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Lisa P. Mak Wins Appeals Court Decision Allowing Client to Pursue Harassment Claims in Court Instead of Forced, Private Arbitration

Lisa P. Mak Wins Appeals Court Decision Allowing Client to Pursue Harassment Claims in Court Instead of Forced, Private Arbitration

On December 13, 2018, the California First District Court of Appeal affirmed the ruling of the San Mateo Superior Court that our client, plaintiff Marisol Gutierrez, was not required to submit her sexual harassment claims against her former employer to forced arbitration.

Marisol Gutierrez began working for Flying Food Group LLC (FFG) in food and liquor assembly in the fall of 2012. At that time, Ms. Gutierrez joined Unite Here! Local 2, the union that represented certain classes of FFG employees according to the collective bargaining agreement between FFG and the Union. Ms. Gutierrez alleged that during her employment at FFG, she was subjected to verbal and physical sexual harassment at work by male supervisors and co-workers.

In May 2015, Minami Tamaki filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Gutierrez in San Mateo Superior Court against FFG for sexual harassment and hostile work environment, failure to prevent sexual harassment, and national origin discrimination, all in violation of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Immediately after Ms. Gutierrez filed this case, FFG filed a petition to force the case into private arbitration based on the Union’s collective bargaining agreement. In private arbitration, legal claims are usually decided by a sole arbitrator without a jury trial, and the decision would be binding with limited grounds for appeal. The trial court agreed with Ms. Gutierrez that she did not have to arbitrate her statutory discrimination claims because the arbitration language was not clear and specific enough in the collective bargaining agreement. FFG immediately appealed the trial court’s ruling, delaying the case for another two years.

The appellate court unanimously upheld the lower court’s order in Ms. Gutierrez’s favor. Specifically, the appellate court followed the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Wright v. Universal Maritime Service Corp. and held that in the context of a union collective bargaining agreement, the requirement to arbitrate statutory discrimination claims must be clearly and unmistakably stated, including specifying the statutes that will be subject to arbitration. The appellate court also held that the Supreme Court’s decision in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, favoring enforcement of arbitration agreements under the Federal Arbitration Act, did not apply here because the collective bargaining agreement did not include any agreement to arbitrate statutory discrimination claims. This ruling means Ms. Gutierrez can pursue her statutory harassment claims in court instead of a forced, private arbitration.

Julia Macri Joins Minami Tamaki’s Immigration Practice

Julia Macri Joins Minami Tamaki’s Immigration Practice

Julia Macri has joined Minami Tamaki’s Immigration and Nationality Law practice group as an Associate.

Julia has more than eight years of experience providing immigration solutions to multinational companies and individuals, having worked in Europe, Canada, and the United States. She has performed immigration audits for Fortune 500 companies and overseen the development of global programs for growing companies.

She provides advice on all aspects of immigration, including nonimmigrant and immigrant status. Julia has extensive experience working on extraordinary ability cases (from movie directors to regulatory affairs managers), outstanding researcher cases (from software engineers to molecular biologists), and complex requests for evidence. She has also worked on numerous successful appeals to the Administrative Appeals Office.

Julia is a member of the California State Bar and the Law Society of Upper Canada. She received her Honors Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto, where she majored in history, and obtained her Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Ottawa. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, including the Global Migration Section. She was also a member of the Global Migration Section’s 2017-2018 Steering Committee and she is currently Vice Chair of AILA’s Global Migration Section’s Audiovisual Committee

Olivia Serene Lee Named Partner at Minami Tamaki LLP

Olivia Serene Lee Named Partner at Minami Tamaki LLP

The Minami Tamaki LLP law firm has named Olivia Serene Lee as Partner, effective January 1, 2019. She has been an attorney in the firm’s Immigration and Nationality Law practice since January 2009.

“We are so thrilled to have Olivia join the partnership,” said Minette Kwok, the firm partner who leads the Immigration and Nationality Law practice. “She brings her dedication, smarts, rainmaking, vision, and heart to this next generation of leadership to the firm. The future of Minami Tamaki LLP is in good hands.”

Olivia’s expertise is in counseling companies on a variety of employment-based immigration matters. She regularly advises on immigration matter for companies in all phases, including pre-formation, funding, accelerator/incubator programs, acquisitions and mergers, spinoff, and public offering.

She has been recognized as a Northern California Super Lawyers Rising Star from 2014-2018 and listed in the 2018 and 2019 Best Lawyers in America for Immigration Law. Olivia was instrumental in Minami Tamaki LLP being recognized with a top ranking on the U.S. News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list in the Immigration category.

