Erin M. Connell

Partner
Employment Law
Read full biography at www.orrick.com

Erin M. Connell is a partner in the San Francisco office and a member of the Employment Law Group. Orrick’s Employment Law Group was recently named Labor & Employment Department of the Year in California by The Recorder, the premier source for legal news, in recognition of their significant wins on behalf of leading multinational companies on today’s most complex and challenging employment law matters.

Erin’s practice covers all aspects of employment law, as well as complex business litigation outside the employment context. Erin has defended numerous class actions, EEOC systemic discrimination investigations, and complex individual cases involving claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and wage-and-hour claims. Erin has particular expertise in the area of pay equity and compensation analyses, and regularly advises clients with respect to OFCCP and other EEO audits.

Erin also is an accomplished trial lawyer.  She has tried several cases before juries and in arbitration.  Additionally, Erin successfully has obtained numerous defense summary judgment rulings and other favorable resolutions in state and federal court.

Representative clients include: Facebook, Oracle, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Citigroup, The Home Depot, CVS Caremark, Williams Sonoma, Varian Medical Systems, CoorsTek and Seagate Technology.

EEO/OFCCP representative matters include:

  • Numerous compensation analyses and audits, as well as ongoing advice to minimize risk under both state and federal law.
  • EEOC Commissioner’s charge alleging nationwide race and national origin discrimination in hiring.
  • Nationwide EEOC investigation alleging race and national origin discrimination in the use of criminal background checks.
  • Nationwide EEOC investigation alleging systemic failure to accommodate individuals with disabilities.
  • Multiple OFCCP audits and threatened DOL litigation assessing affirmative action compliance and potential systemic discrimination in hiring, promotions and compensation.  
  • Ongoing OFCCP/EEO compliance counseling for numerous clients, with a particular emphasis on compensation, recruiting, hiring and promotions.
Notable litigation engagements include:

Morgan Stanley

  • Obtained summary judgment and defeated class certification in wage-and-hour class action alleging compelled patronage in violation of California law and various Labor Code claims.
  • Defeated class certification in wage-and-hour class action challenging the exempt status of financial advisors and alleging unpaid business expenses.
  • Successfully resolved three related complex individual charges alleging breach of contract, wrongful termination, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation and compensation-related claims.
  • Defended numerous complex individual cases involving all types of employment-related claims, including claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, breach of contract and wage-and-hour violations.

The Home Depot.

  • Successfully resolved wage-and-hour class action involving claims of unpaid overtime, meal and rest break penalties and other wage-and-hour violations based on alleged misclassification of independent contractors.

Bank of America.

  • Defended numerous complex individual cases involving all types of employment-related claims, including claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, breach of contract and wage-and-hour violations.

Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc.

  • Successfully tried and/or resolved claims of ten plaintiffs alleging discrimination, retaliation, harassment, wrongful termination and related claims.

Erin frequently speaks on California and national employment law issues, and has published numerous articles on employment law in publications around the country. She also provides training on managing within the law and preventing sexual harassment, and conducts internal investigations on employment-related matters.

Erin Connell

California DLSE Posts FAQs on New Fair Pay Law but Leaves Tough Questions Unanswered

Three months after the California Fair Pay Act took effect on January 1, 2016, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”) has issued answers to FAQs about the new law, which by all counts is the most employee-friendly equal pay law in the nation.  But for California employers who anxiously have been awaiting official guidance on the Act’s many new terms and standards, the FAQs provide little satisfaction.  Rather, they focus more on informing employees on how to bring a claim.  Nor has the DLSE otherwise spoken publicly about how it plans to enforce the new law; instead, the agency appears to be taking its time and exercising caution as it potentially sets the stage for the rest of the nation.

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Cross-Border Trends: UK to Follow US Attack on the Gender Pay Gap

Following months of waiting the UK Government has finally published its draft regulations on the new “gender pay gap reporting” requirements in the UK. On publication of the draft regulations, the UK Government has asked one final consultation question: “What, if any, modifications should be made to these draft regulations?” – And so it would appear that the draft regulations are nearing but possibly not quite in final form, pending any pertinent responses received.

