From helping California employers navigate ever-changing labor laws to leading Clark Hill’s Los Angeles office, Member Lisa Reimbold rarely has two days that are ever the same.
Reimbold is Co-Member-in-Charge of Clark Hill Los Angeles and maintains a thriving practice in labor and employment law. She recently discussed her background in law, her current practice, and her new responsibilities since becoming an office leader this past January.
What got you interested in a career in law initially?
I actually gained an interest in law as a small child while watching courtroom TV shows with my grandmother. I remember always telling her when I was young that one day, I was going to be an attorney. While all we watched were criminal law shows, I knew from a young age that I was likely going to be a civil attorney.
What eventually hooked you into labor and employment law?
When I was in law school, I started working for a small general practice firm. While there, I had an opportunity to try numerous areas of law. I still remember my very first sexual harassment case. We were defending the case and I was a law clerk at the time while still in law school. I went through every email and prepared all the questions for the deposition that the attorney was going to ask. There were so many inconsistencies in the evidence that I knew we could attack the claims, but we had to be strategic regarding how we revealed what we discovered.
I remember sitting in the deposition and the plaintiff and her attorney were across the table from us. The attorney at my firm was reading my questions in the deposition and my strategy worked to attack the plaintiff’s claims and trap her. She made admissions in the deposition and admitted to facts that really undermined her claims. The highlight of the deposition was when I saw the plaintiff’s attorney kicking her client under the table when the plaintiff responded in ways that revealed the discrepancies in her claims.
It was such an amazing experience as a law clerk to see my research and preparation actually work. The sexual harassment case settled shortly after the deposition for a very low amount.
Employment law has a human element to it and I often describe it as the gossipy area of law. So much of what we do is going through emails, text messages, and social media looking for that smoking gun to disprove the allegations.
What types of cases or questions would clients typically approach you with?
Unlike some labor and employment attorneys, my practice is split with half of my time spent on advice and counsel work and half on litigation. As part of my advice and counsel practice, I conduct personnel investigations, review payroll practices, draft or revise employee handbooks, and I consult on accommodation questions or termination decisions. For example, a client may come to me and say they have an employee with a medical condition and work restrictions, and they need help responding to the request. I can walk them through the process of how to document the interactive process and how to communicate with the employee about possible accommodations. For the litigation cases, the cases vary from harassment and discrimination claims to wage and hour class actions.
How detailed are the wage and hour matters?
In California, wage and hour laws are incredibly employee friendly and it is almost impossible for California employers to have full compliance at all times. Additionally, California continues to change wage and hour laws and unfortunately, some changes in law apply retroactively. As such, I work with clients to assist in creating code-compliant payroll practices and work through how to address violations as they arise. When clients find themselves names in wage and hour class actions, I defend those actions in an effort to minimize exposure and to ensure the client knows what steps should be taken to reduce the risk of future claims.
How frequently are employment laws changing in California?
All the time. It is one of the biggest challenges for employment lawyers. Not only do case rulings constantly change how we practice, but California also frequently issues new statutes which directly impact my practice. Every October we get hit with all the new laws coming for January the following year and this often necessitates handbook updates and updated practices for clients to stay in compliance.
Over the past few months, what are some trends and changes you’re seeing in employment law?
One of the biggest areas where we’ve recently seen changes is confidentiality agreements and settlement agreements. Most of our clients greatly value confidentiality in their settlements and it is often a motivating factor for the client to settle instead of continuing litigation. Clients often fear that if other employees learn about a lawsuit or a settlement that it will result in other employees copying the claims. In light of recent changes in the law, at both the state and federal levels, our ability to demand confidentiality has been broken down and limited. At this point, we are still able to keep the amount of the settlement confidential, however, we are otherwise very limited.
How did becoming a Co-Member-in-Charge in January change your day-to-day work?
Since moving into the position, I have taken on new administrative and managerial roles at the firm. Along with my partner in this role, Penny Diehl, I assist with personnel issues and office management decisions. Since COVID-19, we like many firms, have had to evaluate how we can address the new priorities we now see with attorneys and staff. Specifically, employees have a strong preference to work remotely, even though it presents some challenges for the office. One of our goals in Los Angeles is to incentivize employees to return to the office. We frequently host office social events and are working on community outreach programs to get employees more involved.
What’s an example of the volunteer work that the office is engaged in?
Through the office and our Culture Committee, we have done multiple volunteer activities this last year. We worked with a women’s shelter and donated toiletry supplies. We also have done work with Los Angeles Family Housing. The organization houses displaced families (families that have lost their homes). We gathered gift cards during the holidays and donated them as gifts for the families. We also volunteered at their holiday event and handed out gifts to the children living in one of their group homes.