Jennifer A. Kearns is a business and employment law attorney with thirty years of experience in advising and defending the interests of business owners. Ms. Kearns advises employers in all aspects of employment law, including but not limited to defense of wage and hour class actions, worker classification issues, disability accommodation, leave of absence obligations, prevention of unlawful harassment and discrimination, wage and hour compliance, investigations, use of independent contractors, and best practices for protection of intellectual property, trade secrets and other confidential information. Ms. Kearns works with companies to develop personnel policies, practices and handbooks, offers guidance in connection with individual employee terminations as well as mass layoffs, counsels employers in connection with their management of employee leaves of absence, and assist employers in recognizing disability accommodation situations and managing reasonable accommodations. Ms. Kearns is a skilled investigator and has assisted clients by conducting investigations or in guiding client personnel in the conduct of employment-related investigations.
In addition to her role as a valued advisor to her clients, Ms. Kearns is also an experienced trial lawyer. Ms. Kearns has successfully defended employers in numerous employment cases that proceeded to jury verdict, and has litigated many more over the course of her career. Ms. Kearns defends companies and their management in cases alleging wage and hour violations (including class actions and representative PAGA actions), sexual, racial, religious, gender and disability harassment and discrimination, “whistleblower” wrongful termination, retaliation, disability discrimination and failure to provide reasonable accommodation. While Ms. Kearns is a skilled and tenacious advocate, she has also successfully settled numerous cases. Ms. Kearns has also handled numerous employment arbitration cases to conclusion.
Ms. Kearns works closely with members of the Firm’s Intellectual Property practice group and is a member of the Firm’s interdisciplinary Life Sciences Group. Ms. Kearns has developed a special focus on the protection of trade secret and other confidential information. She has extensive experience in the area of restrictive covenants, including non-compete agreements and non-solicit agreements throughout the United States. Ms. Kearns’ work in this area includes advising clients on best practices, advising clients when hiring talent from a competitor or when terminating employees who are leaving to join competitors, identification and implementation of best practices to employ when theft of trade secrets is suspected or anticipated and preservation of electronic evidence. Ms. Kearns has successfully negotiated modifications to non-compete and non-solicit agreements and when litigating disputes involving trade secrets, has successfully obtained injunctive relief and has successfully defended against the imposition of injunctive relief.
Ms. Kearns’ experience in the area of restrictive covenants is relied upon by individual executive clients who seek her assistance in negotiating their executive employment agreements, as well as by companies who are seeking to enforce restrictive covenants or require an assessment of restrictive covenant obligations as part of due diligence when acquiring or selling companies.
Ms. Kearns’ undergraduate education was largely based in the life sciences and computer science, and in the early years of her career, Ms. Kearns defended pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers in product liability actions. She also defended for several years a major asbestos producer in injury and death cases, trying several such cases to verdict.
In addition to the practice of law, Ms. Kearns is a dedicated supporter of Mama’s Kitchen, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides 100% nutrition (3 meals a day, 365 days of the year) to persons who are affected by AIDS/HIV or cancer and are unable to provide for their own nutritional needs. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors and Secretary, and is a past President of the Board of Directors. In her spare time, Ms. Kearns is an avid world traveler, scuba diver and underwater photographer.
- Defending global retailer in multiple wage and hour class and/or PAGA actions throughout California alleging failure to pay all wages due, paystub violations, improper calculation of overtime and other claims.
- Defended car wash business against wage and hour class action – defeated class certification three times [plaintiffs were allowed to appoint alternate putative class representative twice, after class certification denied].
- Defended food processing company against claims including disability discrimination and alleged food safety whistleblowing.
- Defended manufacturing business against claims of disability discrimination (HIV), failure to accommodate and wrongful termination.
- Defended global temporary services employer against wage and hour class action/PAGA action. Case resolved after mediation and before any motion for class certification.
- Defended global payroll company against salesperson’s claims including age discrimination and constructive discharge – defense verdict on all claims other than constructive discharge; motion for new trial on constructive discharge claim granted and case settled thereafter.
- Defended global payroll company against salesperson’s claims including “quasi-marital status” claim, based upon fact that this plaintiff cohabited with individual who was also suing the company. Plaintiff requested settlement after she was cross-examined at trial.
