LABOR RELATIONS SERVICE AND PERSONNEL

Leal ▪ Trejo, APC, has significant experience working with employers to aid them in facilitating their relationships with labor unions. We counsel employers on collective bargaining strategies, preparing bargaining proposals, grievance and arbitration proceedings. We also handle charges and petitions before the EEOC and the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).

We are acutely aware of the potential sensitivities associated with negotiating labor contracts. For this reason, any proposals will be thoroughly scrutinized to seek out and remedy any possible pitfalls in order to ensure that the District is satisfied with those agreements. Our attorneys are available to meet with District staff before, during, and after negotiation sessions to discuss strategies, issues, analysis, and legal compliance in order to ensure that the District is confident with the agreement.

During the negotiation process, our attorneys can be on site with District staff to assist with the evaluation of union proposals. Alternatively, our attorneys will be readily available by phone, email, and fax to discuss any proposals that are made during negotiations. We are also experienced in working with the governing boards during the negotiations process. Our experience with the negotiation process with past and current clients gives our attorneys the insight needed to accurately gauge and assess proposals in the context of current markets. It will be our Firm’s intent to create and construct an agreement that will not be unduly burdensome in today’s climate, and which will be adequately flexible in order to adapt to unforeseen future events.

In the event that labor and employment related claims are filed with the EEOC, DFEH, or PERB, we will assist the District to prepare a defense and file an answer. Our attorneys have experience addressing such charges and will investigate the merits of any claims and file any appropriate response. The Firm’s attorneys will meet with staff and employees to obtain investigatory statements, file any and all responsive documents, engage in mediation and negotiation, and, if necessary, conduct a hearing and prepare closing briefs. Throughout the process, the attorney handling the case will provide updates to appropriate staff, as well as seek input and offer counsel regarding its direction. If and when these claims arise, it is the Firm’s goal to minimize the District’s costs and exposure and it is the Firm’s commitment to resolve these claims as quickly, yet advantageously, as reasonable.

In addition to its experience assisting with labor negotiations and addressing unfair labor practice charges, Leal ▪ Trejo, APC, has considerable experience handling Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) actions; Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protections and actions; Due process requirements in the public sector; Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) compliance; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibiting harassment or discrimination, and Workers’ compensation claims and issues.

All of the attorneys on our team, have experience handling personnel-related matters. Having handled many personnel-related cases in the past on behalf of public agencies, our attorneys are intensely aware of legal matters in regard to subpoenas of employee records and the California Public Records Act.

As legal counsel to various school districts, our attorneys have provided advice regarding employee layoffs, discipline, and discharge. Our attorneys are coalition-builders because we work with all parties involved to ensure that a fair consensus is reached during such circumstances. As special counsel to school districts, we have experience guiding elected boards on high-level employee negotiations, evaluations and terminations

CONTRACT ADMINISTRATION

Our proposed team is well versed in the California Public Contracts Code and the Education Code. We have experience handling an array of contract issues, including bidding obligations, risk management, releases, indemnity provisions, and insurance requirements. Our transactions practice includes advising on professional services and the full range of procurement related issues. Ms. Medina has provided contracts training for school business officials in Santa Clara County.

We have guided boards of education through specific Education Code procedures related to the sale of surplus property. Our aim is to provide advice that is clear and concise so clients feel informed in their decisions on how to address complex matters.

SPECIAL EDUCATION

Leal ▪ Trejo understands the growing concerns of many school districts about ensuring compliance, limiting legal liability, and being able to stay current with the many changes in the law. To cope with the many issues school districts encounter, Leal ▪ Trejo believes that school districts must be prepared to take fundamental steps to effect change. By shifting the approach to the delivery of Special Education services, school districts can achieve cost savings in the area of compliance. These savings can then be reallocated where they are needed most – student services.

Special Education Review: Taking our Children on a New Path:

Our Special Education experts know the complex arena of special education law has forced many school districts to create a similarly complex educational department with various positions, forms, and policies attempting to handle the many different federal and state requirements. However, this reactive method of problem solving unduly complicates procedural compliance and gives rise to systemic problems.

