Joseph Liburt

Partner

Silicon Valley


Read full biography at www.orrick.com

During the past three decades, Joe has built a reputation as a top employment litigator by approaching each case with a fresh perspective and relentlessly seeking to unravel the plaintiff’s case.

Clients turn to Joe again and again as a creative problem solver and trusted advisor in helping them achieve their goals quickly and efficiently.

For example, in a wage class action for Sears, Joe quarterbacked an unusual strategy to dismiss the case. The team discovered that the plaintiff had filed for bankruptcy, and filed a motion to dismiss because the plaintiff no longer owned the lawsuit, the bankruptcy trustee did. But the plaintiff argued he might re-acquire the lawsuit in bankruptcy court, and the district court allowed him to try. In the bankruptcy court, Joe had Sears buy the lawsuit (an asset of the plaintiff’s bankruptcy estate) for a nominal amount, and then returned to the district court where Sears, now the owner of the class action against itself, dismissed the case with prejudice.

In Pao v. Kleiner Perkins, the high-stakes gender discrimination and retaliation case that garnered intense national scrutiny, Joe led the trial team's work on jury instructions and expert witnesses.

Joe is praised by clients, co-counsel and colleagues for his collaborative approach and ability to bring out the best work from the team.

Posts by: Joe Liburt

The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act: A Legislative Response to #MeToo

With sexual misconduct allegations sending shockwaves everywhere from Hollywood to Washington, it should come as no surprise that some legislators are chomping at the bit to pass legislation addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. On December 6, a group of lawmakers introduced legislation that would eliminate forced arbitration clauses in employment agreements. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-Ill), Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are sponsoring the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act,” which proponents say will prevent women from being silenced through mandatory arbitration agreements. READ MORE

Looking the Other Way: European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber Determines Employer Monitoring of Electronic Communications May Violate Employees’ Privacy

In a case highlighting the European Continent’s approach to worker privacy, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled that employers may violate employees’ rights when monitoring their electronic correspondence in the workplace.  In Barbulescu v. Romania, the Grand Chamber reversed a prior decision from a smaller panel of the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) which had determined companies have far-reaching authority to monitor employees’ electronic communications—a similar standard to that which exists in the United States. READ MORE

President Trump’s DOJ Takes Website Accessibility Regulations off the Table

As those interested in website accessibility regulations under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) know, the Department of Justice announced in May 2016 that it would issue a rule governing website accessibility standards for places of public accommodation to take effect in 2018. It now appears that we can expect an even longer indefinite delay. Last month, the Trump Administration launched its Unified Regulatory Agenda, which “provides an updated report on the actions administrative agencies plan to issue in the near and long term.” The Agenda is meant to effectuate Executive Orders 13771 and 13777, which require agencies to reduce unnecessary regulatory burden. According to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the Agenda “represents the beginning of fundamental regulatory reform and a reorientation toward reducing unnecessary regulatory burden on the American people. By amending and eliminating regulations that are ineffective, duplicative, and obsolete, the Administration can promote economic growth and innovation and protect individual liberty.” READ MORE

Allegations of Misclassification Are Insufficient to Demonstrate Commonality and Typicality According to California Court of Appeal Decision

The California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District held that misclassification alone does not establish liability for overtime violations, and, thus, the fact that members of a putative class were classified as exempt was not sufficient to demonstrate the required commonality and typicality for a misclassification class action to proceed. The court in Kizer v. Tristar Risk Management held that in addition to alleging misclassification, the plaintiffs needed to prove that the misclassification caused harm. The standard announced by the Kizer Court augments the burden on plaintiffs in misclassification wage and hour class actions to establish commonality and typicality. On July 26, the decision was certified for publication. READ MORE

Supreme Court to Hear Oral Argument in October on Enforceability of Employment Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements

In January, we reported that the Supreme Court granted review of three conflicting Court of Appeal decisions to settle the question of whether an agreement requiring that employees resolve employment-related disputes through individual arbitration violates the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).

Last week, the Supreme Court set oral argument for October 2, 2017 to resolve the circuit split on whether mandatory class action waivers violate the NLRA. The Fifth, Second and Eight Circuits rejected the National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB”) position that class action waivers unlawfully interfere with employees’ NLRA rights to engage in concerted activity. See Murphy Oil USA, Inc. v. NLRB, 808 F.3d. 1013 (5th Cir. 2015); Cellular Sales of Missouri, LLC v. NLRB, 824 F.3d 772 (8th Cir. 2016); Patterson v. Raymours Furniture Co., Inc., 2016 WL 4598542 (2d Cir. Sept. 2, 2016).  The Ninth and Seventh Circuits however, held that an arbitration agreement precluding class actions violates the NLRA and is not preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). See Morris v. Ernst & Young, 834 F. 3d 975 (9th Cit. 2016) Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, 823 F.3d 1147 (7th Cir. 2016).  The Ninth Circuit’s opinion distinguishes mandatory class action waivers from those agreements that permit employees to opt-out. READ MORE

