Maria Z. Stearns is a Partner in the firm's Employment Law Department where she represents businesses in employment litigation and transactional matters. Ms. Stearns has extensive wage and hour class action experience, and has defended a wide variety of claims, among them allegations of meal/rest period violations, employee misclassification (exempt/non-exempt), improper bonus/commission plans, unpaid business expenses, uniform claims, reporting time pay, and timecard rounding.
In addition to her class action work, Ms. Stearns has also successfully represented employers in discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment, disability and wrongful termination cases in state and federal court, and in administrative charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (and other state fair employment administrative agencies), the U.S. Department of Labor and the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Ms. Stearns' work also includes defense of unfair labor practice charges before the National Labor Relations Board and union arbitration proceedings.
Ms. Stearns represents employers in a wide variety of industries. She has particular expertise in the unique employment issues facing employers in the healthcare industry and is counsel to several California based hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living communities. In addition to healthcare, Ms. Stearns regularly advises clients in the restaurant industry and has served as lead defense counsel in multiple wage and hour class actions for several different national restaurants.
As part of her practice, Ms. Stearns also provides preventative counseling and guidance to businesses regarding all aspects of the employer-employee relationship. This includes: assisting employers in conducting wage and hour self-audits and in responding to government audits; guiding employers through reduction-in-force programs, including compliance with state and federal laws such as the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act ("WARN"); drafting employee handbooks, workplace policies, employment agreements, commission plans, separation agreements, and employee counseling documents; advising on leave of absence and disability accommodation issues; and serving as a day-to-day resource regarding employment questions. Ms. Stearns is also regularly engaged by employers to conduct on-site sexual harassment training pursuant to A.B. 1825.
Ms. Stearns was a full-scholarship varsity tennis player at the University of Kansas where she was named NCAA Woman of the Year. Ms. Stearns is fluent in Spanish and studied abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico.
- Judge Orders Reinstatement of Employees Fired for Facebook Posts, Association of Business Trial Lawyers, ABTL Report, Fall 2011 (click here to view PDF)
- NLRB Actively Engaged in Examining Employee Social Medial Use, Society for Human Resource Management, September 2011
- Don't Be A Wage & Hour Victim: Best Practices To Keep Your Company Out of Legal Trouble, Orange County Business Journal, June 2010
- Annual Mid Year Wage & Hour Conference, San Diego, June 2013
- Health Reform: Turning Information Into Solutions & Opportunities, March 2013
- Rutan & Tucker Annual Employment Law Update, February 2013
- California Wage & Hour Pitfalls: Best Practices for Steering Clear of Legal Trouble, City of Cypress BRACE Program, May 2012 (click here to view press release)
- The Brinker Decision-- The Good, Bad and Ugly Aspects of the California Supreme Court's Meal and Rest Break Ruling, Rutan & Tucker client series, April 2012
- Deciphering The Complex Rules of Travel Time Pay, ADP webinar, March 2012
- Wage and Hour Prevention Strategies, American Payroll Association – San Francisco Chapter, March 2012
- Guest commentator on social media issues for This Week in Law netcast, January 2012
- Common Wage & Hour Pitfalls: Best Practices to Keep Your Company Out of Legal Trouble, Association of Corporate Counsel, September 2011 (click here to view video)
- Don't Be A Wage & Hour Class Action Victim: Prevention Strategies To Keep Your Company Out of Legal Trouble. October, September and March 2010; May 2009