Nate Kowalski is Chair of the firm’s Public Entity Labor and Employment Practice Group. He is an accomplished litigator who represents employers in both the private and public sectors. Mr. Kowalski has litigated hundreds of sensitive and complex labor and employment cases in state and federal courts and has achieved remarkable results for his clients in hearings, arbitrations, trials, and appeals.
Mr. Kowalski also represents private and public sector employers in wage and hour litigation, including class actions. He has developed a unique expertise concerning the application of California's wage and hour laws to public agencies. He was the lead counsel in a groundbreaking appellate case, Johnson v. Arvin-Edison Water Storage District (2009) 174 Cal. App. 4th 729, which established that California's overtime and meal period requirements do not apply to the public sector. He also co-authored chapters on (1) wage and hour law for California Public Sector Employment Law and (2) PERB procedure for California Public Sector Labor Relations.
Honors & Recognitions
In 2016, the national publication Law360 profiled Mr. Kowalski, acknowledging his success in building his practice while maintaining close relationships with and quality service to his existing clients. The article, “Rainmaker Q&A: Atkinson Andelson's Nate Kowalski,” highlights Mr. Kowalski’s perseverance and thoughtfulness, as well as AALRR’s unique strengths.
In 2011 and 2013, the Daily Journal named Mr. Kowalski to its list of the Top 75 labor and employment lawyers in California, highlighting cases he handled on behalf of Ralph's Grocery Company (defense verdict in disability discrimination arbitration), the San Diego Superior Court (denial of writ of mandate after union challenged layoffs imposed by the Court), and the Los Angeles Superior Court (summary judgment in a sex discrimination case brought by three Court employees).
Also in 2011 and 2013, the Daily Journal named Mr. Kowalski to its list of the top municipal lawyers in California, spotlighting his representation of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (summary judgment in employment retaliation lawsuit), the City of San Bernardino (concerning wage reductions imposed by the City), and the City of Long Beach (concerning furloughs imposed by the City).
For the last 11 years, Mr. Kowalski has been selected to the Southern California Super Lawyers list. This list honors lawyers who have attracted a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.
Chambers USA has also named Mr. Kowalski to its list of the top labor and employment lawyers in California. Citing client feedback, Mr. Kowalski was described in the Chambers guide as “adept, forthright, and analytical.”
- Schmidt v. Ventura Superior Court (2020) 44 Cal.App.5th 570 (defense verdict for Superior Court after six-week retaliation and sexual harassment bench trial, affirmed on appeal)
- SEIU Local 721 v. San Bernardino Superior Court (2014) 39 PERC ¶ 35 (Court properly refused to process decertification petition as it was filed outside of the “window period” set forth in the Court’s local rules)
- Sheppard v. North Orange County ROP (2010) 191 Cal. App. 4th 289 (application of California’s minimum wage to Joint Powers Authority)
- CHP v. Los Angeles Housing Authority (2010) 34 PERC ¶ 36 (Housing Authority satisfied its duty to engage in effects bargaining related to layoffs)
- Johnson v. Arvin-Edison Water Storage District (2009) 174 Cal. App. 4th 729 (Water District not subject to wage and law claims brought under California Labor Code and Wage Orders)
- AFSCME Local 1902 v. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California ("MWD") (2008) 32 PERC ¶ 65 (union waived its right to bargain over employer's decision to change job descriptions)
- AFSCME Local 1902 v. MWD (2007) 31 PERC ¶ 141 (unfair practice charges dismissed as untimely, equitable tolling rejected)
- Claremont POA v. City of Claremont (2006) 39 Cal. 4th 623 (the duty to bargain and the managerial prerogative doctrine) (counsel for amicus MWD)
- Riverside Sheriffs Association v. County of Riverside (2004) 29 PERC ¶ 21 (County did not engage in surface bargaining)
- Upland Police Officers Association v. City of Upland (2003) 111 Cal App. 4th 1294 (Police Department properly conducted disciplinary investigation)
- Morrison v. Housing Authority (2003) 107 Cal.App.4th 860 (public meetings of government bodies)
- AFT v. San Diego CCD (2001) 25 PERC ¶ 32099 (use of internal mail by employee organizations)
- Marquez v. Screen Actors Guild (1998) 525 U.S. 33, 159 LRRM 2641 (union security provisions in collective bargaining agreements)
- Obtained summary judgment for a superior court client in a whistle-blower and retaliation case, affirmed on appeal.