Olivia this year also received a Unity Award from the Minority Bar Coalition in her role in championing diversity and inclusion for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Northern California Chapter and for AILA National.  She is a leader and former chair of AILA NorCal and currently serves on AILA National’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Olivia served as 2016-2017 Chair for AILA NorCal and previously as a member of the AILA NorCal Executive Board.  AILA is the national bar for immigration attorneys, and AILA NorCal is one of its larger chapters, with over 1000 members.

She has also met with Congressional offices in Washington, DC, and in the local San Francisco area to advocate for immigration reform. She served as faculty on local and national AILA CLE panels on topics such as O-1s, H-1Bs, and business immigration litigation in federal court.

Olivia received her Juris Doctor from Santa Clara University School of Law in 2008. She was admitted to the California Bar in 2008 and is also admitted to practice in the United States District Court, Northern District of California.

The Immigration and Nationality Law practice group of Minami Tamaki LLP offers expertise in a broad array of immigration services, routinely assisting employers and employees in obtaining temporary and permanent employment-based visas. The practice group also helps individual clients to secure family-based immigration status through marriage or other qualifying family relationships.

Minami Tamaki Investigating Marriott Data Breach

Minami Tamaki Investigating Marriott Data Breach

Minami Tamaki LLP is investigating Marriott’s recent announcement of a massive data breach involving its Starwood guest reservation database.  Marriott announced on November, 30, 2018, that this breach exposed the personal information of up to 500 million customers.

Marriott revealed that hackers were able to copy information in the Starwood guest reservation database that included passport numbers, credit card information, Starwood Preferred Guest (“SPG”) account information, travel details, and/or other personal information.

According to Marriott’s data breach website, the company received an alert from an internal security tool on September 8, 2018, regarding an attempt to access the Starwood guest reservation database.  Marriott launched an investigation in response to this attempt, and then learned that there had been unauthorized access to the Starwood network dating back to 2014.

Customers who booked and/or stayed at numerous Starwood properties may have been affected by the data breach. Starwood brands include: W Hotels, St. Regis, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Element Hotels, Aloft Hotels, The Luxury Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts, Four Points by Sheraton, Starwood timeshare properties, and Design Hotels that participate in the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program.  Marriott International became the largest hotel chain in the world in 2016 after acquiring Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide in 2016.

Marriott announced that it has begun sending e-mails about the data breach to affected guests on a “rolling” basis. If you booked or stayed at a Starwood property and wish to discuss this matter, you may contact us at (415) 788-9000 or through our online form.  We look forward to the opportunity to speak with you.

Minami Tamaki at NAPABA Convention 2018

Minami Tamaki at NAPABA Convention 2018

Minami Tamaki LLP attorneys Dale Minami, Don Tamaki, Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, and Seema Bhatt recently attended the annual National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) National Convention in Chicago. The Convention had over 2,000 Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law students, and elected officials attending from around the country.

This year, Dale, Don, and Karen Korematsu (Founder & Executive Director of The Fred T. Korematsu Institute) were awarded the NAPABA President’s Award.  This award recognizes NAPABA members who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to NAPABA, the legal community, and the broader APA community.

Dale, Don, and Karen received this year’s award for their work on the “Stop Repeating History” campaign (StopRepeatingHistory.Org), which educates the public on the dangers of unchecked presidential power and the parallels between the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the current administration’s policies targeting minority groups based on race or religion.  In his award acceptance remarks, Don urged APA attorneys to lead on this issue due to our communities’ experience with racist and xenophobic immigration policies.


Partners Donald K. Tamaki (left) and Dale Minami (right) meeting audience members after their panel on the Korematsu v. United States and Trump v. Hawaii cases.

Don and Karen also spoke on a panel with Hoyt Zia (an original founding member of NAPABA), and moderated by Dale, about the parallels between the Korematsu v. United States and Trump v. Hawaii cases.  Don and Dale were members of the legal team that overturned Fred Korematsu’s conviction for his defiance of Japanese American exclusion orders during World War II.  

The panel discussion was preceded by a screening of the powerful film, “And Then They Came For Us,” which compares the Japanese American incarceration with the Muslim travel ban.  The film, produced by Peabody award-winning director Abby Ginzberg, won the 2018 ABA Silver Gavel Award, and has been a cornerstone of the “Stop Repeating History” campaign.


Associate Lisa P. Mak (second from left and on screen) served as panelist for a plenary session on the #MeToo movement.

Lisa was a panelist for a convention plenary luncheon session entitled “Beyond #MeToo: How Asian Americans Can Challenge Sexual Harassment in the Workplace,” with about 1,000 attendees.  The all-women panel discussed the impact of the #MeToo movement in the workplace, strategies to improve equality for women in the legal industry, and the unique challenges of addressing sexual harassment in APA communities.  During her remarks, Lisa emphasized the importance of being upstanders and allies for harassment victims in order to create a cultural change for the fair treatment of women.