- Defended multinational drug company against salesperson’s claims including pregnancy discrimination. Defense verdict on all claims; court awarded drug company partial attorneys’ fees recovery from plaintiff.
- Defended airline against worker’s claims including disability discrimination in federal court. Plaintiff’s counsel requested that client renew its earlier settlement offer after plaintiff was subjected to cross examination in trial; case settled.
- Defended defense contractor tech company against worker’s claims, including wrongful termination and whistleblowing. Defense verdict.
- Defended biotechnology company against former CTO’s claims of disability discrimination, constructive discharge and breach of contract.
- Represented catering and event design business and obtained injunctive relief against former employees who had taken trade secrets.
- Defended private postsecondary college against claims of disability discrimination, failure to accommodate and interference with FMLA rights.
- Defended family-owned business against daughter’s claims of disability discrimination and wrongful termination.
- Defended family-owned manufacturing business against daughter’s ownership claims.
- Defended biotechnology company against competitor’s claims of misappropriation of trade secrets.
- Defended asbestos manufacturer in wrongful death case, alleging decedent died of mesothelioma. Defense verdict.
- Defended asbestos manufacturer in multidistrict injury/death cases.
- Defended breast implant manufacturer in multiple injury cases.
- U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
- U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California
- U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
- University of San Diego School of Law, J.D., 1986
- Moot Court National Team Member, 1986
- University of California, San Diego, B.A. in Experimental Psychology, Departmental Honors with Distinction, 1983
- Honors Thesis, "Regression Analysis and Sentencing Decisions", 1983
- Minor in Computer Science
- Duane Morris LLP, Partner, 2004 - present
- Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison LLP, Partner, 1995-2003
- Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison LLP, Associate, 1987-1994
- Haight, Dickson, Brown & Bonesteel, Associate, 1986-1987
- Mama's Kitchen, Member of Board of Directors, 2014 - present
- Secretary of Board of Directors, Mama's Kitchen, 2016 - present
- President of Board of Directors, Mama's Kitchen, 2007
- Mama's Kitchen, Member of Board of Directors, 2004-2010
Honors and Awards
AV Preeminent® Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell® since 1997
- Martindale-Hubbell's West Coast's Top Rated Lawyers, 2018
Winner, Business Women of the Year, San Diego Business Journal, 2018
Top Lawyers, Employment Law, 2013-2018
- Friend of the LGBT Community, Tom Homann Law Association, 2011
Co-author, "For Life Not Eternity: What's Next for Pay History," Daily Journal, March 12, 2019
Author, "Recent State and Federal Cases Imply Changes in California Enforcement of Employee Nonsolicit Clauses," Duane Morris Alert, February 27, 2019
Co-author, "Ninth Circuit Holds That Employers Conducting Applicant Background Checks Must Use a Separate Form for Each Applicable Law Requiring Disclosures," Duane Morris Alert, February 12, 2019
Author, “Wage and Hour Pitfalls: Chapter Four – Vacation and Paid Time Off,” LinkedIn Update, December 11, 2018
Author, “Wage and Hour Pitfalls: Chapter Three – Rest Periods,” LinkedIn Update, December 6, 2018
Author, “Wage and Hour Pitfalls: Chapter Two – Meal Periods,” LinkedIn Update, November 28, 2018
Author, “Wage and Hour Pitfalls: Chapter One – Final Pay,” LinkedIn Update, November 13, 2018
Author, “A Tide of New CA Legislation in Wake of #MeToo,” LinkedIn Update, November 13, 2018
Author, "New California Laws Enacted in Wake of #MeToo," Duane Morris Alert, October 16, 2018
Author, “This is ‘Epic’ – Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements Held Permissible,” LinkedIn Update, May 21, 2018
Author, “California Employers Cannot Rely Upon Workers’ Prior Wages in Setting Salaries,” LinkedIn Update, May 15, 2018
