Navigating Compliance in COVID19: Return to Work and ADA/FEHA

Interview with Lisa Aguiar and Eric De Wames of Michael Sullivan & Associates

At the California HR Conference, we’re dedicated to California employment law and the California-specific credits that can be so tough to find. Michael Sullivan & Associates attorneys Lisa Aguiar and Eric De Wames are two of our expert presenters next week at CAHR20, and they’re diving into key compliance topics.

Prior to the pandemic, employers and their HR professionals regularly tackled and often struggled with compliance under the rigors of FEHA and ADA mandates in California.

In this brave new era, the challenges often seem overwhelming as employers address applications of existing and new laws to COVID-19 scenarios.

Join Michael Sullivan & Associates expert employment attorneys Lisa Aguiar and Eric De Wames as they explain and apply these laws to the realities of pandemic-related issues. The MS&A experts will advise attendees on the strategies for handling when law and its application are unclear.

At this session, CAHR20 attendees will learn how to determine whether teleworking is a reasonable accommodation, as well as tips on handling teleworking accommodation requests and the importance of teleworking policies. 

Attendees will also learn how to handle and navigate compliance in difficult return to work situations like returning employees considered vulnerable, handling employee health concerns, and fears upon returning.

If you’re not sure if the Coronavirus falls within the definition of “disability” for ADA and FEHA purposes and, if so, how to properly accommodate exposed and positive employees, this is the session for you. 

Finally, attendees will learn how COVID-19 has impacted and exacerbated employees pre-existing medical conditions and why employers may need to accommodate these employees.

To get to know Lisa Aguiar and Eric De Wames a bit more, we asked them a few questions below!

Read on and be sure to sign up for CAHR20 and start making meaningful HR connections in our conference platform today. Your career will thank you!

Compliance during COVID19 with Lisa Aguiar at CAHR20Why See Lisa and Eric at CAHR20?

Ms. Lisa Aguiar, Attorney Of Counsel, practices exclusively employment law, and represents a wide range of businesses. Previously, as Managing Partner at the firm, she headed its employment law practice, and was responsible for growing the firm’s new employment law division. She supervised that practice area in the firm’s offices statewide. Ms. Aguiar represents private and public sector businesses in all aspects of employment law defense. She develops defense strategy from initial claim through trial, with an emphasis on preventing litigation and reducing exposure. She is an experienced advocate for large companies with a unionized workforce. Among her notable successes are favorable resolutions of claims with the National Labor Relations Board and of administrative audits by the Department of Labor, Department of Labor Standard Enforcement and the Employment Development Department.

Before her promotion to Partner, Ms. Aguiar was Managing Attorney, regularly handlings wage-and-hour disputes, claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and violations of the ADA. Ms. Aguiar has worked on hundreds of cases in both federal and state court, resolving countless cases through mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. Ms. Aguiar is a certified business coach, and assists her clients in employment-mandated training as well as workshops to develop the leadership and communication skills of managers and executives.

As the founder of Aguiar Law Offices in Los Gatos, Ms. Aguiar established a practice devoted exclusively to employment law. She counseled her clients in matters of hiring, termination, compensation and severance. She negotiated proprietary/confidentiality agreements, and advised about technology policies. She successfully defended against a multimillion-dollar overtime/bonus claim by employees of a multinational manufacturing company.

Ms. Aguiar received her Juris Doctor degree from McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, where she graduated with honors. She received her undergraduate degrees from Santa Clara University, graduating magna cum laude. She was a member of the Phi Alpha Theta National History Honor Society.
Compliance during COVID19 with Eric De Wames at CAHR20Managing Partner Eric De Wames leads Michael Sullivan & Associates’ employment law practice for its nine offices throughout California. Mr. De Wames is a 17-year vetted Trial Attorney, representing businesses in the full range of employment and labor law matters including wage-and-hour, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination claims, with particular expertise in PAGA representative and class actions. He is an expert in devising creative and effective strategies for investigating, litigating and negotiating settlements that serve the individualized needs of every client. He counsels business owners, managers and HR professionals on federal and state labor regulations, and is an experienced advocate before the EEOC, DLSE and other governmental agencies. Mr. De Wames serves as counsel for the full range of employer businesses from small startups to Fortune 500 companies. A well-regarded expert on all things employment law, Mr. De Wames devotes considerable time to speaking engagements like CAHR20 in order to aid employers and their HR advocates to navigate California’s rigorous and ever-evolving compliance laws, with an emphasis on litigation prevention.

Without further ado, here is our interview with CAHR20 Presenters Lisa Aguiar & Eric De Wames!


CAHR20: We’d love to ask you a personal question to kick this off. Can you tell us about a rewarding experience you’ve had in your career – whether pre- or mid-COVID?

Lisa Aguiar & Eric De Wames: One of the more recent deeply rewarding and unique experiences was the opportunity to try one of the first in-person civil jury trials amidst the pandemic. Lisa and I defended an employer in a disability-related trial our client battled for over 5 1/2 years. Being two of the first trial attorneys in CA experiencing the new jury trial world and in person, although at times chaotic with new procedure, was still one of the most memorable trials of my career. After 6 weeks we defensed the case in our client’s favor. We were honored to make a difference for our client during such uniquely trying times.

Aithan Shapira, CAHR20 Keynote Speaker

CAHR20: As you’ve mentioned, ADA & FEHA compliance have been difficult for HR professionals to navigate even prior to the pandemic. What’s the top compliance issue that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic?

Lisa & Eric: By far, the cross-over implementation of all the new and existing leaves with reasonable accommodation/disability analysis continues to be a challenge for HR. Tracking the applicable leaves under varying fact patterns that COVID presents have tested even the most experienced attorneys and HR professionals.

CAHR20: Without giving too much away, what is one takeaway CAHR20 attendees will receive from your session?

Lisa & Eric: A real world perspective on where the analysis will be focused in the coming months and how to apply FEHA in tandem with the other competing leave issues.


Thank you both for your time!

Gain even more actionable insights from expert employment law attorneys like Lisa Aguiar & Eric De Wames at the Virtual 2020 California HR Conference.

Your time and budget are especially precious these days. That’s why we designed the Virtual CAHR20, happening October 27-29: a compact, 3-day live event featuring the top minds from a variety of industries, providing you with a whopping 30+ HR recertification credits. 

Secure excellent HR professional development at a reasonable cost. PIHRA members, save $100 off prevailing registration rates with your ID #!


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