Kathryn Grzenczyk Mantoan, a senior associate working across the San Francisco and Portland offices, focuses her practice on high-stakes employment litigation, compliance counseling, and litigation avoidance measures.
Her practice has a particular emphasis on
complex class actions and developing areas of law including pay equity. Katie received California Lawyer’s Attorney of the Year Award in 2016 and has been named a Northern California Super Lawyers Rising Star every year since 2013.
Katie started her career at Orrick in 2004 and returned in 2015. From 2011 to 2014, she was an associate at a litigation boutique in San Francisco where she handled employment and constitutional law matters.
Katie has significant experience litigating a broad range of employment issues. Her recent experience includes the following representative matters.
Class & Mass Actions
- Representing a leading technology company in a putative nationwide class action alleging gender discrimination in performance evaluations, promotions and pay
- Representing a national bank in putative statewide class action alleging misclassification of information technology employees
- Representing a government contractor in a dispute arising out of aggregate settlement of dozens of wrongful termination and age discrimination claims
- Achieving a complete defense award following a two-week arbitration on behalf of biotechnology start-up executives in an arbitration alleging violation of non-competition and non-solicitation agreements
- Representing a financial services firm in FINRA arbitration proceedings brought by a former financial advisor – resolved through settlement
Single Plaintiff Discrimination/Wrongful Termination
- Representing an energy company in single plaintiff race and age discrimination suit which was resolved through settlement
- Achieving summary judgment on behalf of an energy company in a single plaintiff action alleging a host of claims including gender and disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, harassment, and retaliation
- Representing a cosmetics retailer in a single plaintiff wrongful termination action resulting in the demurrer being sustained without leave to amend
- Representing a financial services firm before the EEOC against allegations of race and gender discrimination resulting in a no-cause finding and a dismissal issued
In addition, Katie has worked on a variety of other commercial and constitutional matters that have expanded her litigation and counseling perspective. She also has a demonstrated commitment to pro bono work, with a particular emphasis on matters involving the civil and statutory rights of same-sex couples.
Companies operating in the “on-demand” or “gig economy” have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years, as emerging technologies and shifts in consumer tastes have buoyed their growth. These companies span a cross-section of industries (transportation, food delivery, lodging) but have one thing in common: each aims to deliver traditional services more efficiently by connecting consumers directly with service providers.
But as we all know by now, success often begets legal challenges. Take Uber, for example. The company has faced a thicket of litigation in recent years, most notably related to the question of whether its drivers are employees or independent contractors.
Like many companies in today’s economy, Uber has implemented an arbitration policy as a way to efficiently resolve disputes. Below we recap some of the developments in this area and preview some legal issues that companies will want to monitor in the months ahead. READ MORE
This past March, we blogged about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bouaphakeo v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 136 S. Ct. 1036 (2016), a case in which the plaintiffs alleged that Tyson Foods improperly denied compensation for time spent putting on and taking off required protective gear at a pork processing facility. At trial, the plaintiffs presented experts who, based on sample data, determined the average number of minutes employees likely spent donning and doffing and the aggregate damages that would be owed to the class as a result.
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.
Today, mobile technology allows many exempt employees to work remotely and perform work outside traditional working hours. Some commentators assert that the smartphone has stretched the traditional 9-to-5 workday into a 24/7 on-call period, where employees are expected to respond to work-related communications long after they leave the office and late into the night. The expectation that employees will be available to respond on evenings and weekends, however, has sparked pushback, causing some employees to call for more work-life separation and the ability to “unplug.” In France, this push to unplug recently resulted in a new law that gives employees a “right to disconnect.” Under that law, many French employers soon will be required to implement rules governing work-life balance and reasonable use of digital tools.
A recent decision from the Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board serves as a warning to federal agencies against overreaching in their efforts to identify alleged employment discrimination. It also serves to highlight the heavy burden that plaintiffs—whether government agencies or private litigants—must carry in cases alleging a pattern or practice of disparate treatment.
Rideshare companies Lyft and Uber announced on May 9 that they were no longer offering their services in Austin, Texas, after voters there rejected a proposed ordinance that would have eliminated fingerprint-based background checks for drivers. In a Saturday election, 56 percent of Austin voters, despite what some have called confusing ballot language, rejected the proposed ordinance, known as “Proposition 1,” which was supported by the companies.
After the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, we predicted: “Justice Scalia’s passing will immediately impact several employment-related cases pending before the Court.” Specifically, cases in which Scalia was expected to provide the needed fifth vote were at risk of ending in a tie. After two recent rulings from the Court, this prediction appears to have come true.
On February 13, 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia, the anchor of the Court’s conservative wing for nearly three decades, passed away. He leaves behind a distinguished legal career that involved experience in wide range of roles. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Justice Scalia entered private practice and then became a law professor at the University of Virginia. He served in the Nixon and Ford administrations, eventually becoming Assistant Attorney General. Scalia then began his judicial ascension when President Ronald Reagan nominated him to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Soon thereafter, Reagan nominated Scalia to the Supreme Court to replace Justice William Rehnquist, whom Reagan had named to the Chief Justice position. Scalia was unanimously confirmed.
A recently filed petition for certiorari asks the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify the procedural requirements for ending private causes of action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Specifically, petitioner Dorian Cheeks is asking the Supreme Court to review a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holding that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41 (“FRCP 41”) prohibits the dismissal of FLSA claims through private, stipulated settlement agreements absent approval from either a federal district court or the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”).
California employers should keep an eye on a new challenge to arbitration provisions on its way to the Governor’s desk. On August 24, 2015, the California Senate passed AB 465, which would make it unlawful for any employer or other company to “require another person to waive any legal right, penalty, remedy, forum, or procedure for a violation of any provision of [the California Labor Code], as a condition of employment, including the right to file and pursue a civil action or complaint with, or otherwise notify, the Labor Commissioner, state agency, other public prosecutor, law enforcement agency, or any court or other governmental entity.” The Senate version eliminates the originally proposed $10,000 per violation penalty, but continues to authorize an award of injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees to a prevailing plaintiff seeking to enforce the section. The Assembly concurred in the Senate’s amendments on August 27, 2015, and the bill will reach the Governor shortly.