Author, "Urgent - New Decision on Calculation of Overtime - Retroactive!" LinkedIn Update, March 8, 2018
Co-author, "Overtime and Bonuses: California Supreme Court Establishes Rule for Calculating Overtime with Wide-Ranging Impact," Duane Morris Alert, March 8, 2018
Author, "Obesity Now A Protected Disability?" LinkedIn Update, February 8, 2018
Author, "California Employers: Mandatory Transgender Rights Poster 1/1/18," LinkedIn Update, November 21, 2017
Author, "Salary History Inquiries to Become Verboten in CA," LinkedIn Update, October 18, 2017
- Quoted, "Attorney Marks 25 Years of Service to Mama's Kitchen," San Diego Union-Tribune, May 8, 2017
- Author, "New California and Federal Employment Laws," LinkedIn Update, January 26, 2017
- Author, "It's Time to Review Your Arbitration Agreements," LinkedIn Update, December 21, 2016
- Author, "PAGA Claims: Jury or Bench Trial?," LinkedIn Update, September 6, 2016
- Contributor, Duane Morris Life Sciences Law Blog
- Author, "Ninth Circuit Delivers Another Blow to Employment Arbitration Agreements Containing Class Action Waivers," Duane Morris Alert, August 30, 2016
- Author, "Ninth Circuit Protects Employee 'Concerted Activity' - Time to Revisit Arbitration Agreements," LinkedIn Update, August 23, 2016
- Author, "Paid Sick Leave: San Diego Implementing Ordinance Finalized - Immediate Action Required," LinkedIn Update, August 22, 2016
Co-author, "Secrets to Maximizing Trade Secret Protection after Passage of the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016," American Intellectual Property Law Association, Biotechnology Vice Chair's Notes, August 17, 2016 (with Vicki Norton, Esq.)
- Author, "Social Media's Widespread Impact on Employment," LinkedIn Update, August 15, 2016
- Author, "Tracking Work Hours on Wage Statements: Not Required for Exempt Workers," LinkedIn Update, July 29, 2016
- Author, "Can CA Employers Ask for Medical Verification When Employees Use Paid Sick Leave?," LinkedIn Update, July 28, 2016
- Author, "Paid Sick Leave Update for Employers in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco," Duane Morris Alert, July 25, 2016
- Author, "Do Your Employee Confidentiality Agreements Meet the New DTSA Requirements?," LinkedIn Update, July 5, 2016
- Author, "Update Re: Post on Increase in San Diego Minimum Wage - Effect on Salaries of Exempt Workers," LinkedIn Update, June 9, 2016
- Author, "Changes to Paid Sick Leave Laws Imminent for San Diego Employers," LinkedIn Update, June 8, 2016
- Author, "Minimum Wage Hikes for the City of San Diego Coming Soon," LinkedIn Update, June 8, 2016
- Author, "Just in Time for the Holidays - New Federal Overtime Rules and Higher Minimum Salaries for Exempt Workers," LinkedIn Update, May 19, 2016
- Author, "Paying the Piper - Can Employers Recover Tuition Advanced on Behalf of Employees?" LinkedIn Update, May 11, 2016
- Author, "Federal Trade Secrets Bill Signed Into Law Today," LinkedIn Update, May 11, 2016
- Author, "Ph.D. Bottle Washers and Migraines - Why Job Descriptions Matter," LinkedIn Update, April 12, 2016
- Author, "Does Your Biotech Need to Comply with California's New FEHA Regulations?" LinkedIn Update, April 8, 2016
- Author, "Sabotage in the Lab: California's So-Called Anti-Bullying Law," LinkedIn Update, April 8, 2016
- Author, "Must Employers Provide 'Reasonable Accommodation' for Disability of a Worker's Family Member? California Court of Appeal Says, 'Yes,'" LinkedIn Update, April 6, 2016 and Duane Morris Alert, April 7, 2016
- Author, "Not an April Fool's Joke: New CA Regulations Take Effect," LinkedIn Update, March 31, 2016
- Author, "Personal Liability for Unpaid Wages When Company Goes Belly Up?" LinkedIn Update, March 30, 2016
- Author, "Commingled Intellectual Property - Like Peanut Butter and Jelly?" LinkedIn Update, November 19, 2015
Co-author, "Considerations for Employers as California Fair Pay Act Goes into Effect on January 1, 2016," Duane Morris Alert, October 23, 2015
- Author, "Protecting Trade Secrets and Confidential Information _ A Non-Binary Approach," LinkedIn Update, December 9, 2015
