Submit a Case Submit Case Find a Neutral Search Neutral
Stephen Sonnenberg

Stephen P. Sonnenberg, Esq.

  • vCard

Case Manager
Christine Smith
T: 212-607-2783
F: 212-751-4099
620 Eighth Ave., 34th Floor, New York, NY 10018

Stephen P. Sonnenberg, Esq. has 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, thoughtful approach to emotion-laden disputes, and demeanor conducive to settlement.

Mr. Sonnenberg practiced labor and employment law at the highest levels for 25 years at Paul Hastings, a prominent AMLAW 100 firm, and achieved a prestigious ranking from Chambers USA, within the Labor & Employment band. 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, restrictive covenant, discrimination and harassment lawsuits. He has also overseen and conducted privileged internal investigations in response to complaints of misconduct.

Mr. Sonnenberg has mediated numerous matters not only at JAMS but as a member of the Mediation Panels of the U.S. District Court, Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. He has taught employment law to members of the federal judiciary through the Federal Judicial Center, has provided employment law training and advice in a variety of settings, and is an adjunct faculty member at Cardozo Law School.

Before practicing law, Mr. Sonnenberg devoted himself to a 15-year career as a clinical social worker in Michigan and California. Mr. Sonnenberg worked in diverse psychiatric 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 actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Law premised on claims of tip misappropriation, minimum wage violations and time-shaving
  • Conditionally certified FLSA and Rule 23 class action brought by maintenance and service employees of a national real estate company premised on alleged unpaid wages for “non-productive” hours worked and unpaid overtime wages
  • Sexual harassment, assault and retaliation claims brought by a transportation industry employee against her employer and multiple coworkers coupled with allegations of severe posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Whistleblowing and complex contractual severance pay claims brought by a physician / high-level administrator against health care industry companies
  • Hostile work environment sexual harassment claims against restaurant industry executives and principals
  • 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
  • Negligence and emotional distress claims against a nonprofit mental health and social service agency arising from alleged sexual abuse of residents
  • 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 under the ADA and New York State and City Human Rights Laws; putative class actions by visually impaired persons alleging they were unable to access the defendants' goods and services due to website access barriers and non-compliance with the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative
  • Claims against a media company by a putative class of hearing-impaired individuals alleging website access disability discrimination under the ADA and New York State and City Human Rights Laws 
  • 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 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 religious discrimination 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 ADA and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Fair Labor Standards Act 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 investigations, 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

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 Labor and Employment Law Committee
  • Member, New York University Center for Labor and Employment Law Advisory Board, 2014 - 2017
  • The Best Lawyers in America, 2006-2019
  • Ranked in Chambers USA, New York, Labor & Employment, Band 3
  • Rated “AV Preeminent” by Martindale-Hubbell®
  • Publications
  • Survey of Selected Mental Distress Awards Within the Second Circuit, Practising Law Institute, Litigation and Administrative Practice Series, Number H-1093 (April 2018)
  • The New York Law Journal, Mediating Highly Emotional Workplace Disputes (March 19, 2018)
  • 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 (April 11, 2007)

Presentations

  • Panelist:  Mediation Impasse-Breaking Techniques, New York State Bar Association, Dispute Resolution Section Fall Meeting (October 2018, New York)
  • Panelist:  Managing Risk and Creating Safe Workplaces, New York State Bar Association, Labor and Employment Law Section (October 2018, Montreal)
  • Panelist:  National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA), NELA Nite: Mediation Alternatives in NYC (June 2018)
  • Moderator:  NYU School of Law - Center for Labor and Employment Law program, 71st Annual Conference on Labor and Employment Law (June 2018)
  • Program Chair:  Practising Law Institute’s program, Psychological Issues In the Workplace 2018 (April 2018, New York)
  • Faculty at the 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
  • Clinical Social Worker (psychotherapist), 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