Thus, the first fundamental step to effect change must be an honest and thorough evaluation of the current state of a school district’s special education program and its effectiveness in serving students with special needs. Through this process school districts can identify inefficiencies and, perhaps, areas of non-compliance before they can evolve into litigation. An audit must consist of the following:

  • Review the organizational chart and analyze the duties and responsibilities of each position as it relates to special education to determine if there is unnecessary repetition of responsibilities or areas that are not properly staffed.
  • Review a cross sample of students’ individualized education programs from every school site to ensure compliance with procedural requirements and to determine whether the services in the IEP are being implemented according to the requirements of the IDEA. Such an analysis can reveal whether issues are the result of one school-site, an administrator, or a case-carrier.
  • Review the school district’s special education policies and analyze whether they comport with current federal and state special education law.
  • Observe the delivery of special education services, IEP meetings, and the overall daily activities of the special education department to determine how the school district’s policies are actually enacted.
  • Review and analyze the level, type, and quality of communication between the school district, school-sites, administrators, teachers, community, families and students. We will look at school brochures, flyers, special education forms, and how they are being transmitted.
  • Determine whether student files are properly maintained, stored, and updated.
  • Interview department staff, school administrators, and teachers about their role and concerns.
  • Compare student IEPs with student’s class schedule to determine whether they appropriately reflect IEPs. Interview counselors to determine how students with IEPs are being scheduled and whether special education students’ class schedules improperly segregate them from general education students.

Collaborative Resolution to Special Education Concerns and Disputes:

Litigation significantly adds to the cost of special education programs by diverting funds away from the delivery of services and toward defending against compliance claims. The root cause of most litigation can be summarized as the failure to provide parents and students with a voice in the educational process. However, litigation costs can be minimized through the use of an effective alternative dispute resolution program. Pursuant to section 1415(f) of the IDEA, school districts are provided an opportunity to resolve disputes in a preliminary meeting before parents are entitled to a due process hearing. Resolving issues promptly and effectively will expedite the determination and delivery of appropriate services for students rather than having families seek litigation to effectuate services.

Thus, the goal for school districts is to capitalize on such opportunities by maintaining a functioning and effective dispute resolution program at all levels – classroom, school site, and district – even before a petition for due process is even filed.

School districts and their school sites must establish a local policy for registering, reviewing, and resolving disputes.

  • Teachers must be informed about the importance of their role in communicating with parents.
  • Case carriers should be informed about information provided by different teachers of each student, concerns, and be able to provide flexibility when providing recommendations for placement options, services, and testing.
  • Create a paper trail – create and make widely available district forms parents may use to explain and voice their concerns that will be collected, logged, and transmitted to proper venues.
  • Form task forces to investigate issues and problem solve with parents. Utilize school district resources by assigning a different special education teacher or program specialist to work with the parents if the same issues arise.
  • Develop contacts for experts in various areas of special education to assist in mediating disputes. Teams of experts will be utilized as neutral third parties when a dispute cannot be resolved solely between the school district and the parents of the student.

Taken together, these procedures can significantly reduce school districts’ exposure to litigation and, consequently, their legal costs, allowing districts to redirect those funds to the delivery of services to students.

Partnership: A New Methodology to Resolve Special Education Issues:

The main purpose of special education is to provide an educational benefit to students with a disability. This goal is never achieved in an adversarial environment where parents are untrusting of teachers and administrators.

Students’ attorneys, advocates, parents, and students themselves, should be invited to participate in a collaborative effort of improving special education. By forming relationships with the community, a school district will be in a better position to prevent the possibility of class action lawsuits and unnecessary litigation.

  • Utilize Community Advisory Committees to inform students and their families about disabilities and available resources. The more knowledgeable families become about alternative mechanism for resolving disputes, the less likely they will resort to litigation.
  • Develop written information to explain school district resources and procedures.
  • Invite student advocates and attorneys to share their concerns with administrators. Prevalent groups in the area, such as the Disability Rights Education, Learning Rights Center and Defense Fund and Protection and Advocacy, may be interested in developing collaborative efforts to improve the special education program.
  • Reach out to local universities and colleges to develop training programs with on-the-job opportunities for teachers, aides, and therapists.
  • Form relationships with local hospitals and clinics in order to enhance resources for information and support.