- Author, "Mandatory Arbitration Agreements for Employees Survive CA Challenge," LinkedIn Update, October 14, 2015
- Author, "Mandatory Employment Arbitration Survives California Challenge," Duane Morris Alert, October 13, 2015
Co-author, "California Arbitration Update: Significant Changes Imminent?" Duane Morris Alert, October 1, 2015
- Author, "Grooming Lessons For Biotech From Abercrombie & Fitch," Law360, June 26, 2015
- Featured in "From Snowstorms to Hurricanes to Earthquakes: Best Practices for Readiness," Lexis Nexis, April 27, 2015
- "California Enacts Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Law," Duane Morris Alert, September 11, 2014
- "California Employers: Beware Employees' Use of Personal Vehicles for Business Purposes," Duane Morris Alert, September 30, 2013
- "Beware Multiple Non-Compete Agreements Given in Connection with Corporate Deals in California," Duane Morris Alert, September 14, 2012
Co-author, "Discrimination Suit of Government Contractor's Employee Can Proceed, Despite Denial of Security Clearance," Duane Morris Alert, April 15, 2011
- "Protecting Trade Secrets," The Recorder, March 3, 2011
Co-author, "Supreme Court Concludes Employer Had Legitimate Interest in Reviewing Employee's Text Messaging," Duane Morris Alert, June 22, 2010
Co-author, "California Supreme Court Rules "Kin Care" Law Inapplicable to Leave Plans Providing Unlimited or Uncapped Paid Sick Time," Duane Morris Alert, February 25, 2010
- "California Supreme Court Confirms That Agreements Restricting Employees' Subsequent Employment Are Generally Unenforceable - Rejects "Narrow Restraint" Doctrine," Duane Morris Alert, August 19, 2008
Co-author, "California Court Holds That Unlimited Paid Time Off Under a Sick Leave Plan Must Be Available for 'Kin Care'," Duane Morris Alert, June 6, 2008
Selected Speaking Engagements
- Presenter, "2020 Navigation Guide for the West Coast: California Employment Law Update," Duane Morris Institute (DMi), Webinar, January 15, 2020
Speaker, “Sexual Harassment Prevention and Best Practices in the #MeToo Era,” Presentation to Board of Directors, October 22, 2018 at Colorado Springs, CO
Speaker, “Preventing Sexual Harassment – The Importance of Workplace Training,” Webinar for Health Care Compliance Strategies, June 6, 2018
Panelist, Duane Morris' Developments in Workplace Law and Practice, San Diego, May 15, 2018
Speaker, “New Frontiers in Sexual Harassment,” Duane Morris and BB&T Breakfast Briefing, April 19, 2018
Speaker, “New California Laws and Regulations for 2018,” Webinar for California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools, February 21, 2018
Speaker, “Seismic Shift in Employment Law 2018,” Duane Morris and BB&T Breakfast Briefing, January 18, 2018
- Speaker, Duane Morris' Developments in Workplace Law and Practice, Los Angeles, May 18, 2017
- Speaker, Duane Morris' Developments in Workplace Law and Practice, San Diego, May 16, 2017
- Speaker, "Section 1557 Compliance," Webinar presentation in conjunction with HCCS/Healthstream, March 16, 2017
- Speaker, "Legal Updates and Trends for 2017," Duane Morris and BB&T Executive Briefing, January 19, 2017
- Speaker, "Fair Play: Balancing Competition and Trade Secret Protection," Duane Morris and BB&T Breakfast Briefing, September 15, 2016
- Speaker, "Compliance Strategies for California's New Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Rules," Duane Morris Webinar, July 28, 2016
- Speaker, "Under the Microscope: Your Workplace" and "Lab Notebook: Friend or Foe?" 251st American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition, San Diego, California, March 16, 2016
- Speaker, "Psychiatric Testing and Workplace Violence Avoidance," Duane Morris LLP Employment, Labor, Benefits and Immigration Group Spring Seminar Program, San Diego, California, May 19, 2015
- Speaker and Moderator, "Protecting Your Workers When Nature Gets Nasty," LexisNexis Webinar, May 14, 2015
- Speaker, "Everything You (N)ever Wanted to Know About Sexual Harassment (Or Were Afraid to Ask)," Duane Morris' Employment, Labor, Benefits and Immigration Program, San Diego, California, April 30, 2015
