“Courage: It takes courage for employees to stand up for their rights. We honor their courage by fighting hard to achieve justice for them.”

About 

MENAKA N. FERNANDO is a partner at Outten & Golden’s San Francisco office and focuses her practice on gender-based issues in the workplace. She is a member of the firm’s Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment and Family Responsibilities & Disabilities Discrimination Practice Groups. Ms. Fernando represents individual employees in negotiation and litigation in a variety of employment matters including sexual harassment, gender and race discrimination, family and pregnancy leave, retaliation, and wrongful termination, among others. Ms. Fernando has extensive experience in litigating employment matters in state and federal court, arbitration, and before administrative agencies. Ms. Fernando also focuses on representing employees in negotiating employment and severance agreements.

Ms. Fernando employs an extremely client-centered approach to her practice and incorporates each client’s unique circumstances and goals to tailor strategies that work best for each individual. 

Throughout her career, Ms. Fernando has also been a policy crusader, lobbying and testifying before the California legislature to change the state’s employment laws. She is the current Co-Chair of the California Employment Lawyers’ Association and has worked on bills to strengthen the state’s anti-discrimination and harassment laws.

Ms. Fernando serves on the Executive Board of the California Employment Lawyers Association, a statewide organization of over 1,200 California attorneys who devote their practice to representing employees. Ms. Fernando also serves on the boards of Open Door Legal, a San Francisco-based non-profit organization that strives to eradicate poverty through universal access to legal aid, and the Stand Up For Workers Political Action Committee, which works to elect Congressional candidates who prioritize workers’ rights.

Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Fernando worked at several plaintiff-side employment and civil rights law firms in California. Ms. Fernando received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2005 and her J.D. from UC Hastings College of the Law in 2010.

(*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.)

Bar Admission and Professional Activity

  • Ms. Fernando is admitted to practice law only in California.
  • Ms. Fernando is admitted to the following federal courts: The United States District Courts for the Northern District of California, Central District of California; and Eastern District of California.
  • Executive Board Member, California Employment Lawyers Association
  • Co-Chair, Legislative Committee, California Employment Lawyers Association
  • Board of Directors, Open Door Legal
  • Board Member, Stand Up For Workers Political Action Committee

Video & Podcasts

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Speaking Engagements

2021

  • Presenter: “The Year in Review: Annual Employment Law Update (Part 2),” California Employment Lawyers Association, CELA 34th Annual Employment Law Conference (Virtual), Virtual Panel
  • Speaker: “Update on New Legislation Impacting Labor & Employment Lawyers,” Marin County Bar Association, Virtual

2020

  • Panelist: “Know Your Rights: An Interactive Webinar on Race and Gender Discrimination in the Technology Industry”
  • Presenter: “The Year in Review: Annual Employment Law Update (Part 2),” CELA 33rd Annual Employment Law Conference, California Employment Lawyers Association, Virtual

2019

  • Speaker: “Litigating Labor Code Section 970 Claims,” California Employment Lawyers Association, CELA 32nd Annual Employment Law Conference, Oakland, CA

 

2018

  • Speaker: “HIV/AIDS Discrimination in Employment, Beyond Prevention: The Obstacles in Defeating HIV,” UC Hastings, Women’s Law Journal Annual Symposium, San Francisco, CA

 

2017

  • Panelist: “Reforming VC Roundtable,” San Francisco, CA

 

2015

  • Moderator: “Religious Discrimination Panel,” CELA, Conference, Oakland, CA
  • Speaker: “Pregnancy Discrimination Know Your Rights,” Seminar, San Francisco, CA

 

Blogs & Publications

New Federal Laws Expand Rights and Protections for Pregnant Women and Nursing Moms in the Workplace

Years of determined activism on behalf of pregnant and breastfeeding working women culminated in a major victory in December with the passage of two long-sought pieces of federal legislation. 

Inequality Squared: Understanding “Intersectional” Discrimination and Harassment

None of us are defined by a single trait or characteristic, and many individuals share more than one class of traits that may make them targets of legally prohibited discrimination or harassment. Indeed, as the #MeToo Movement has reminded us, perpetrators of sexual harassment may be more likely to target individuals with multiple protected traits, including people with disabilities and people of color, for abuse.

Judges are increasingly recognizing these forms of “intersectional” discrimination and harassment in cases involving plaintiffs whose claims are based on their membership in more than one protected class. 

Workplace Bullying Is Always Harmful and Wrong. But Sometimes, It Is Also Against The Law.

