Dean A. Rocco Partner

     

Contact

   
Dean Rocco is a pragmatic, results-oriented attorney who leverages the firm’s geographic reach and strength across multiple disciplines to the benefit of clients. He takes great pride in building longstanding partnerships with clients through responsive communication and positive outcomes consistent with their business philosophies and objectives.

Dean is the Western Region Chair of the firm’s national Employment & Labor Practice. In that capacity, he maintains a significant practice working with clients on transactional matters, providing advice and counsel and representing employers and management in a wide range of employment litigation. In addition, Dean develops award-winning e-learning solutions for clients, including online harassment prevention training programs, and serves as a member of the firm’s COVID-19 Task Force.

Dean also serves as a chair of the firm’s national Cannabis Law Practice. Dean works with clients inside and outside the cannabis industry to navigate the complex and quickly evolving framework of adult-use and medical marijuana laws impacting their businesses.

As a distinguished attorney and recognized authority in his field, Dean has been ranked in Chambers USA, recognized by publications and asked to serve in leadership positions of boards and committees of several organizations. He is asked routinely by media outlets, business organizations and professional associations to share his perspectives on evolving legal issues

Areas of Focus

Employment Counseling, Training & Litigation
Clients routinely seek Dean’s help navigating difficult personnel issues, managing employees with disabilities and medical leave needs, complying with wage-and-hour regulations, developing handbooks and policies, constructing compensation plans and negotiating executive compensation arrangements.  Dean’s clients also sought his guidance on risk mitigation and business re-opening protocols in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Clients also call on Dean to train management and employees on a variety of subjects.  Dean has produced a number of online training programs, including state-mandated sexual harassment training that clients can deliver to employees virtually through the firm’s e-learning platforms. 

Dean also maintains a significant employment litigation practice.  He defends employers against such claims as breach of employment contract, discrimination and harassment, violations of disability and medical leave laws and workplace torts.  He frequently litigates individual, representative and class action wage-and-hour lawsuits alleging denials of meal periods and rest breaks, misclassifications of employees, non-payments of wages, off-the-clock work, unlawful commission and bonus plans, and violations of statutory pay provisions, including the California Private Attorney General Act.  Dean has successfully enforced employer-promulgated arbitration programs, secured restraining orders against employees involved in workplace violence, and prosecuted actions against employees engaged in unfair competition and misappropriation of trade secrets. 

Cannabis Law
Within the cannabis industry, Dean assists with business formations and corporate governance, supports licensing applications and modifications, advises on commercial transactions, mergers and acquisitions and fundraising, develops sound SOP’s and personnel policies and guides regulatory compliance in the growth, transportation, processing, production and distribution of cannabis products.  Dean also supports ancillary businesses, financial institutions and insurance companies working with cannabis companies by providing guidance on regulatory compliance, risk management principles, underwriting practices and policy forms. 

When disputes arise, Dean leverages the firm’s strength across multiple disciplines to effectively litigate commercial, products liability, professional liability, intellectual property and employment law claims. 

For employers of all types, Dean provides guidance on legalization’s impact on employment law issues such as job applications, drug testing, accommodating employees’ use of cannabis for medical purposes and cannabis as a cause or treatment for workplace injuries. 

Fair Housing & Discrimination
Dean has significant experience counseling clients and defending against litigation asserting discrimination under state and federal fair employment and housing laws. He has defended hotels and business establishments against claims of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. He also has handled numerous website accessibility claims under the same laws.

Representative Matters

Cannabis Litigation
Successfully defended a motion seeking dismissal of a federal lawsuit brought on behalf of a top U.S. cannabis consulting firm and its CEO alleging misappropriation of trade secrets and Lanham Act violations by a competing business.  In a decision laying the foundation for further access to federal courts and federal remedies by cannabis businesses in California and within the Ninth Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California rejected the defendant’s arguments noting, “Defendants are essentially arguing that their alleged actions are immune from federal law because plaintiffs are engaged in an illegal enterprise under federal law,” and that “authority in this area is sparse, particularly with respect to the applicability of federal civil laws to state-sanctioned cannabis businesses.” The Court held the Controlled Substances Act’s “prohibition on cannabis does not immunize defendants from federal laws.” 