Access Denied: Trial on Website Accessibility Claims Results in Decision for Disabled Individual

Web accessibility online internet website computer for people with disabilities symbol blue keyboard Access Denied: Trial on Website Accessibility Claims Results in Decision for Disabled Individual

On Tuesday, a federal district court in Florida issued an order in the first known trial involving accessibility to a public accommodation’s website.  Ultimately, the court found that grocery giant Winn-Dixie violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) because its website was inaccessible to a visually impaired customer.  As we have written about previously here and here, currently there are no binding regulations that specify the accessibility standards for websites under Title III of the ADA.

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Withdrawn: DOL Nixes Guidance on Independent Contractors and Joint Employment

Effective June 7, 2017, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) has withdrawn informal guidance on independent contractors and joint employment. The guidance on independent contractors came from an Administrator’s Interpretation released in 2015 and was the result of the DOL’s renewed focus on worker misclassification. In it, the DOL seized upon a broad definition of “employ” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”)—“to suffer or permit to work”—to conclude that “most workers are employees under the FLSA.”  The DOL’s guidance on joint employment was released in 2016 and also came from an Administrator’s Interpretation.  The guidance provided a broad interpretation of joint employment in the wake of the NLRB’s Browning-Ferris decision. It also distinguished between “horizontal” joint employment, which occurs when the employee has an employment relationship with two or more sufficiently related employers, and “vertical” joint employment, which occurs when the employee has an employment relationship with one employer (such a staffing agency or subcontractor), but economic realities show that he or she is economically dependent upon another entity. READ MORE

Sick of It Yet? The DLSE Issued New Paid Sick Leave FAQs

Paid sick leave remains an epidemic that won’t quit.  Since California enacted the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (Cal. Lab. Code § 245, et seq.) (“California Paid Sick Leave”), paid sick leave laws have spread to both state and local levels, requiring employers to maneuver a patchwork of laws.  These laws left several unanswered questions in their wake.  Indeed, the unanswered questions were so numerous that the California Legislature passed a fix-it bill of amendments revising and clarifying California Paid Sick Leave only a few months after it took effect.  Despite the fix-it bill, several questions remained.

On March 29, 2017, the California Labor Commissioner, through the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (the “DLSE”), attempted to provide further guidance by issuing an update to its California Paid Sick Leave: Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”).  The updated FAQs address questions regarding the use of “grandfathered” paid time off (“PTO”) policies and the intersection of California Paid Sick Leave and employer attendance policies.  Here are the takeaways: READ MORE

Time for a Check-Up: 5 More Sick Leave Laws Await Employers on July 1, 2017

There’s been no shortage of paid sick leave laws at the state and local level over the last few years. We have covered this growing patchwork of laws and the challenges they present for employers since this trend emerged a couple years back.

The latest round of sick leave laws to take effect did not go unchallenged. In fact, the new laws discussed in this post have already faced opposition in three forms: (1) a legal challenge in court; (2) a spate of defecting municipalities opting out of a county ordinance; and (3) a state-level preemption bill aimed at blocking local sick leave laws.

For now, it appears that each of these efforts has failed, and on July 1, 2017, five paid sick leave laws take effect. Out West, Arizona will become the sixth state to enact a paid sick leave law.  And in the Midwest, Chicago and Cook County, IL (where Chicago is located) and Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN will each see their paid sick leave laws take effect.  Below is an overview of these soon-to-be laws.

While these five laws will certainly provide plenty for employers to think about between now and July, the wave of sick leave laws shows no signs of receding; currently, there’s talk of legislation in Michigan, Maine, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Maryland. READ MORE

Third Circuit Court of Appeals Rejects Broadening USERRA’S Evidentiary Burden For Discrimination Claims

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (“USERRA”), 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301–4335, prohibits discrimination against members of the U.S. military and imposes various obligations on employers with respect to service members returning to their civilian workplace. 

 USERRA differs from other employment laws (e.g., Title VII, ADEA) in multiple respects.  For example, USERRA has no statute of limitations of any kind for claims that accrued after October 10, 2008 (and claims that accrued after October 10, 2004 may be timely as well). See 38 U.S.C. § 4327(b); 20 C.F.R. § 1002.311.  Also, USERRA applies to all public and private employers, irrespective of size.  Therefore, “an employer with only one employee is covered….” 20 C.F.R. § 1002.34(a).  READ MORE