- Obtained a defense verdict for a superior court client after a six week bench trial in a sexual harassment and retaliation case.
- Obtained a defense verdict for a water district client after a three-week jury trial in religious discrimination and retaliation case.
- Defeated a writ of mandate in public employees’ lawsuit alleging improper layoffs, and won the subsequent appeal by unanimous decision.
- Defeated class certification of multimillion-dollar wage and hour claims asserted against transit agency client.
- Obtained summary judgment in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against water district client.
- Induced a former public employee to dismiss his complaint and comply with a restraining order after an anti-SLAPP motion was filed against him.
- Obtained summary judgment of former public employee’s lawsuit alleging nine discrimination and retaliation causes of action.
- Won an appeal in which a class of city employees claimed the city violated their vested constitutional rights when the city changed the pension contribution rate for their retirement plan.
- Won a binding arbitration in a disability discrimination action against a Fortune 50 client.
- Obtained summary judgment for a Fortune 50 client in a whistleblower case.
- Obtained summary judgment for a Fortune 50 client in a racial discrimination case and prevailed on appeal before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Judicial Council, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Coachella Valley Water District, United Water Conservation District, Arvin-Edison Water Storage District, Santa Ynez Community Services District, Novato Fire Protection District, Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange County Superior Court, San Bernardino County Superior Court, City of Glendale, City of Long Beach, City of Arcadia, City of Santa Ana, the Kroger Company, Ralph's Grocery Company, Storopack.
News & Publications
- CA Special District magazine, 12.19.2014
- The Press-Enterprise, 02.18.2014
- The Daily Journal, 12.11.2013
- Daily Journal, 12.16.2011
- Daily Journal, 07.13.2011
Events & Speaking Engagements
Mr. Kowalski has given presentations to a number of industry and professional groups, including the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the National Employment Law Institute (NELI), the International Public Management Association (IPMA), and the California Public Employers Labor Relations Association (CalPELRA).
"Even Probationary Employees Have Rights: Understanding And Avoiding Risks When Dealing With Probationary Employees" - CALPELRA Annual Conference (November 2022)
"Avoiding Common Mishaps and Misunderstandings During the Interactive and Reasonable Accommodation Process" - CALPELRA Annual Conference (November 2021)
"Save the Drama: Managing Challenging Employees and Behaviors"- CALPELRA Annual Conference (November 2021)
"You Be The Juror: HR Documents On Trial" - CALPELRA Annual Conference, virtual (November 2020)
- “Opening Up”: How Public Employers Should Prepare - CSDA On-Demand Webinar
- The Great Re-Set: Leading the Workplace Post COVID-19 - ACWA Webinar - June 2020
- Staying Open: Navigating Workplace Safety Concerns - CSDA Webinar - June 2020
- Managing Employees Through a Pandemic - CSDA Webinar - April 2020
How To Effectively Handle Challenging Disciplinary Cases - CALPELRA Conference - December 2018
Presenter, New Legislation Targets Law Enforcement: Senate Bill 1421 and Assembly Bill 748 Completely Reshape the Law Regarding Disclosure of Peace Officers’ Personnel Files, November 13, 2018 – Ontario Doubletree; November 14, 2018 – AALRR Cerritos office; November 15, 2018, Costa Mesa Center Club.
