when a plaintiff may have significant emotional distress damages, but little economic damages.

Margaret J. Grover offers us insight into mediating employment law claims. Her article focuses on how attorneys and litigants can make the mediation joint session a productive and helpful part of mediation.

Sometimes, employment law matters might actually make it all the way to a judgment. Great, you may have won your case, but now what? Thankfully, Kevin R. Allen supplies us with key practical tips for applying for prevailing party fee awards in employment law cases.

Not only did Marjorie Wallace research and write a great article, but she spent hours watching documentaries in order to provide us with a look at employment law in the movies. She focused on two important documentaries: Robert Reich’s “Inequality for All” and “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power.” So, pause your viewing of comedies making light of workplace issues (like “The Internship” or “Horrible Bosses”), and learn about these two documentaries summarized by Marjorie.

Finally, we are fortunate to have an article by William Mero from the Contra Costa County Historical Society regarding a violent labor strike that occurred in Contra Costa County in the late 1930s. While the precise issues may have evolved over the years, the upheaval and conflict regarding the C&H Sugar refinery in Crockett serves as a great reminder that employment law is truly focused on people and the lives of workers and business owners alike.

I would like to personally thank the authors of the articles for volunteering their time and energy. In addition, I thank Kevin R. Allen for his behind-the-scenes help, and thank the other members of the Employment Law Section Board for supplying authors, articles and year-round benefits to our legal community. I also thank the Contra Costa County Historical Society for providing the wonderful cover photo for this month’s edition.

For nearly two decades, James Y. Wu has provided employment law advice and counsel, and litigation representation, to employers of all sizes. After 15 years at some of the nation’s leading firms, James founded his own firm in Walnut Creek. James is a member of the CCCBA Board of Directors, Co-Chair of the Law Practice Management Series Task Force, and former President of the CCCBA Employment Law Section. Learn more at and

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