Shirley A. Gauvin
Shirley A. Gauvin
Senior Counsel, San Diego
Formerly: Bartender
Education
  • B.S., Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University;
  • B.S., British & American Social Policy, University of Kent;
  • J.D., Maurer School of Law, Indiana University.

I am a graduate of the Stokes Wagner’s first summer associate class, where I ranked high by the partners in categories including “Most Likely to Pass the Bar on the First Try” and “Most Likely to Bring Midwestern Work Ethic to SoCal.” That was twenty-seven years ago.  Shortly after moving from Indiana (yes, I can tell you what a “Hoosier” is), I fell in love with the California shoreline, fish tacos and the indisputable truth that Californians share a strong work ethic with Midwesterners—they just dress more casually.

After several years juggling both trial and appellate litigation, I was certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization as a Certified Specialist in Appellate Law. For the past twenty years, I’ve worked with trial lawyers to develop the most creative and effective means of sharing our client’s written story with the jury or court of appeal. I believe that the most persuasive writing is honest writing, and that there is no substitute for hard work and focused preparation. I am a firm believer that smart, reliable and friendly are a winning combination. My advocacy is direct, accurate and efficient – just because the court gives us 14,000 words doesn’t mean we have to use them all. I know the value of a dollar (including yours), am honest and forthright, and boldly defend our client’s cause as my own. In my legal practice as well as my life in general, I strive to always let my actions speak louder than my words.

In my free time, I hold leadership positions in several local athletic associations. My kids alone make up half a water polo team! I enjoy hiking, kayaking, SUPing and all kinds of water sports with my husband and three girls.  Whether we’re in the ocean, the mountains or the lake, my happiest place is being where they are when the sun sets.

The Right Talent, Right Now

October 31, 2019  •  Shirley A. Gauvin

Category: Legal Updates

Employers throughout the U.S. are wrapping up October by participating in National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a tradition that can be traced back to 1945. The purpose of NDEAM is to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the significant contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. The theme of this year’s outreach effort emphasizes the importance of the subject today: “The Right Talent, Right Now.” “Every day, individuals with disabilities add significant value and talent to our workforce and economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “Individuals with disabilities offer employers diverse perspectives on how to tackle challenges and achieve success. Individuals with disabilities have the right talent, right now.”

Hiring the right talent means enlarging the participation of Americans with disabilities and promoting a workplace that is welcoming and inclusive. By providing individuals with disabilities an opportunity to excel, employers strengthen workplaces, economies, communities, and families. Informed employers no longer view diversity efforts as separate from their other business practices. They recognize that a diverse workforce differentiates them from the competition, attracts new clients, and increases their market share. They appreciate that diverse perspectives encourage innovation and new ideas. Hiring, mentoring, and retaining employees with a wide array of experiences is also key for fostering a workplace that attracts top talent. Building a diverse place inside the office attracts a diverse following outside. Indeed, Inclusion@Work reports that the third-largest market segment in the U.S. is not a particular race, gender, or age cohort; it is people with disabilities.

What can employers do to recognize their commitment to NDEAM and an inclusive workplace?

  • Review your policies: This is a great time to review company policies to ensure they are aligned with a commitment to inclusion. Consider Inclusion@Work (“Lead the Way: Inclusive Business Culture”).
  • Establish an employee resource group: Consider launching a disability Employee Resource Group to provide employees an opportunity to connect with others with similar interests and experiences.
  • Create a display: Refresh break room bulletin boards with positive messages about your commitment to a disability-inclusive workforce (see NDEAM poster or the “What Can YOU Do?” poster series).
  • Train managers and supervisors: Train the individuals who are closest to employees to reinforce the culture you seek to create (see Building an Inclusive Workforce tabletop desk guide.)
  • Inform employees: Highlight your commitment to employees by providing informal educational events such as lunchtime discussions to review the process for requesting reasonable accommodations (many accommodations are low cost yet yield considerable benefits through increased retention and productivity), or to recognizing the contributions of employees with disabilities.
  • Inform the Public: Plan your NDEAM Press Release for next year, modeled after this press release developed by the Department of Labor.