- “He Said/She Said: But Who To Believe?” - CALPELRA Conference - December 2017
- Responding To Workplace Violence: An Overview Of Violence In The Workplace And Effective Tools For Employers To Combat It - CALPELRA Conference - December 2017
Alerts & Articles
- PERB Provides Clarity on Risk for Repeated Labor Violations in Context of Interest Arbitration Bargaining Dispute05.05.2023
- PERB Reinforces Deferral to Arbitration Doctrine in Context of Retaliation Unfair Practice Claims Brought Under MMBA10.10.2022
- Third Circuit Court Highlights Free Speech Protections for Public Employees in Context of Discipline for Violation of COVID-19 Face Covering Policy07.11.2022
- Appellate Court Reaffirms Importance of Three-Prong Test for Whether Managerial Decision Is Subject to Bargaining06.29.2022
- California Supreme Court Confirms Worker Friendly Evidentiary Standard for Whistleblower Retaliation Claims01.28.2022
- California Public Employers May Face a State Vaccination Mandate Should OSHA Issue Regulations Based on President Biden’s Vaccine Initiative09.23.2021
- PERB Decision Interprets Statute Which Prohibits Public Employers From Deterring or Discouraging Union Membership03.09.2021
- Legal and Practical Considerations for Mandating That Public Employees Obtain a COVID-19 Vaccination12.17.2020
- Cal/OSHA Adopts Expansive and Burdensome Regulations to Mitigate COVID-19 Exposure and Outbreaks in the Workplace12.02.2020
- Local Educational Agencies And Other Public Agencies Subject To New Rebuttable Presumption Standard for COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Claims10.06.2020
- California Mandates COVID-19 Exposure Notification Requirements for Public Employers Starting January 1, 202109.29.2020
- California Enacts Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Law for Large Employers, Emergency Responders, and Health Care Providers09.17.2020
- The California Supreme Court Upholds PEPRA’s Changes to “Compensation Earnable,” But Leaves the “California Rule” Intact08.13.2020
- Governor Issues Executive Order Affecting Statutory Deadlines or Requirements for Collective Bargaining, Administrative Hearings, and POST in Response to COVID-1905.14.2020
- Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Medical Inquiries and Medical Examinations During COVID-19 Pandemic03.27.2020
- Governor Newsom’s Updated List of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” Includes Government Employees03.23.2020
- Governor Newsom Issues a Statewide “Stay Home” Order That Affects But Does Not Close Public Entity Employers03.20.2020
- Eight California Counties and the City of Fresno Release Orders Affecting Public Entity Employers in Those Areas03.19.2020
- Court Requires Record of Threatened Litigation to be Included in Agenda Packet for Closed Session Item03.09.2020
- California Enacts New Independent Contractor Status Analysis - The Impact of AB 5 on Public Agencies10.14.2019
- In a Rare Appellate Decision, the Court Addresses What Constitutes “Special Compensation” For Calculating a Retirement Benefit05.22.2019
- Governor Brown Signs Senate Bill 1421 and Assembly Bill 748; Making Certain Peace Officer Records Subject to Disclosure Under the California Public Records Act10.09.2018
- Practical Tips in the Wake of Recent Changes to the Federal and California Equal Pay Acts and the Ninth Circuit’s Rizo Decision07.19.2018
- Supreme Court Limits Reach of Public Sector Unions in Janus, Finding Agency Fee Arrangements to Be Unconstitutional06.27.2018
- Probationary Employees Who May Be Terminated for Subjective Reasons Lack Property Interest in their Position05.18.2018
- Award of Costs to Prevailing Employers Is “Mandatory” When the Plaintiff Rejects a Section 998 Offer and Fails to Obtain a More Favorable Judgment10.23.2017
- Appellate Court Ruling: Absent a “Clear Showing,” the Presumption Is That a Memorandum of Understanding Does Not Create a Vested Right09.01.2017