Whether it happens to a child on a playground or an adult in the workplace, bullying is always harmful, always wrong, and never acceptable. Taunts, teasing, threats, or intimidation are all examples of abusive behavior that can constitute bullying. Sadly, more and more American workers are subjected to workplace bullying by superiors, colleagues, and others. A 2021 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 30% of American adults reported being bullied at work (including remote work), while an additional 19% observed bullying in their workplace. That translates into 76.3 million American workers directly impacted by workplace bullying.

What Protections Do Independent Contractors and Gig Workers Have Against Workplace Harassment and Discrimination?

Workplace relationships and interactions come in many forms. So do acts of workplace discrimination and harassment. Often, prohibited or wrongful conduct occurs outside of the traditional employer-employee relationship or between colleagues. In the “gig economy,” independent contractors can and do face the same degrading, humiliating, and potentially illegal misconduct as employees. Similarly, individuals can be victimized by others during their careers, such as a performer sexually harassed by a casting director or a rideshare driver subject to repeated racial slurs by customers.

Takeaways for Workers in the Wake of the #MeToo-Inspired Bill to End Forced Arbitration, H.R. 4445

Congress recently passed a groundbreaking new law that will amend certain sections of the Federal Arbitration Act, and allow victims of workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault to have their day in court. This bill has significant benefits for workers, including giving worker’s options for litigating sexual harassment and sexual assault claims and the ability to take part in joint, class and collective actions against perpetrators. This law may provide a pathway to end employers continued use of forced arbitration agreements in all workers’rights disputes.

A Target on Forced Arbitration in the Wake of the #MeToo Movement

This week, Congress passed what may shape up to be one of the most groundbreaking employment laws passed in the last decades. The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act (H.R. 4445) amends part of the Federal Arbitration Act that props up forced arbitration agreements for sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. Because of this new law, victims of sexual harassment and assault will no longer be silenced or forced to give up their day in court and will be able to publicly hold perpetrators responsible. We hope that this may soon also be the case for workers who are victims of other forms of workplace discrimination and wage theft, ending forced arbitration for all workers’ rights violations.

Job Protection Must Be Part of Any Family Leave Laws

for the first time in national politics, paid family leave has become an election issue.  The issue has also gained some traction at the state level.  four states - California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and most recently, New York - have enacted their own legislation....

Bridgewater Settlement Spotlights Employers’ Heavy Handed Use of Employment Contract Provisions

for many workers, signing an employment contract with a confidentiality, non-disclosure, non-competition, or non-solicitation clause is a necessary part of accepting and keeping a job. What they don't anticipate, however, is that those provisions can be leveraged...

A Reflection on Workforce Development Week

Co-Written by Outten & Golden LLP Paralegal Toby Rae IrvingLast week President Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, made media appearances for what they dubbed "Workforce Development Week." The President went to Wisconsin to promote an emphasis on skill-based learning...

The Gender Pay Gap Isn’t Closing As Fast As You Might Think

Despite the more than 50 years that have passed since the enactment of the federal Equal Pay Act, based on the current rate of change it will take until 2152 - an other 135 years - for the pay gap between men and women to be eradicated in the United States. It's a...

When the Boss is “Hardcore,” Workers Respond with Confidence

As many tech companies faced the tough decision to lay off thousands of workers last fall, Elon Musk’s chaotic and even antagonistic approach to his newly acquired Twitter workforce made those layoffs particularly painful. He may have gloated in his “hardcore” approach to slashing jobs, but his moves sparked a mobilization of worker self-advocacy and litigation that serves as a cautionary tale for any company considering aggressive terminations.

California Employment Law

Among other important topics, California Employment Law covers the essentials of the employment relationship, including mutual rights and duties, duration, and termination; discrimination based on such factors as gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, race, religion, and national origin; workplace harassment; leaves of absence; wage and hour rules; trade secrets; employment torts; and whistleblowing.

Females’ pay inequity in tech industry needs more than ‘karma’ to be corrected

Menaka Fernando, Guest Column, San Francisco Examiner, October 16, 2014

Universal Jurisdiction, Research Handbook of International Criminal law

Menaka N. Fernando, Co-authored chapter with UC Hastings Professor Naomi Roht-Arriaza, Brown, Bartram, 2012

Awards & Recognition

  • 2024: Best Lawyers
  • 2023: Lawdragon 500 Civil Rights & Plaintiff Employment Lawyer
  • 2021: Bloomberg Law’s “They’ve Got Next: The 40 Under 40” Honoree
  • 2021: Lawdragon 500 Plaintiff Employment Lawyers
  • 2018-2023: Super Lawyers – Rising Stars
  • 2019: Northern California Women’s Edition Rising Stars

 

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