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Stephen Sonnenberg

Stephen P. Sonnenberg, Esq.

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Patricia Bargielski
T: 212-607-2783
F: 212-751-4099
620 Eighth Avenue , 34th Floor , New York , NY 10018

Stephen P. Sonnenberg, Esq. comes to JAMS with deep experience in understanding and resolving complex labor and employment disputes.  Mr. Sonnenberg’s unique background, which allows him to understand both plaintiff and defendant concerns, comes from the practice of law, experience as a mediator, and prior experience as a psychotherapist.  Mr. Sonnenberg is known for his attention to detail, preparation, and demeanor condusive to settlement.  He has achieved a prestigious ranking from Chambers USA, within the Labor & Employment band.

Mr. Sonnenberg practiced labor and employment law at the highest levels for 25 years at Paul Hastings, a prominent AMLAW 100 firm.  Leadership roles at the firm included a term as Chair of the New York Employment Law Practice (2014-2017), Vice Chair of the Employment Law Department (International) (2003-2014) and Co-Chair of the Employment Law Department’s national wage and hour law practice (2005-2014).  Resident for an equal amount of time in the firm’s Los Angeles and New York offices, Mr. Sonnenberg represented and advised clients in a wide range of employment disputes, including wage and hour class and collective actions, retaliation, wrongful discharge, discrimination and harassment lawsuits.  He has also overseen and conducted privileged internal investigations in response to complaints of misconduct 

During his law practice, Mr. Sonnenberg was also a sought after mediator in several complex employment matters, and he mediated numerous matters as a member of the Mediation Panels of the U.S. District Court, Southern and Eastern Districts of New York.  He has provided employment law training and advice in a variety of settings, including internal training for Asia-based companies with operations in the United States. 

Before practicing law, Mr. Sonnenberg devoted himself to a 15-year career as a social worker in Michigan and California.  Mr. Sonnenberg worked in diverse clinical settings and community organizations, assisting individuals with a wide range of emotional, vocational and financial challenges, including facilitating the resolution of disputes with family members, employers and other third parties.  Settings included psychiatric hospitals, a community mental health center, and the private practice of psychotherapy working with individuals, couples and families. 

ADR Experience and Qualifications

Mr. Sonnenberg has mediated the following matters, among others:

  • Gender-based hostile work environment claims coupled with allegations of psychological trauma and intentional infliction of emotional distress, brought by a C-Suite executive in the financial services industry
  • Hospitality industry putative collective and class action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Law premised on claims of tip misappropriation and minimum wage violations
  • Whistleblowing and complex contractual severance pay claims brought by  a physician / high-level administrator against health care industry companies
  • Multistate claims of unpaid overtime wages and technical violations of the FLSA and state laws in a grocery store industry putative collective and class action
  • Psychiatric disability discrimination claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and New York Human Rights Law brought by a medical professional against a hospital following a disability leave of absence and termination; significant emotional distress damages alleged
  • Putative FLSA collective and class action against restaurants by employees alleging improper tip credits, unpaid overtime, non-compliant recordkeeping and other statutory violations
  • Website access disability discrimination claims under the ADA and New York State and City Human Rights Laws; putative class action by visually impaired persons alleging they were unable to access the defendant’s goods and services due to website access barriers and non-compliance with the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative
  • Title VII sexual harassment and retaliatory termination claims against an automotive industry company
  • Claims by multiple individuals against a municipality for civil rights violations; allegations that claimants were wrongfully arrested, maliciously prosecuted and deprived of their Constitutional rights
  • Age discrimination and retaliation claims under the the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and New York Human Rights Law brought by an account executive at a technology company alleging comparative sales results warranted neither a performance improvement plan nor termination; sales targets, results and analyses in dispute
  • Multi-plaintiff sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and religion claims coupled with claims for unpaid overtime due to misclassification as outside salespersons; claims for unlawful deductions under state law due to commission charge-backs
  • Compensation-based gender discrimination claims brought against a regulated financial services industry company involving comparative pay statistical analyses
  • National origin, race discrimination and hostile work environment claims by a terminated employee claiming that a university treated workers of Indian / Asian descent more favorably than African-American workers
  • Constructive discharge, race and color discrimination, and retaliation claims against a not-for-profit hospital arising from separation of employment during a reduction-in-force
  • Claims by multiple construction industry workers against a contractor /  employer  alleging they worked off the clock and were not paid minimum wage under the FLSA and state law
  • Disability discrimination claims against a beauty care industry employer grounded on allegations of failure to accommodate an employee’s chronic and progressively deteriorating physical impairment; accompanying wage and hour claims based on alleged misclassification and failure to pay overtime wages  

Representative Matters

Mr. Sonnenberg has acquired and displayed significant expertise in a wide-range of Labor & Employment law matters, including:

  • Employment matters involving claims of breach of contract, sexual harassment, and discrimination (age, gender, race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation), hostile work environment, wrongful termination, restrictive covenant violations, and claims related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exemptions, unlawful deductions, and state wage and hour law disputes involving individual employees, class actions and collective actions
  • Executive compensation disputes regarding bonuses, commissions, severance, and equity valuation.
  • Retaliation claims under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Dodd-Frank Act and other federal and state laws such as Title VII, the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act
  • Advice regarding disciplinary decisions impacting high-level personnel subject to internal audit committee invesitigations, regulatory enforcement and white collar criminal investigations
  • Pay equity claims against financial services companies and academic institutions
  • Claims grounded on psychiatric disabilities and on emotional trauma (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder) arising from alleged workplace harassment and discrimination.  Claims dependent on expert testimony by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals and testimony by treating therapists
  • Claims in the entertainment and media industries ranging from disputes over executive employment contracts to allegations of sexual harassment
  • Wage and hour litigation and counseling under New York and California laws.  Multistate wage and hour collective and class actions alleging misclassification of workers under the “white collar” exemptions, misclassification of categories of workers as independent contractors, failure to pay non-exempt workers for time worked before and after their shifts (“off-the-clock”), improper “rounding” of hours worked, and technical violations under the FLSA and various state wage and hour laws
  • National origin and race discrimination claims brought by American employees of companies with corporate parents based in Asia
  • Trials of age, disability, national origin discrimination and harassment claims against financial services and manufacturing companies

