Erin M. Connell, a San Francisco employment partner, represents employers in high stakes employment litigation and is a leading expert in equal opportunity law, affirmative action (OFCCP) compliance, and systemic discrimination investigations.

Erin’s practice covers all aspects of employment law, as well as complex business litigation outside the employment context. Erin has successfully 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, compensation analyses, and diversity initiatives; 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, and has successfully has obtained numerous defense summary judgment rulings and other favorable resolutions in state and federal court.

EEOC/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.

Posts by: Erin Connell

OFCCP Files Discrimination Complaint Targeting Tech Hiring Practices


Earlier this year, we predicted that the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance (“OFCCP”) would ramp up investigations directed at rooting out alleged discrimination by information technology companies.  Many tech companies have indeed been the focus of increasingly intense and acrimonious investigations in 2016.

OFCCP took its enforcement efforts to the next level this week by filing a formal administrative complaint for violations of Executive Order 11246 (which prohibits discrimination by federal contractors).  The complaint alleges that Palantir Technologies – a private software company headquartered in Palo Alto and recently valued at $20 billion – discriminated against Asian applicants for three positions (QA Engineer, Software Engineer, and QA Engineer Intern).  Specifically, the OFCCP alleges that the company hired largely based on an employee referral system that resulted in statistically significant underrepresentation of Asian hires, given that the vast majority of applicants for these jobs were Asian.  The complaint seeks to debar the company from future federal contracts and require “complete relief” for Asian applicants for these roles, including lost compensation, hiring, and retroactive seniority.


Orrick Provides Testimony at EEOC hearing on Promoting Diverse and Inclusive Workplaces in the Tech Sector


On May 18, 2016 the EEOC held a commission meeting to address the topic of promoting diverse and inclusive workplaces in the tech sector. Orrick’s Erin Connell was asked to testify at the meeting and provide examples of the types of diversity initiatives tech companies are using. Watch our blog for updates on workplace diversity and new developments in the equal pay space as they continue to unfold. Included below is the text of Erin’s testimony before the EEOC:


Employers Left Hanging Again:  Coates v. Farmers Reaches Settlement & Still No Answers on Interpreting California’s Fair Pay Act


Plaintiff Lynne Coates filed a class action lawsuit against Farmers on April 29, 2015 alleging gender discrimination claims under Title VII and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, including violations of the federal and California equal pay acts and California’s Private Attorneys General Act. In this post on Orrick’s Equal Pay Pulse blog, Orrick attorneys Erin Connell, Allison Riechert Giese and Megan Lawson examine Coates v. Farmers and what it means for employers as well as future equal pay claims in California.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.