Michele Haydel Gehrke is an advocate for clients as she helps them face the complex web of workplace regulations and the potential for litigation. Currently serving as chair of the firm's Traditional Labor Relations practice, Michele focuses her practice on labor and employment matters on behalf of management, and takes time to understand the client’s objectives and crafts employment counseling, litigation or traditional labor legal strategies that align to the desired outcome. She has successfully defended employers in various types of labor and employment disputes, and has represented employers in state and federal court in both single-plaintiff and class-action cases. Michele’s expertise in litigating wage and hour class actions, including cases involving mandatory arbitration agreements, has resulted in favorable outcomes for clients. She has also second-chaired several trials.
Michele's areas of focus include claims alleging:
- Discrimination based on age, sex, race, sexual orientation, national origin, and disability
- Wage and hour violations, including PAGA
- California Labor Code violations
- Fair Labor Standards Act claims
- Fair Credit Reporting Act and similar state law background check claims
- Family Medical Leave Act violations and similar state law leave claims
- Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act violations
- Whistleblower retaliation
- Trade secret misappropriation
- Breach of contract
Michele also has experience before administrative agencies such as the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. A frequent adviser, Michele counsels clients regarding various labor and employment issues:
- Advising clients on leaves of absence, terminations and mitigating risk
- Performing wage and hour audits
- Assisting companies with implementing proactive compliance strategies
- Conducting sexual harassment prevention training
- Navigating workplace investigations
- Drafting employment documents such as employment agreements, employee handbooks, Bring Your Own Device (“BYOD”) policies, separation agreements and releases.
Michele has significant traditional labor experience involving the Railway Labor Act. She has successfully defended airline employers in major and minor disputes under the RLA, and has experience negotiating collective bargaining agreements on behalf of carriers. Michele recently won an appeal at the 9th Circuit involving a RLA hybrid claim for breach of contract against a major legacy carrier and breach of the duty of fair representation against the union which was successfully dismissed at the pleading stage and is currently on appeal. She also counseled a major legacy airline on an organizing drive involving its unrepresented passenger service work group and litigated the resulting dispute with the National Mediation Board concerning the applicability of the new showing of interest requirement to pending representation applications. Michele also has expertise in labor relations in the bankruptcy context, and successfully second chaired a trial in the bankruptcy court on behalf of Aloha Airlines as it sought to renegotiate its labor contracts and terminate its pension plans.
Michele also has significant experience with the National Labor Relations Act. She has successfully represented employers in union organizing drives, strikes, unfair labor practice charges, labor arbitrations and litigation involving the National Labor Relations Board. She also has experience advising employers on union avoidance issues, and has successfully represented unionized employers in defending breach of contract and employee termination claims at arbitration.
Her counseling and compliance experience extends to advising on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including drafting compliance programs and handling internal investigations for clients under investigation by the government.