- California Legislature Requires Public Employers to Provide Unions with Access to New Employee Orientations and Employees’ Contact Information06.26.2017
- California Court of Appeal Holds That Longevity Performance Bonus Should Be Excluded from Pension Calculations06.13.2017
- Supreme Court Lets Flores Ruling Stand, Requiring Some Employers to Include Cash In Lieu of Benefits in Calculating Overtime Pay05.19.2017
- California Supreme Court Holds Public Records Sent Through Private Email Accounts and Devices May Be Subject to Disclosure03.03.2017
- Appellate Court Rules that MMBA Permits Modified Agency Shop Arrangement Applying Only to New Employees02.08.2017
- PERB’S Order Directing the City Council to Rescind Its Resolution Violated Doctrine of Separation of Powers01.06.2017
- California Court of Appeal Finds Employers Must Accommodate Employee’s Association With Disabled Ind04.18.2016
- AALRR Defeats Class Certification Of Wage and Hour Claims Asserted Against Orange County Transportation Authority07.17.2015
Mr. Kowalski has published articles in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, California Labor and Employment Review, California Special District Magazine, California Public Employee Relations Journal, California Public Employers Labor Relations Association Alerts and California Lawyer. His recent articles include:
"Working Through the Pandemic: Safety Considerations for Employees Returning to Work," CSDA Magazine (Aug. 2020)
- "Bill to Ban Employer's Salary History Questions Advances with Changes," Daily Journal (Sept. 2017)
- "State to Appeal Rather than Give Judges back Pay," Daily Journal (Aug. 2017)
- "New California Law Expands Baby Bonding Leave to Mid-Size Employers," CSDA e-News (Nov. 2017)
- "The Equal Pay Act: New Statutes, New Case Law, New Uncertainties,” CALPELRA (June 2017)
- “Addressing Workplace Violence in California,” Daily Journal (Oct. 2016)
- "Rainmaker Q&A: Atkinson, Andelson's Nate Kowalski," Law 360 (Aug. 2016)
- “Banning Beards at Work Could Get a Little Hairy,” Daily Journal (Aug. 2016)
- “Free Speech Rights Tested by Cyberbullying,” Daily Journal (June 2016)
- “The Cat’s Paw Doctrine: Declawing Summary Judgment,” Daily Journal (May 2016)
- “Deck the Halls with Union Apparel: Legalities of Restricting Displays of Union Paraphernalia,” CALPELRA (May 2016)
- "Romances Make Some Corporations Nervous," The Riverside Press-Enterprise (Feb. 2014)
- "San Diego Pension Reform Initiative Unlawful, PERB Judge Says," Daily Journal (Feb. 2013)
- "Costa Mesa Layoffs Canceled, but Outsourcing Battle Continues," Daily Journal (Dec. 2012)
- "More Women Claiming Bias Over Pregnancy," The Riverside Press-Enterprise (April 2012)
- "Sexual Harassment Hasn’t Gone Away," The Riverside Press-Enterprise (Jan. 2012)
- "Voters Must OK Cuts in Charter Cities: Judge," Daily Journal (Nov. 2011)
- "Public Employee Lawsuits Pit City Charters Against State Law," Daily Journal (Nov. 2011)
- "Prescription Pot Does Not Fly at Employee Screenings," The Riverside Press-Enterprise (Oct. 2009)
- Public Entity Labor & Employment Law Blog, 02.03.2023
- Failure to Comply with the EEOC’s Claim-filing Requirements May Not Bar Courts from Hearing Discrimination CasesEdLawConnect Blog, 06.12.2019
- Failure to Comply with the EEOC’s Claim-filing Requirements May Not Bar Courts from Hearing Discrimination CasesLabor & Employment Law Blog, 06.12.2019
- Labor & Employment Law Blog, 10.03.2014
- Labor & Employment Law Blog, 10.08.2010
- U.S. Supreme Court Uholds Employer Search Of Pager Text Message Records Where Search Was Work-Related And Limited In ScopeLabor & Employment Law Blog, 06.22.2010
Community & Professional
Mr. Kowalski volunteers at a number of community organizations, including Fullerton Pony & Little League Baseball; Cub Scouts; Irvine Novaquatics; and Servite High School Robotics. He is a member of the University of Michigan Alumni Association.