- Speaker, "2014 Developments in Workplace Law and Practice," Duane Morris Employment, Benefits and Immigration Practice Group, Los Angeles, May 21, 2014
- "Restrictive Covenants in California: Protecting Trade Secrets and Confidential Information," Duane Morris Institute Webinar, February 5, 2013
- "Employment Law 101 - Getting It Right," CONNECT Frameworks Workshop, Sanford-Burnham Institute, La Jolla, California, June 26, 2012
- "How to Protect Your Trade Secrets and Confidential Information," IOA CEO Roundtable, San Diego, July 11, 2012
- Speaker, the Brinker Decision, Webinar, April 17, 2012
- "Sexual Harassment Prevention for the C-Suite," Duane Morris Breakfast Briefing, San Diego, April 12, 2012
- "Workers' Compensation 101," SDSU Entrepreneurial Management Center's Family Business Forum, San Diego, February 2, 21 and 22, 2012
- "California's New Employment Laws for 2012," Duane Morris Institute Webinar, January 26, 2012
- "Top Ten Ways to Lose Your Business Without Even Trying," American Association of Cosmetology Schools' Annual Meeting, Phoenix, November 4, 2011
- "California Wage and Hour Issues and Class Action Litigation," Duane Morris Institute Webinar, October 20, 2011
- "Disability Issues and Employer Obligations," Duane Morris Breakfast Briefing, San Diego, October 20, 2011
- Speaker, "New Laws—New Interpretations," EMC Business Forum's Closely Held and Family Business Retreat, Rancho Santa Fe, California, April 15, 2011
- "Employment Law Update," Presented to Oggi's Restaurants Franchisees' Meeting, Irvine, California, May 24, 2011
- Speaker, "Know the Building Code That Applies to You: The Legal Updates," Duane Morris' Developments in Workplace Law & Practice, San Diego, May 20, 2010
- "Managing Employee Absences: The Legal Minefield," Duane Morris Breakfast Briefing, San Diego, March 16, 2010
- Panelist, "Sex at Work: Right or Wrong?" "Tell Me More with Michel Martin" Radio Broadcast on National Public Radio News, October 8, 2009
- "Employment in the Electronic Age," San Diego Tech Coast Angels, La Jolla, California, October 21, 2009
- Quoted in "Your Career: A Lesson for Workplace Lovers," MSNBC.com, October 5, 2009
- "Conducting Internal Investigations: Is Your Organization Prepared?" Duane Morris Employment & Immigration Seminar, San Diego, September 24, 2009
- "Developments in Workplace Law and Practice 2009," Duane Morris Employment & Immigration Seminar, La Jolla, California, May 20, 2009
- "Disability and Reasonable Accommodation Issues," Duane Morris Employment & Immigration Breakfast Briefing, San Diego, April 17, 2009
- "Five Employment Landmines to Sidestep," Presentation to the Annual Meeting of Franchisees of Oggi's Restaurants, Barona Resort & Casino, Lakeside, California, April 8, 2009
- "Liabilities of Workforce Management in a Downward Economy," Presentation to the San Diego State University Entrepreneurial Management Center Business Forum, Family and Closely Held Business Retreat, Rancho Santa Fe, California, February 27, 2009
- "Implementing the New FMLA Regulations in California," Duane Morris Workshop, San Diego, February 12, 2009
- Speaker, "Best Downsizing Strategies for 2009," San Diego, February 4, 2009
- "Top 10 Mistakes Employers Make During a Recession," Duane Morris Employment & Immigration Breakfast Briefing, San Diego, January 16, 2009
- Speaker, "FLSA," Duane Morris' FLSA, Family/Military Leave, and Immigration Workshop for Healthcare Industry Leaders, Chicago, September 16, 2008
- "Developments in Workplace Law and Practice 2008," Duane Morris Annual Employment, Benefits and Immigration Briefing, San Diego, May 20 2008
- "FMLA Workshop: Implementing the New FMLA Regs in California" Duane Morris Breakfast Briefing, San Diego, February 12, 2008
- Speaker, "Employment and Immigration Law in the Workplace," advanced continuing education workshop sponsored by Sterling Education Services, San Diego, California, January 17, 2007
- Speaker, "Strategies to Solve Your Most Complex FMLA Challenges," advanced continuing education workshop, La Jolla, California, November 21, 2006