Maria Stearns represents local and national employers doing business in California. Maria advises businesses on employment litigation and transactional matters, with particular expertise in the healthcare, restaurant, manufacturing and apparel industries.
- Wage and Hour Class Actions/PAGA: A significant part of Maria’s litigation practice is defense of wage and hour class actions and Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claims. Among the claims Maria has defended are: 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. Maria’s creative strategies in efficiently and effectively resolving these cases have been recognized by the Daily Journal in its inclusion of Maria in the prestigious list of California’s Top Women Lawyers and Top Employment Lawyers.
- Employment Litigation: In addition to her class action/PAGA work, Maria 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. Maria’s work also includes defense of unfair labor practice charges before the National Labor Relations Board and union arbitration proceedings.
General Employment Litigation
Maria 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;
- Providing on-site sexual harassment training pursuant to A.B. 1825; and
- Serving as a day-to-day resource regarding employment questions.
Maria 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.
News & Insights
- Rutan & Tucker Annual Employment and Labor Law Update, 2013-2018
- Annual Legal Update, National Human Resources Association, 2016-2018
- Los Angeles Daily Journal Employment Law Forum, 2017-2018
- Employment Law Update, Association of Corporate Counsel, Los Angeles and Orange County Chapters, 2011-2018
- #MeToo: A Discussion About the Legal and Social Impact, Association of Business Trial Lawyers, 2018
- Business Development 101, Stepping Stones to Professional Success, Young Lawyers Division of Orange County Bar Association, 2018
Awards & Affiliations
Awards & Honors
- Orange County Business Journal’s 2018 OC500 Person of Influence
- Daily Journal’s List Of California’s Top Women Lawyers For 2018
- Daily Journal’s List Of California’s Top Women Lawyers For 2017
- Daily Journal’s List Of California’s Top Women Lawyers For 2016
- Daily Journal’s List of California Top Employment Lawyers For 2016
- Law 360’s Employment Rising Stars 2016
- Daily Journal’s List Of California’s Top Women Lawyers For 2015
- Daily Journal’s List Of California’s Top Women Lawyers For 2014
- Southern California Super Lawyers, 2014-2018
Memberships & Associations
- Association of Business Trial Lawyers (Orange County), Board of Governors (2012 – Present), Treasurer (2019)
- Harvard Law School Women’s Alliance, Executive Board (2014 – Present), Immediate Past President
- Project Youth (non-profit committed to keeping at-risk youth out of jail, in school, healthy and drug free through education, counseling and mentoring), Board of Directors (2008 – Present)
- State Bar of California (Labor and Employment Law Section)
- American Bar Association (Labor and Employment Law Section)
- Orange County Bar Association (Labor and Employment Law Section)