If your business is dedicated to including employees with disabilities, there is no time like the present. The Right Talent, Right Now. Resources on this subject are abundant. Employers may find these helpful:

For a printable PDF of this article, click here.


It’s no secret that California is typically viewed as the most employee-friendly state in the country. New employee-favored laws are passed so quickly that employee handbooks can be rendered outdated before they go to print. Employers who have found themselves on the wrong end of a wage and hour case can attest to the fact that one alleged error, when applied to each employee, can be devastating. On top of that, one Labor Code violation often leads to another violation, and so on and so on.

At issue in Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc., a decision issued on September 26, 2019, was the question of whether employees who are entitled to a meal or rest break premium (after denial of a meal or rest period in violation of Labor Code § 226.7) may also recover derivative penalties under Labor Code § 203 (waiting time penalties) and § 226 (inaccurate wage statements).

In Naranjo, Spectrum paid employees for their on-duty meal break but did not pay the one-hour premium for a noncompliant meal break policy which did not include a revocation clause. The court explained that § 203 “penalizes an employer that willfully fails ‘to pay… any wages’ owed to a fired or voluntarily separating employee.” The penalty is paid for the employer’s recalcitrance, not for labor, work, or service performed by the employee. Thus, the employer’s failure to pay the penalty, no matter how willful, does not trigger section 203’s derivative penalty provisions for untimely wage payments.

The court held the same concerning § 226, which entitles an employee to minimum fixed penalties or actual damages not to exceed $4,000 if a wage statement omits “wages earned.” The court reasoned that § “226.7’s premium wage is a statutory remedy for an employer’s conduct, not an amount ‘earned’ for ‘labor, work, or service … performed by the {employee}.” Thus, “section 226.7 actions do not entitle employees to pursue the derivative penalties in section 203 and 226.” This significant win for employers means the penalties available via these derivative claims (which also allow for the recovery of attorney fees) will no longer be available in section 226.7 actions.

For a printable PDF of this article, click here.


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The EEOC collects workforce data from employers with more than 100 employees (a lower threshold applies to federal contractors). The data collected is used for several purposes, including enforcement, employers’ self-assessment, and for research. Historically, such employers have been required to file annual Employer Information Reports (“EEO-1 Component 1 Reports”) disclosing the number of employees by job category, race, and gender.

By September 30, 2019, employers must file Component 2 data, including compensation and hours worked, as detailed below. Component 2 requires employers to report employees’ hours worked and pay information from their W‑2 forms, according to the same categories. The Online Filing System data collection portal for Component 2 is now open. System login information was scheduled to be sent to employers via USPS letter and email on July 15, 2019. Component 2 Upload File Layout Specifications and an accompanying Excel File for 2017 and 2018 are now available in the “More Info and Additional References” section. The secure file upload function and validation process is expected to be available by mid-August 2019.

This new pay and hours worked data will give the EEOC an extraordinary look at employers’ compensation practices and may trigger EEOC investigations or charges. Employers should take the opportunity now to ensure their organization’s pay practices are equitable and not vulnerable to attack, for example, by having a pay equity audit performed. Even if the pay data submitted passes muster with the EEOC, it is possible that the data could be disclosed to third parties pursuant to federal statutes.

Being proactive now in identifying any disparities with a business’ pay structure and developing a plan to address them could help prevent future problems. An audit is a valuable option to employers seeking to confirm the absence of pay inequity.