Our firm also helped to sponsor the NAPABA Solo & Small Firm Network (SSF) stipend program, which provides funds for SSF committee members to attend the conference and future NAPABA events.  “Minami Tamaki is a longtime proponent of SSF’s work, including the committee’s CLE Bootcamp that provides legal skills training and business advice to SSF attendees at the Convention. The firm is proud to contribute to SSF’s mission of building and supporting APA-owned law firms,” said Partner Sean Tamura-Sato.


Partner Sean Tamura-Sato (left), Associate Lisa P. Mak (right), with other attendees at one of the NAPABA convention lunches.

This year, the late San Francisco Mayor Edwin Mah Lee was honored with the Daniel K. Inouye Trailblazer Award, NAPABA’s most prestigious award which recognizes the outstanding achievements, commitment, and leadership of lawyers who have paved the way for the advancement of other APA attorneys.  The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA) spearheaded the nomination of Mayor Lee for this award.

Our firm congratulates outgoing President Pankit Doshi from San Francisco for his successful leadership this year. Daniel Sakaguchi, also from San Francisco, was sworn in as the new NAPABA President. Both Pankit and Daniel are members of AABA, which was co-founded by Dale Minami over 40 years ago.

Minami Tamaki is proud to continue supporting NAPABA and its efforts to address civil rights issues, promote professional development, and increase diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

Photo credits: John B. Lough, Lisa P. Mak, Betty Hsu, Winston Liaw

Jennifer Fraissl wins $4.5 million jury award in case against Skrillex

Jennifer Fraissl wins $4.5 million jury award in case against Skrillex

A Los Angeles jury on Nov. 20 awarded Jennifer Fraissl $4.5 million in damages against DJ and producer Skrillex (real name Sonny John Moore), his touring company, Lost Boys Touring Company, Inc., and the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles.

Fraissl alleged that on February 11, 2012, Skrillex stage dove at the end of his set, causing her to be struck in the back of her head and neck. Although she was unaware of it at the time, the blow caused her to suffer a rare vertebral artery dissection, followed by a catastrophic stroke 16 days later.

The jury voted 12-0, finding all defendants negligent and responsible for Fraissl’s stroke.  The jury found Skrillex 35 percent responsible, Lost Boys Touring, Inc. 40 percent responsible, and the Belasco Theater 10 percent liable.  The jury awarded Fraissl $4.5 million in damages, which will be reduced to over $3.8 million because the jury found Fraissl 15 percent at fault.

Fraissl was represented by Seth I. Rosenberg of Emergent LLP, and B. Mark Fong of Minami Tamaki LLP. Fraissl’s attorneys believe this is the first successful jury award in a case involving injuries resulting from a performer’s crowd dive.

Fraissl’s case faced numerous obstacles, including asking the jury to find the defendants liable for a blow that could not be seen on videos of the show, and which occurred in a setting where many people assume stage diving occurs. Fraissl’s attorneys also had to convince the jury that her stroke being caused by the blow to her head two weeks earlier was not only possible, but probable. Ultimately, credible expert and lay witnesses, plus a remarkably effective trial presentation prevailed.

“Skrillex caused Jennifer Fraissl to be injured, and the jury saw past his celebrity and wealth to hold him and the other defendants responsible,” said Rosenberg. “We presented a common-sense case despite attempts by the Skrillex team to blame the victim.”

Fraissl’s attorneys called experts from fields such as vascular neurology, interventional neuroradiology, security, and biomechanics to explain the complexity of arterial dissections and stroke, as well as crowd dynamics during a stage dive.

“Jennifer Fraissl showed that when the truth is on your side, David can beat Goliath,” said Fong. “We’re glad Jennifer persevered through this six-year-long case and are thankful to the jury and the judge for a fair and impartial trial.”

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Minami Tamaki Investigating Health Risks of Toxic Dog Food

Minami Tamaki Investigating Health Risks of Toxic Dog Food

Minami Tamaki LLP is investigating claims that pet food companies are manufacturing, advertising, and selling dog food that contains dangerous levels of heavy metals and toxins throughout the United States.

Several consumers have recently filed claims against Champion Petfoods, the makers of Acana and Orijen dog food, alleging that the company misrepresents and fails to fully disclose the presence of heavy metals and toxins known to pose health risks to humans and animals. These ingredients include arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, and/or Bisphenol A (“BPA”).

Consumers allege that Champion Petfoods has created a niche by selling dog food marketed as “biologically appropriate” and made of higher-quality ingredients. The complaints state that Champion Petfoods charges a premium for its products based on claims that they consist of fresh meat and vegetables.