STUDENT DISCIPLINE

Our team has extensive representing school districts and county offices of education on matters related to student discipline. We counsel staff on student expulsions and have particular expertise on expulsion appeals to the county boards of education. Our team is also experienced in inter- and intra-district transfers as well as inter-district transfer appeals. Ms. Medina has particular expertise in handling residency fraud matters. Our attorneys are trained in responding to student records requests, including responding to subpoenas.

LITIGATION SERVICES

Leal ▪ Trejo, APC, has a knowledgeable, experienced litigation team that handles all aspects of preparing cases for trial, particularly on behalf of public agencies.

Leal ▪ Trejo, LLP’s experience includes handling all phases of commercial and municipal litigation in both State and Federal courts. In addition, we have handled complex, multi-district litigation in the areas of banking, civil rights, construction, professional liability, insurance coverage, and employment and business disputes.

Our litigation team handles claims under the Tort Claims Act, provides advice on requests for information under the California Public Records Act, and counsels public entities regarding statutory and administrative regulations and procedures. Moreover, our litigation team is capable of preparing discovery and conducting investigations.

GOVERNANCE

We advise staff and school board members on governance and conflict of interest; how to respond to California Public Records requests; California’s Open Meeting Laws; and the proper application, interpretation and implementation of Board policies and procedures.

Brown Act

We have advised on complex questions involving the Brown Act. Providing training for local officials and staff regarding the Brown Act and other California laws that affect public agencies is a regular aspect of our team’s engagement. Although advising on the Brown Act is a basic function a public law attorney, we know its importance to our clients, and continuously monitor new cases, legislation and practices for nuanced Brown Act implications.

Conflict of Interest

We provide advice to public agencies on conflict of interest under the Political Reform Act, Government Code Section 1090 and other conflict of interest laws. Ms. Medina has conducted extensive conflict of interest training for school district Chief Business Officials in Santa Clara County.

Public Records

We are very familiar with the California Public Records Act (“PRA”) requirements and have extensive experience helping clients avoid issues in responding to such requests. We actively pursue ways to fulfill client needs with services that are innovative and cost-effective.

Charter Schools

We have significant expertise on all aspects of charter school law. Our attorneys have been involved in litigation involving charter school issues of first impression, as well as seeking clarification on charter school matters through the Legislative Counsel’s office. We work closely with district staff in the charter petition review process, preparing the necessary written findings and guiding staff and the elected board on the public hearing requirements. Our team of attorneys has particular expertise in appeals of charter school denials both to the county offices of education and the State Board of Education.

We assist clients in responding to Proposition 39 facilities requests, including negotiating.

Construction Matters

Our team has expertise in school construction, real estate, procurement, and bidding and contracting. We have counseled on all aspects of school construction, from delivery method to close-out. Ms. Medina has previously served as legal counsel for Citizen Bond Oversight Committees. She was experience guiding school districts on bond programs, including interfacing with community stakeholders, bond counsel, and financial consultants. Members of our team also have expertise litigating construction defect cases, as well as delay, disruption, and acceleration claims.

Environmental Compliance and Litigation

In its representation of public agencies for over a decade, Leal ▪ Trejo, APC, has significant experience in handling environmental matters and compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as well as issues arising from the enforcement of Federal and State Superfund laws and from local laws dealing with contamination caused by leaking underground storage tanks. The Firm has expertise in the oversight and management of both district and project compliance regulations and has vast experience in the inter-agency dynamics that surround environmental compliance in California.

Election Law

Our attorneys have extensive experience in a variety of election-related matters, including municipal elections, referenda, and initiatives.

Legislative Services / Lobbying

Leal ▪ Trejo is affiliated with the Legislative Advocacy Group, a full service lobbying firm registered with the California Secretary of State. As such, we have a developed legislative advocacy practice with expertise in the representation of private and public entities including municipalities, healthcare providers, school districts, water districts, and regional and state agencies. Lobbying services include identifying legislative priorities and developing a persuasive advocacy plan; drafting proposed legislation; and preparing clients to present policy positions before various California Legislative Standing and Select Committees.