The details surrounding Component 2 (available in full here) are as follows:

  • By September 30, 2019, employers including federal contractors are required to submit Component 2 compensation data for 2017 and 2018 if they had 100 or more (full and part-time) employees during the workforce snapshot period. (Note that federal contractors with 50-99 employees are not required to report Component 2 compensation data, and that federal contractors with 1-49 employees, and other private employers with 1-99 employees, are not required to file either EEO-1 Component 1 data or Component 2 data.)
  • The “workforce snapshot” period for the 2017 EEO-1 report would be an employer-selected pay period between October 1 and December 31, 2017; the snapshot period for the 2018 report would be an employer-selected pay period between October 1 and December 31, 2018 (the snapshot periods need not be the same year to year.)
  • Employees are tallied in each compensation band by category categories including: Executive/Senior Level Officials and Managers; First/Mid-Level Officials and Managers; Professionals; Technicians; Sales Workers; Administrative Support Workers; Craft Workers; Operatives; Laborers and Helpers; and Service Workers. This data is then entered in the appropriate columns of the report based on sex and ethnicity or race.
  • Employers use W-2’s Box 1 income as the measure of compensation for each employee, even if they did not work a full calendar year; then they tally the total number of employees in each compensation band by job category.
  • Component 2 has a second matrix to report hours-worked data for all full and part-time employees, with each cell on the hours-worked matrix corresponding to a cell on the summary compensation data matrix. The hours worked during the reporting year by all the employees counted in the cell on the summary compensation data matrix should be totaled and then recorded in the corresponding cell on the hours-worked matrix.
  • For FLSA-exempt employees, employers may either report actual hours worked if the employer maintains accurate records of this information, or report a proxy of 40 hours/week for full-time employees and 20 hours/week for part-time employees, multiplied by the number of weeks of employment during the reporting year.
  • Component 2 instructions adopt the FLSA definition of hours worked; thus, hours worked do not include paid leave, such as sick leave, vacation leave, or paid holidays. For an employee who is exempt from the FLSA, employers have the option to report the designated proxy hours of 40 or 20 hours/week or actual hours worked.
  • If an employer has multiple establishments and some have fewer than 100 employees, the employer reports Component 2 data for all establishments. The 100 employee-threshold is for the employer as a whole after totaling employees based at headquarters and all locations.
  • If an employer has establishments with fewer than 50 employees, it may choose to file a Type 6 (Establishment List) or a Type 8 (Establishment Report) for those establishments, in addition to the Consolidated Report (Type 2) and Headquarters Report (Type 3).
  • Component 2 data is reported under “Section D – Employment Data.” Employers will report this data through the Component 2 EEO-1 Online Filing System or by creating a data file and inputting their data in the appropriate fields per the data file specifications. When submitting a data file, the file layout must match the data file specifications exactly. (Note that historical data from previously filed 2017 and 2018 EEO-1 Reports will not pre-populate in the new online application for the reporting of Component 2 data.)

For a printable PDF of this article, click here.


If there is one thing worse than sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s retaliation against a victim of harassment as a result of reporting harassment. Existing law in California prohibits an employer from terminating, discriminating or retaliating against an employee because of the employee’s status as a victim of sexual harassment, domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking (Labor Code, Section 230). Assembly Bill-171 (presented by Gonzalez, D-San Diego) seeks to broaden the protections for such victims by providing a “rebuttable presumption” of unlawful retaliation if an employer within 90 days following either the date when the victim provides notice to the employer or when the employer has actual knowledge of the status, discharges, threatens to discharge, demotes, suspends, or takes any other adverse action against the victim-employee. “Harassment” in this context means sexual harassment, gender harassment, and harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

A 2016 report by the EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace found that 3 out of 4 victims of harassment never even talked to a supervisor, manager, or union representative about the harassing conduct. Victims of harassing behavior fear they won’t be believed or will be blamed or subject to social and/or professional retaliation, such as being terminated. These concerns are well-founded. A 2003 study found that 75% of employees who complained of workplace mistreatment experienced retaliation in some form.