Activities

  • Fellow, College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, 2013 - present
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (California; inactive status)
  • Member, Mediation Panels of the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York
  • Member, Mediation Panel of the Supreme Court of New York, Commercial Division
  • Member, Mediation Advisory Committee of the Southern District of New York
  • Member, New York City Bar Association Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, 2016 - present
  • Member, New York University Center for Labor and Employment Law Advisory Board, 2014 - 2017
  • The Best Lawyers in America, 2006 - present
  • Ranked in Chambers USA, New York, Labor & Employment, Band 3
  • Rated “AV Preeminent” by Martindale-Hubbell®
  • American Bar Association

Publications

  • Cutting-Edge Employment Law Issues 2016:  The California Difference, Practising Law Institute, What Makes Lawyers Tick?  Competence Issues for California Employment Lawyers
  • The New York Law Journal, Mental Stability at Work:  An Assessment (June 12, 2015)
  • The New York Law Journal, Representative Evidence in Wage and Hour Class Litigation (October 24, 2014)
  • The New York Law Journal, Workplace Violence; Employee Rights, Employer Recourse (October 21, 2013)
  • Managing Wage & Hour Risks 2011, Practising Law Institute, Class Certification and Related Discovery and Investigations
  • The New York Law Journal, Reasonable Accommodation, Undue Hardship: a Delicate Balance  (December 8, 2011)
  • The New York Law Journal, Litigating Multi-District Employment Actions After ‘Dukes’ (November 14, 2011)
  • The New York Law Journal, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder  (March 29, 2010)
  • Los Angeles  Daily Journal, Employee Genetic  Information, Now Protected (November, 2009)
  • The New York Law Journal, Wage and Hour Actions Continue to Surge (February 17, 2009)
  • The New York Law Journal, Settling High Stakes Wage, Hour Litigation Via CAFA (April11, 2007)

Presentations

  • Faculty at the upcoming 21st Annual NYU Workshop on Employment Law for Federal Judges, Medical Issues in the Workplace (March 2018)
  • Practising Law Institute:  Panel member at Employment Law Institute  2017 – Workplace Violence (October 2017, New York)
  • Program Chair:  Practising Law Institute’s program, Psychological Issues In the Workplace 2017 (May 2017, New York)
  • New York State Bar Association, Alternative Dispute Resolution Section Committee; Emotions in Mediation (April 2017)
  • Faculty at the 20th Annual NYU Workshop on Employment Law for Federal Judges, Implicit Bias (March 2017)
  • Practising Law Institute:  Speaker on attorney competence issues at Cutting Edge Employment Law Issues – the California Difference (October 2016, San Francisco)
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District New York, Fair Labor Standards Act training for mediators (September 2016)
  • Faculty at the 19th Annual NYU Workshop on Employment Law for Federal Judges, Evidence Issues / Use of Experts (March 2016)
  • Program Chair:  Practising Law Institute’s programs, Psychological Issues In Employment Law 2016 (March 2016, New York), Psychological Issues In Employment Law 2015 (March 2015, New York), and Psychological Issues In Employment Law 2014 (March 2015 New York)
  • National Employment Lawyers Association (New York), Psychological Issues In Employment Law (October 2015)
  • Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Understanding Whistleblowers and Retaliation Claims (October 2015, New York)
  • Faculty at the 18th Annual NYU Workshop on Employment Law for Federal Judges, Evidence Issues / Use of Experts (March 2015)
  • New York University 67th Annual Conference on Labor:  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act After 50 Years; The Use of Psychological Experts (June 2014, New York)
  • Upper Midwest Employment Law Institute, Minnesota Bar Association:  Plenary session speaker, Recent Developments Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (April 2014, Minneapolis)
  • Practising Law Institute:  Panel member at Employment Law Institute  2014, Employment Law Institute  2013 and Employment Law Institute  2012  (New York)
  • American Conference Institute:  Speaker  at National Forum  on Wage & Hour Claims and Class Actions  (May 2013, May 2012, May 2011, May 2010, and May 2009, New York)
  • Practising Law Institute:  Speaker at Managing Wage  and Hour Risks 2012 (New York), Managing Wage  and Hour Risks 2011 (New York), and Managing Wage  and Hour Risks 2010 (New York)
  • Paul Hastings, LLP, 1993-2017
  • Chair, New York Employment Law Department, 2014-2017
  • Vice-chair, Employment Law Department (International), 2003-2014
  • Co-Chair, Employment Law Department’s national wage and hour law practice, 2005-2016
  • Associate, 1993-2001
  • Psychiatric Social Worker, Ann Arbor, MI; Los Angeles, CA, 1977-1992
  • Bar Admissions, New York, District of Columbia, California
  • J.D., University of Southern California, Gould School of Law, 1992
  • M.S.W., University of Michigan, 1977
  • B.A., Binghamton University, 1974

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