Lawyer Monthly - Legal Awards 2023

Lawyer Monthly Legal Awards 2023 Rose-Ellen, as an employment and labor law attorney with over 20 years of experience, could you share with us your journey into specializing in employment law and what inspired you to focus on this area? At the time I started practicing Labor and Employment, I was working as a Deputy City Attorney in San Francisco. The City Attorney’s office represents all departments and offers opportunities to practice in many different areas of law. I had been practicing litigation in the area of Code Enforcement where we worked with the community, using civil nuisance abatement tools to solve neighborhood problems. I did this for about nine years and felt that I wanted to expand my experience into a new area of law. Employment law has always interested me because of the human factor. I was a sociology major in college, and so the subject matter is fascinating to me. Every case is a story about how people interact in the workplace. Employment cases provide the opportunity to regularly consider how employment laws affect society on a bigger scale than just one case. Additionally, I had supervised a team of attorneys doing code enforcement, and I learned a lot about what it means to be a supervisor, and the challenges and opportunities that such a position brings. Those factors made me interested in practicing employment law. What do you consider the most significant challenges in employment law today, especially in an evolving, post-Covid 19 workforce? Obviously, COVID-19 really changed how people feel about work. In particular, both employers and employees learned a lot about how work can be more flexible and accommodating to peoples’ lives. This is a challenge for employers because on the one hand, having everybody in one place doing the work together really lends to the team building aspect of getting the job done. And whatever industry you’re in, that’s a positive factor. But at the same time, employees have learned a lot about how they can be productive and effective without navigating a long commute and the structure of having to come into a workplace every day. Other challenges that COVID-19 created vary by industry, but they include learning new ways to do just about everything, whether it be communicating, ensuring employees are safe, using technology, or maintaining the company culture. How has the rise of digital platforms and remote work affected employment law from your perspective in the San Fransico Bay Area? I think digital platforms are a tremendous opportunity for increasing efficiency in any kind of business; the creativity and ingenuity that goes into the systems and processes that help us work better is just astonishing. So, from the perspective of business in general, it is obviously a net positive. Of course, from an employment perspective, the increased use of technology can pose a lot of challenges. Just one example is in regard to the resources that companies invest into their product, whatever that product may be. With digital platforms, it does make it harder to ensure you’re maintaining control over what your employees are creating, and what they do with that information when they leave. You can put controls in place, you can secure systems and data, but when you have people working out of coffee shops on their personal devices, there are limitations to how effective that is. Can you walk us through your approach to handling employment disputes, especially in sensitive cases involving harassment or discrimination? As to my approach, I would go back to my interest in the human factor of employment law and how it really is about individuals who are on all sides of a dispute. I think you cannot handle a case without getting some level of understanding of the various interests and, to some extent personalities, of the individuals involved. It’s not always possible to know everything going on with someone, but my approach “Employment cases provide the opportunity to regularly consider how employment laws affect society on a bigger scale than just one case.” USA 91

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