The statistics may improve given the recent public support for victims of harassment in the workplace through such movements as #metoo and Times Up, but employers must take the lead in their organizations by clarifying and identifying all forms of harassment and retaliation, not only out of moral and legal duties, but because doing so is just good business. Many employees on both the giving and receiving end of harassment do not understand what words and/or actions cross the line; all employees will be protected the more they know. To be sure, the reach of harassment and retaliation extend far beyond the obvious direct victims. Coworkers and others interested in the organization who see, hear or otherwise witness harassment and/or retaliation are all part of the cost. As training and effective harassment prevention efforts continue, workplace harassment and retaliation will not be tolerated. Businesses will be proactive and take specific steps to ensure that is the case, or legislation such as AB-171 will determine the outcome for them.

AB-171 has passed in the State Assembly and is headed to the Senate for review with the full legislature vote expected by mid-September.

For a printable PDF of this article, click here.


With the popularity of Facebook and the widespread use of social media by employees, it probably comes as no surprise that experts believe a person’s Facebook status update offers interesting (and usually obvious) insight about his or her personality. Some people tend to share photos of their travel adventures or culinary skills while others post primarily about the political issues of the day or their kid’s latest athletic competition. For the reader, status updates can be interesting, fun and educational. They can also be dangerous traps for the unwary when they consist of unrestrained rants targeting an employer. Certainly, “concerted activities” for the purpose of mutual aid or protection are permitted and protected by the National Labor Relations Act; therefore, posts consisting of complaints concerning working conditions or worker’s rights will typically not support termination of the employee. However, before “going off” on an employer on social media, or tolerating the same by your employees, remember that such posts may be viewed as offensive and unprotected, supporting a legal termination.

Last week, the Texas attorney general filed a motion to dismiss a wrongful termination claim brought by a former executive assistant to a judge. The assistant’s public Facebook posts called the judge’s political affiliates “assholes”, and otherwise disparaged the judge and other members of the court. The assistant argued her posts were constitutionally protected free speech, while the judge claimed that the posts went beyond partisan insults and included salacious commentary and images that the judge considered “totally inappropriate” and disruptive to maintaining the credibility and professionalism of the court and its employees. The motion is yet to be heard and involves unique issues given the workplace in question, but the case serves as a good reminder that if employee comments are general bad-mouthing of a boss and are unrelated to working conditions or collective action with coworkers, an employer can discipline an employee for these comments.

In determining whether the risk of being fired is worth the momentary thrill of bashing the boss or supervisor, thoughtful employees will exercise restraint. If a real discussion-worthy issue is involved, employees will want to choose their words and their method of delivery carefully, to ensure the message is not lost in the emotion. And by all means, check your privacy settings regularly.

For a printable PDF of this article, click here.


Joint employer status has long been a hot topic and is seemingly a moving target depending on which agency or jurisdiction is evaluating the status. In a move to reduce uncertainty over joint employer status, promote greater uniformity among court decisions, reduce litigation, and encourage innovation in the economy, on April 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) proposed a four-part test to replace existing regulations that determine joint employer status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). While the proposal was favorably received by managers/employers, it sparked criticism from the plaintiffs’ attorneys, who accused the DOL of ignoring precedent that interpreted joint employment broadly.

The DOL’s proposal represents the first significant change of joint employer rules since the 1950’s, seeking to apply a rule consistent with the test adopted by the Ninth Circuit in Bonnette v. California Health & Welfare Agency, 704 F.2d 1465, 1470 (9th Cir. 1983). The proposed test would consider four factors in determining whether joint employer status is found: (1) does the business (alleged employer) hire or fire employees; (2) does it control employee schedules and working conditions; (3) does it determine employee pay and method of payment; and (4) does it maintain employee’s employment records.

Unlike Bonnette, under the DOL’s proposal, only actions actually taken with respect to the employee’s terms and conditions of employment are relevant to the joint employer determination. Significantly, the proposed rule would eliminate any risk of a business being deemed a joint employer based only on the possibility that they could exercise control over an employee’s working conditions.