Obtained walk-away settlement for CBD edible and tincture manufacturer facing breach of contact claims from retailer alleging it received non-merchantable goods after developing evidence the goods were used for non-lawful purposes. 

Cannabis Transactions
Served as lead underwriters for syndicate of Canadian investment banks in the context of a $110M private placement and reverse takeover transaction involving a U.S.-based cannabis retailer. 

Supported cannabis marketing firm’s acquisition of related business unit through executive compensation negotiations and developing employment agreements, offer letters, employee handbooks and policies to standardize personnel onboarding across multiple states. 

Employment Transactional Matters
Advised national retailer on its re-opening in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including drafting communications to employees, store manuals and workplace postings, as well as providing routine guidance to in-house counsel on local, state and federal developments. 

Represented insurance company in executive compensation negotiations and the development of employment agreements and policies across multiple states and acquisitions. 

Employment Litigation, Single Plaintiff
Obtained dismissal of an employment lawsuit against a home for adults and children with behavioral and medical needs. The plaintiff, who is African American, claimed she raised concerns about patient treatment at the facility and was subsequently harassed and then fired because of her race and workplace complaints. In granting summary judgment, the Los Angeles County Superior Court judge held the alleged harassment – largely consisting of challenged personnel decisions – could not form the basis of a harassment claim as a matter of law. In dismissing the wrongful termination claims, the Court recognized the client’s non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory reason for its decisions – plaintiff getting into verbal altercations with co-workers in front of vulnerable patients in violation of company policy – and agreed plaintiff did not put forth sufficient evidence to show those reasons were false or a pretext for discrimination or retaliation. 

Successfully prosecuted trade secret misappropriation claims against former employees who absconded business contacts, equipment and employees to start up a competing enterprises. The matter settled after jury selection as trial was just set to begin. 

Obtained summary judgment in a lawsuit by a former employee alleging her employer defamed her post-separation upon showing the alleged conduct was either privileged, not actionable or not attributable to the employer. 

Obtained summary judgment of a lawsuit by a former outside salesperson alleging his employer and managers failed to accommodate his disability, discriminated against and harassed him due to his disability, violated the California Family Rights Act and terminated his employment for complaining about perceived workplace abuses upon showing the employee was not qualified to perform the essential functions of his job and was terminated for poor performance. 

Obtained summary judgment of a lawsuit by a former hospital employee alleging breach of implied contract not to terminate without good cause and intentional infliction of emotional distress upon establishing the employee was employed at-will and the employer never engaged in actionable conduct. 

Secured dismissal of a former employee’s claims of defamation and interference with prospective economic advantage against a co-worker as a sanction for the employee’s abuses of discovery during the litigation. 

First-chaired the trial of a disability discrimination lawsuit by a former hospital employee and obtained a complete defense verdict; before trial, obtained summary judgment of the employee’s race and age discrimination and harassment claims against the hospital and an individual supervisor. 

Obtained summary judgment in a lawsuit by a hospital employee alleging age and national origin discrimination upon demonstrating the employee could not show pretext in the termination decision and certain claims were barred by applicable statute of limitations 

Second-chaired the trial of a disability discrimination case that settled favorably during trial. 

Second-chaired the trial of an age and disability discrimination case that settled favorably on eve of trial. 

Secured an order dismissing a lawsuit by a former student alleging defamation against the executive of a professional training and testing company upon showing the student could not invoke theories of respondeat superior against the executive.

Secured an order dismissing a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, discriminati on and retaliation through summary judgment. 

First-chaired the trial of a race discrimination case that settled favorably on eve of trial. 

Secured the dismissal of a former employee’s discrimination lawsuit upon filing a motion to deem her a “vexatious litigant.” 

First-chaired the defense in administrative hearing before Division of Labor Standards Enforcement and secured an order in favor of a surgical center accused of failing to pay a doctor’s wages at the time it terminated his employment contract. 