Purchasers of Acana and Orijen are not alone in raising concerns about ingredients in popular brands of dog food recently. In August 2018, a New York pet owner alleged that the dog food brand Nutrish marketed as “natural” actually contained the chemical glyphosate, an herbicide used in weed-killer brands. Earlier this year, another New York dog owner filed a lawsuit alleging that the Kibbles ‘n Bits dog food she purchased for her dog contained pentobarbital, a controlled substance used to euthanize animals.  

Illnesses and even deaths linked to consumption of pet food are unfortunately not a new issue in the United States.  While some companies have sought to market themselves as an alternative to purchasing pet food that contains potentially harmful ingredients, recent allegations have raised questions about the validity of these health claims.

Conscientious pet owners are increasingly paying a premium for “fresh,” “natural” food for their pets.  These consumers expect to receive a premium product, and make their purchasing decisions to ensure that the food they provide to their beloved pets is safe to consume.  Companies that prey on consumers’ health concerns for their own profit may be in violation of state and/or federal law.

For more information, you may contact us online or call us at 415-788-9000 to set up a free consultation.

U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ 2019 Recognizes Minami Tamaki’s Immigration and Personal Injury Practices

U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ 2019 Recognizes Minami Tamaki’s Immigration and Personal Injury Practices

Minami Tamaki LLP has again received a Tier 1 ranking on the U.S. News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list under the “Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs” and “Immigration” categories for our metro area.

This is the fifth consecutive recognition by U.S. News/Best Lawyers of our Personal Injury practice and the fourth consecutive year of our Immigration and Nationality Law practice.

The U.S.News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.

To be eligible for a U.S.News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” ranking, a law firm must have at least one lawyer who is included in Best Lawyers in that particular practice area and metro.

Earlier this year, Partners Dale Minami, Minette A. Kwok, B. Mark Fong, and Senior Associate Olivia Serene Lee were selected by The Best Lawyers in America, which qualified the firm to be considered for the Best Law Firms list.

The attorneys in Minami Tamaki’s Personal Injury Practice Group fight for the rights of people who are injured or have suffered the loss of loved ones due to the carelessness of others. We use a team approach which brings all of the resources of our practice group to bear on our cases. This has allowed us to recover multi-million dollar settlements and large verdicts for our clients.

The Immigration and Nationality Law Practice Group of Minami Tamaki LLP offers expertise in a broad array of immigration services. We routinely assist employers and employees, nation-wide, in obtaining temporary and permanent employment-based visas. And, just as often, we help individual clients to secure family-based immigration status through marriage or other qualifying family relationships.

Olivia Serene Lee to Receive Minority Bar Coalition Unity Award on Behalf of AILA Northern California

Olivia Serene Lee to Receive Minority Bar Coalition Unity Award on Behalf of AILA Northern California

Olivia Serene Lee will receive a Unity Award from the Minority Bar Coalition in her role in championing diversity and inclusion for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Northern California Chapter and for AILA National.  She is a leader and former chair of AILA NorCal and currently serves on AILA National’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

A Senior Associate in our Immigration and Nationality Law practice group, Olivia served as 2016-2017 Chair for AILA NorCal and previously as a member of the AILA NorCal Executive Board.  AILA is the national bar for immigration attorneys, and AILA NorCal is one of its larger chapters, with over 850 members.

This year’s Unity Awards reception will be held at 198 McAllister Street at U.C. Hastings Law School, on November 13, 2018, in the Louis B. Mayer room on the ground floor. The Minority Bar Coalition will honor Olivia and other members who have shown dedication to working in a unified manner to advance the cause of diversity in the legal profession.

The Minority Bar Coalition is a network of over 40 diverse bar associations dedicated to working in a unified manner to advance the cause of diversity in the legal profession. MBC does this by sharing best practices and resources in bar association programming and advocacy, finding issues of common cause, and building shared platforms.

During her tenure as chair of the Northern California Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the chapter received the Platinum Chapter Award, the organization’s highest honor for chapters, in June 2017. Under Olivia’s leadership, AILA NorCal was at the forefront in proactively responding to the institutional assault against immigrants. When the Trump administration attempted to enact a travel ban on Muslims, AILA NorCal was one of the first groups to respond, providing services at airports, and offering assistance to those impacted.

Olivia has been actively involved in AILA NorCal since 2009, leading and organizing more than 30 Continuing Legal Education programs in all aspects of immigration law, including prosecutorial discretion, export control, PERM, waivers, asylum, and events with immigration judges, USCIS, CBP, DOL and asylum officers. She also served as faculty on local and national AILA CLE panels on topics such as O-1s and H-1Bs.