The new proposal also leaves room for consideration of additional factors if it appears that the alleged joint employer is either exercising significant control over employees’ work or otherwise exercising action directly or indirectly in the interest of the employer in relation to the employee. Particularly, the proposal notes that an employee’s purported economic dependence on the business is not a valid consideration in the joint employer analysis. Nor do specific business models (e.g., franchises) or business arrangements/agreements (e.g., requiring a partner to adopt workplace-safety or sexual-harassment-prevention policies) make joint employer status more or less likely.

While this rule change is good news for employers, keep in mind this is currently only a proposal. There may be many rewrites and legal challenges to overcome before a final version is presented. Also, this proposal, if adopted, is limited to joint employment determinations under the FLSA; it does not apply under other federal or state statutes.

For a printable PDF of this article, Joint Employer Proposal.


The #MeToo movement has prompted many state and local governments to expand protections prohibiting discrimination. Two months ago, the Illinois General Assembly passed a series of amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act, which forbids discrimination in connection with any protected class. If signed into law, the amendments could significantly impact employers.

Currently, the Act applies to those who employ 15 or more employees within Illinois for at least 20 weeks per year. House Bill 4572 would apply to employers with one or more employee for at least 20 weeks per year. Senate Bill 20 makes several changes to the procedures of the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Human Rights Commission, including:

  1. Extending the charge-filing period from 180 days after an incident giving rise to a claim to 300 days after the incident;
  2. Requiring the Department of Human Rights to notify all parties that the complainant may “opt out” of participating in the Department process within 60 days and commence a lawsuit in state court;
  3. Changing the makeup of the Commission from 13 part-time Commissioners to 7 full-time Commissioners, all of whom must either be licensed to practice law in Illinois or have relevant professional experience;
  4. Creating a temporary panel of three Commissioners to manage the backlog of requests for review; and
  5. Requiring the publication of Commission decisions within 180 days.

In addition to these bills currently awaiting Governor Bruce Rauner’s signature, a proposed amendment to Senate Bill 577, pending before a senate committee, would make changes to the Human Rights Act and the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA), including (1) expanding the definition of “employee” in the Act to include independent contractors, vendors, consultants, and any “other person providing services pursuant to a contract,” expanding the class of individuals who can file a discrimination or harassment charge; (2) extending VESSA to include sexual harassment claims made by employees (currently, VESSA provides any employee who is the victim of domestic or sexual violence up to 12 weeks unpaid leave from work); (3) prohibiting any employer from including a non-disclosure provision in any settlement agreements related to sexual harassment claims, and permitting such a provision only at the employee’s request.

For a printable PDF of this article, click here - and be sure to check out more updates in our Stokes Wagner Quarterly Legal Update!


Just last month, the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) came into existence. GDPR is the legal framework establishing the guidelines for collection and processing of personal data of individuals in the European Union (“EU”) and the rights of the individuals with regard to such data. The GDPR requires businesses to be much more explicit about the information they maintain on people and to provide them with more control over that information. While European businesses may have been planning for the GDPR for some time, many U.S. companies are unprepared with no plans in place to comply. However, the long arm of the GDPR might apply to them.

Even if a business has no direct EU operations, it may still be required to comply with the GDPR if it, or its customers acting on its behalf, process information on people in the EU. This means that for many U.S. businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, the rules affect how they operate in other countries, because their users are globally connected. Consumers will be able to ask for the information that businesses maintain on them, and businesses will be required to provide such information in short order at no charge to the consumer. Consumers will also have the right to erasure of personal data (the “right to be forgotten”) when certain grounds apply, and the right to ask that their data be restricted.

What does this mean for you?

For businesses that have not begun compliance efforts, there is much to consider, including:

  • adopting a GDPR compliance policy;
  • creating a proper consent to use the data;
  • identifying someone to advise them regarding compliance (is there a need in the organization for a data protection officer);
  • determining whether/how to reach out to obtain re-consents;
  • reviewing data management procedures;
  • finding out where the information is located; and
  • developing procedures in the event of a security breach.