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EEOC Keeps Its Resolution to Litigate Company Wellness Programs Under ADA, Despite Recent Victory for Employers

With the holidays now behind, many employees view the New Year as an opportunity to lose weight, exercise more, or make any number of other resolutions to improve their health.  And it’s not just individuals seeking healthier lifestyles—in recent years, companies have started to promote healthy behavior among their employees with corporate wellness programs.

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Big Data, Big Problems: The Liability Pitfall Lurking Beneath the Shiny Surface of “People Analytics”

The use of big data in employment decisions—a practice often referred to as “people analytics”—has exploded in recent years. Lately, however, the concept is gaining more and more attention not only for its appeal of faster and more efficient hiring, but also for the significant risks it can pose. One key risk is the potential for a disparate impact claim, particularly on a class-wide basis. So while proponents of using software tools and algorithms to identify and select job candidates claim people analytics is more efficient and effective than traditional recruiting and selection procedures, employers should take care when choosing tools and vendors, and should proactively monitor their implementation to avoid big liability.

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EEOC Rules that Sexual Orientation Discrimination is Sex Discrimination Under Title VII

On the heels of the landmark decision by the Supreme Court in favor of gay marriage, the EEOC held on July 15, 2015 that sex discrimination under Title VII includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Even though the decision is not binding precedent in federal court, and runs contrary to a significant body of case law holding that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it could be regarded by some courts as persuasive authority.  The decision could also have an impact on employers in the form of an increased number of administrative charges of discrimination filed with the EEOC based on sexual orientation, as courts determine whether to adopt the EEOC’s interpretation.

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Is Your Wellness Program Healthy? EEOC Provides Much Needed Guidance in Proposed Rule

On April 16, 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a proposed rule addressing how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to wellness programs that are part of group health plans and that include medical examinations or questions about employees’ health. Although not final and still open for public comment, this proposed rule provides important guidelines for employers in administering wellness programs.

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Employers Finally Get a Break—Court Reverses $90 Million Verdict and Holds That Employers Are Not Required to Relieve Employees of All Duty During Rest Periods

On December 31, 2014, the Court of Appeal for the Second District of California held in an unpublished opinion that employers are not required to relieve employees of all duty during rest periods mandated by California state law.  In so holding, the court in Augustus v. ABM Sec. Servs., Inc., No. B243788, 2014 WL 7463154 (Cal. Ct. App. Dec. 31, 2014), reversed the trial court’s award of approximately $90 million dollars in statutory damages, interest, penalties, and attorneys’ fees to the employees.

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Federal Contractors: In the Line of Regulatory Fire

On October 10, 2014, the White House hosted a listening session regarding President Obama’s “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” Executive Order (discussed in detail in a prior Orrick Employment blog post here), one of many new laws imposing significant new requirements on federal contractors. Representatives of the Professional Services Council met with Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and White House officials to urge changes to the Order, which (among other things) requires prospective federal contractors and subcontractors to track and report a comprehensive list of labor and employment law violations, bars larger existing contractors from requiring pre-dispute arbitration agreements of certain claims (including claims under Title VII), and requires contractors to provide employees with additional information on overtime and hours worked in paychecks. Read More

At Long Last, OFCCP Announces OMB Approval of a New Scheduling Letter and Itemized Listing

More than three years after the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) first announced its intent to issue a new Scheduling Letter and Itemized Listing, the Agency finally has obtained approval to do so from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  The OFCCP’s Scheduling Letter provides a contractor with notice of its selection for a compliance evaluation (audit), and the Itemized Listing constitutes OFCCP’s standard initial request for submission of the contractor’s Affirmative Action Plan and supporting personnel activity and compensation data.  OFCCP announced the OMB approval in a September 30, 2014 Notice, and published the final versions of the Scheduling Letter and Itemized Listing on October 1, 2014.

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PDA and Young: Pregnancy Discrimination Law to Break from Its Infancy

On the heels of the Hobby Lobby decision in late June, the Supreme Court has signaled that women’s health issues in the workplace will continue to be a central issue by granting a petition for certiorari in Young v. United Parcel Service on July 1, 2014.  In Young, the Court will examine whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), which provides that pregnant women “shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes…as other persons…similar in their ability or inability to work,” requires employers to provide work accommodations to pregnant women to the same extent they provide them to other disabled workers.  The Court’s review of Young comes at a time when pregnancy discrimination laws are gaining more attention and more traction, and litigation in this area is increasing.

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