Secured a court order finding a former employee engaged in spoliation of evidence by destroying surreptitious tape recordings of termination meetings with managers. 

Recovered stolen property and secured both monetary damages and restraints on trade for a company in an action against former employees who used company property and trade secrets to form a competing business. 

Obtained summary judgment of lawsuit by a former employee alleging her employer and supervisor engaged in sexual harassment and discrimination upon establishing the alleged conduct did not evidence discriminatory animus. 

Secured a “walk-away settlement” in a race discrimination case upon discovering the former employee engaged in theft and other misconduct. 

Obtained a favorable resolution in a lawsuit by former employee alleging the company violated the California Family Rights Act upon demonstrating the individual’s medical leave did not actually concern a “serious health condition” under the statute. 

Achieved a favorable resolution in a lawsuit by 10 former employees alleging the company and their supervisor engaged in race discrimination, retaliation and harassment.

Employment Litigation, Representative and Class Action
A group of employees challenged a City’s health benefit program claiming the entire program was not bona fide given that a number of employees took cash in lieu of health benefits. The employees sought unpaid overtime and related penalties claiming the City failed to include said cash in lieu of payments into employees' regular rate of pay when calculating overtime. The City negotiated with attorneys for the employees' collective bargaining units and reached out-of-court settlements. The named plaintiff filed motions to invalidate those settlements and mandate curative notice to putative class members. Under the FLSA, courts typically only recognize court-approved or Department of Labor‒approved settlement agreements, as employees are presumed to be at disadvantage bargaining with employers. The Central District Court of California adopted our novel position that it should recognize an out-of-court settlement reached between an employer and a union, thereby eliminating several hundred people from the class and limiting the dispute to just nine putative class members. 

Secured the dismissal of a claim against a national shipping company under California’s newly established Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (Bounty Hunter Law) after establishing an absence of “aggrieved employees.” 

Secured the dismissal of a class action brought by an outside salesman for a national office support company on the grounds the individual class representative could not adequately represent the class. 

Secured a non-monetary settlement in a representative action under the Labor Code Private Attorney General Act. 

Secured a favorable settlement for a regional franchisee facing claims it unlawfully deducted wages from employees, misclassified sales managers as exempt, and failed to provide employees meal periods and rest breaks. 

Secured a favorable, structured settlement for group of regional food distribution companies facing claims they misclassified and failed to pay overtime and expenses to outside salesmen, delivery drivers, merchandisers and demonstrators. 

Secured a favorable, structured settlement for a regional sporting goods retailer facing claims it misclassified and failed to pay overtime to managers. 

Secured a favorable settlement for a national mortgage company facing claims of improper payroll record keeping, unpaid overtime and denied meal periods. 

Secured a favorable settlement for a national copying and printing company facing a class action alleging the existence of an unlawful commissions and bonus plan and related Labor Code violations. 

Secured a favorable settlement for an international corporate compliance auditing firm facing claims of misclassified field officers and resulting unpaid overtime. 

Government Enforcement Action – Qui Tam Litigation
Tried and obtained a complete defense judgment in Los Angeles County Superior Court in favor of a drug rehabilitation center. In the qui tam “whistleblower” case under the California Insurance Fraud Prevention Act, a former employee and Department of Insurance alleged the center knowingly operated an unlicensed medical detox facility and engaged in a fraudulent kickback scheme with a referral source. After the claims were significantly reduced through law and motion, the State still requested in excess of $250 million in fines and penalties at trial. The State unsuccessfully sought to impose its interpretation of California health care laws as applied to medical detox facilities, making it more difficult for hospitals to provide these increasingly needed services to surrounding communities. The State also unsuccessfully sought to impose its interpretation of what amounts to illegal "capping and steering" under California law. Specifically, the State sought to punish medical referrals without payments of money that are associated with traditional "kickback" schemes, arguing that it was unlawful for one medical professional to refer a patient to another medical professional simply with the understanding that the receiving professional would return the patient or otherwise send them to a predesignated facility, which is a practice common among medical professionals.