While fines for violations are severe and becoming compliant takes time, businesses must start somewhere. They would be well-served to put plans in place to demonstrate their efforts at working towards compliance.

For a printable PDF of this article, click here.


On Aril 6, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor announced amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) § 3(m).

One amendment rescinds portions of regulations regarding tip pooling when tipped employees earn at least the full FLSA minimum wage and do not claim a tip credit. In light of this amendment, the Department of Labor provided guidance and announced that employers who pay the full FLSA minimum wage are no longer prohibited from allowing employees who are not customarily and regularly tipped—such as cooks and dishwashers—to participate in tip pools.

Another amendment prohibits employers from keeping tips received by their employees, regardless of whether the employer takes a tip credit. This means that managers and supervisors are still prohibited from participating in tip pools as their participation would deemed as though the employer is unlawfully keeping the tips, which is still prohibited under the FLSA.

What does this mean for you? The FLSA effectively allows back-of-house staff who earn at least minimum wage and are employed in states without mandated tip credits (California, Nevada, Washington, Alaska, Minnesota, Montana) to participate in tip pools. The Dept. of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division expects to proceed with finalized rulemaking in the near future to fully address the impact of these 2018 amendments.

For more legal news, check out our quarterly newsletter for April 2018!


The 2nd Circuit, covering Connecticut, New York, and Vermont, has revived a sex bias claim brought on behalf of Donald Zarda, a deceased skydiving instructor who was allegedly fired for telling a client he was gay. As an instructor at Altitude Express, Zarda sometimes mentioned his orientation in order to help female clients feel more comfortable when jumping, as they would be tied physically close to him during jumps. Zarda was fired after a boyfriend of one female client complained to Zarda’s boss that Zarda had inappropriately touched his girlfriend and mentioned he was gay. Zarda denied anything inappropriate and alleged that his dismissal was entirely because he said he was gay.

Zarda’s estate tried to get a trial court to reinstate the sex bias claim after the EEOC held that the prohibition against gender discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extended to sexual orientation. The question of whether Title VII encompasses sexual orientation discrimination has led to inconsistent results, with the 7th Circuit ruling that the statute does in fact prohibit orientation bias and an 11th Circuit panel deciding that it does not. Now the 2nd Circuit has aligned itself with the 7th Circuit and the EEOC.

The 7th Circuit held that “Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination applies to any practice in which sex is a motivating factor,” and that “[s]{:target=”blank”}exual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination because sexual orientation is defined by one’s sex in relation to the sex of those to whom one is attracted, making it impossible for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without taking sex into account.”

The court explained that the reach of law has expanded, and this ruling reflects that evolution. The court concluded that stereotypes around sex are the foundation of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and their shared roots mean they warrant shared Title VII protection. The court viewed sexual orientation as being protected through “the lens of associational discrimination,” the same principle that protects an employee who marries someone of a different race.

For more legal news, check out our quarterly newsletter for April 2018!


Ever wonder if you can recover litigation costs in employment cases? On August 15, 2017, in Sviridov v. City of San Diego, the court made it clearer for employers.

Two years ago, in Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire Dist., the Supreme Court explained that prevailing employers in employment cases can generally only recover costs if the employee’s action was objectively without foundation – an extraordinarily high standard. However, Williams was not asked to consider and did not answer the question of whether costs may properly be awarded in a FEHA action pursuant to a Section 998 offer. That issue was before the court in Sviridov.

Sviridov holds that a Section 998 offer creates economic incentives for both parties to settle rather than try lawsuits. Litigation costs are awarded to an employer if a plaintiff is not awarded damages more than the Section 998 offer, even if the case objectively had foundation.

What does this mean for you? Majority of employment cases are brought under FEHA. In these cases, it can be beneficial for employers to make reasonable Section 998 offers during litigation. Contact Stokes Wagner if you have any questions.

For more legal updates, check out our update for September 2017!