Counsel Comments

    • "I am extremely impressed by your mediation skills. You advocated for a solution with sensitivity and demonstrated tremendous patience as well as expertise with the subject matter. You established trust immediately, which was instrumental in achieving consensus on settlement terms."
    • "Steve Sonnenberg has all the core qualities I look for in a mediator, including legal acumen, diligence and creative problem solving skills. What sets Steve apart is his unique ability to connect with people across a wide spectrum and understand their unique experiences, an ability he no doubt honed during his prior life as a psychotherapist. This helps Steve gain the trust and confidence of parties holding widely different perspectives and agendas, and in my experience, allows him to be particularly effective in the context of divisive and difficult-to-resolve cases."
    • "Stephen was a pleasure to work with. He had a thorough understanding of the legal issues at hand, and he worked tirelessly and delicately to achieve a settlement in an extremely difficult multi-party negotiation. I have since recommended him strongly to adversaries in my own cases and to other attorneys seeking mediator recommendations."
    • "Stephen has mediated several employment discrimination and wage and hour matters for clients of mine. In each case he has shown great insight into the issues, the laws, and the personalities involved and has leveraged that insight to assist the parties in achieving a resolution. I recommend him without reservation."
    • "Mr. Sonnenberg is a fantastic mediator. The parties mutually agreed to Mr. Sonnenberg because both sides believed he had the background and professional experience necessary to handle a difficult single plaintiff employment matter. Mr. Sonnenberg immediately recognized the need to establish a personal connection with my client (the employee) at the outset of the mediation. Mr. Sonnenberg's active listening paid large dividends throughout the day. Mr. Sonnenberg assisted the parties in reaching a fair resolution within a one-day session. My client walked away from the mediation feeling she was listened to, the process was beneficial and the resolution was fair. I will be using Mr. Sonnenberg for future meditations."
    • "In working with Steve I found him to be persistent and conscientious. He was knowledgeable regarding the subject matter and pushed the parties hard to reach a resolution. Throughout the mediation he seemed to connect with my clients and to gain credibility throughout the entire process, which I believe was what allowed us to resolve the case."
    • "Reiterated thanks for your stellar work in getting this done. We are extremely pleased to have this distraction behind us, albeit one is never completely happy to agree to pay out on a claim which many thought we could successfully defend. Two weeks from now, as the memories recede from view in the rear view mirror, we will all be confident that this was the right and sensible decision and that our clients can return to the pursuit of positive and productive matters rather than concentrating on how best to defend against these questionable yet complex claims. You are cool as a cucumber and the consummate professional. I have already passed on to our colleagues why they should all have you at the head of their lists for mediated matters in the future."
    • "Steve worked with our office tirelessly to resolve a complicated employment matter. He was able to convince both sides to come to an agreement which was acceptable to the parties. Will gladly use Steve again in the future."
    • "Our firm represented the claimant in a high profile and sensitive employment claim. Mr. Sonnenberg came to the session very well prepared and devoted substantial time to achieving a settlement. In the process he was able to bridge a very wide gap of positions, perceptions and expectations, and he did so with both deft and sensitivity. The goal of bringing your client to a mediation is to settle the case, but also to have your client come away with an overall positive feeling for both the process and the result. That was very true here (and I would be surprised if the other side had any different feeling). Thus, we would commend Steve for anyone with such a claim."
    • "Stephen Sonnenberg is an intelligent and respectful mediator. He was able to settle wage and hour law cases that I thought were not possible. I would highly recommend him to anyone looking for a mediator."
    • "Steve mediated a dispute where I represented an employee in the most disturbing sexual harassment case that I have encountered in my 40-year career. Despite challenges from the employer, the acknowledged harasser and the insurance carrier, Steve persisted. After three separate meetings and numerous conference calls over several weeks, Steve guided the parties to a successful resolution which I doubted could be achieved."

News

Events

Practice Areas

  • Arbitration
  • Business/Commercial
  • Employment
  • Federal Law
  • Health Care

Locations

Disclaimer

This page is for general information purposes.  JAMS makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness.  Interested persons should conduct their own research regarding information on this website before deciding to use JAMS, including investigation and research of JAMS neutrals. See More

Sonnenberg_Stephen_GeneralBiography_1293