Elena Baca is the Global Chair of the Paul Hastings Employment Law Department, and leads a diverse group of more than 80 lawyers in 10 offices around the world. Ms. Baca has navigated high-stakes litigation, conducted sensitive investigations and advised C-suite executives and corporate boards on compliance and regulatory issues involving human capital. In her role as practice Chair, Paul Hastings’ Employment Department has anticipated and led the response to evolving employment issues including employee and shareholder activism, AI, COVID, DEI and ESG. Ms. Baca is recognized as a leading trial lawyer by many notable publications. She has been consistently ranked by Chambers USA and The Legal 500 as one of the top employment defense lawyers in California.
Chambers USA has noted that her “litigation track record and outstanding trial victories stand out in the legal marketplace, due to both her sheer volume of wins and the ways in which these decisions are helping to shape future employment and labor law, particularly in California.” Clients have referred to her as “second to none.” Ms. Baca also has been selected continuously since 2006 as one of the Best Lawyers in America in employment law. She has repeatedly been named as one of California’s “Top Women Lawyers” and as one of California’s “Top Labor and Employment Attorneys” by the Los Angeles Daily Journal. She has been selected as one of Lawdragon’s Top 500 Leading Corporate Employment Lawyers. The American Lawyer also recognized her in its “Top 45 Under 45” list.
An experienced trial lawyer, Ms. Baca has established an impressive record of defense verdicts and arbitration wins representing a wide variety of corporate clients. Her adversarial practice is primarily focused on employment related issues, such as employee mobility, discrimination, wage and hour, and whistleblower issues. She is considered a “go-to” employment lawyer for many large employers with high-profile disputes involving high-level executives and contentious high-stakes litigation (including class action claims). Ms. Baca is frequently called upon to turn around cases that have been mishandled by other law firms and take them to trial. Her clients include talent agencies, entertainment companies, web-based services, online social media and networking platforms, video game developers and publishers, financial institutions, medical technology and research companies, law firms, public utilities, major manufacturers, and leading consumer brands.
- Lawdragon, Top 500 Leading Corporate Employment Lawyers (listed in 2021, 2022, 2023)
- American Institute of Legal Counsel, 10 Best Employment & Labor Attorneys – California
- Benchmark Employment Litigator of the Year (2022)
- Benchmark Litigation & Employment Star (2019)
- Best Lawyers in America, Employment Law (listed since 2006)and Litigation – Labor and Employment (2022)
- Chambers USA, Labor and Employment (individually listed since 2009)
- Los Angeles Daily Journal, California’s Top 75 Women Litigators and Top Labor and Employment Attorneys (listed since 2010)
- Martindale-Hubble Peer Review Rated A/V®
- Super Lawyers list, including list of Top 50 Female Lawyers in Southern California (listed since 2005)
- The Daily Journal, Top 100 Lawyers in California (2020)
- The Daily Journal, Top Labor and Employment Lawyers (individually listed since 2010)
- The Daily Journal, Top Women Lawyers in California (listed since 2014)
- The Legal 500, Leading Lawyer for Labor & Employment - Workplace and Employment Counseling (2021)
- The Legal 500, Labor & Employment Disputes (Including Collective Actions): Defense (2021)
- The Legal 500, Labor and Employment Litigation (listed since 2009)
Ms. Baca received her B.S. degree in Justice Studies with a minor in General Business from Arizona State University. She received her J.D. degree from the University of Notre Dame School of Law, where she was vice president of the Hispanic American Law Students Association, an officer of the Sports and Entertainment Association, and a research assistant and editor for two publications, The Attorney General's Lawyer and The Complex Civil Litigation Manual and Textbook.
- Activision Blizzard - Represented Activision Blizzard, Activision Publishing, Blizzard Entertainment and their various subsidiaries in overlapping government investigations and, now, overlapping government litigation. These government lawsuits seek to litigate an array of gender discrimination claims (pay, promotion, constructive termination), harassment and related retaliation claims, spanning more than a decade; all of it is further complicated by an interagency conflict between the federal and state agencies related to jurisdiction. In these proceedings, Ms. Baca and her teams continue to tackle novel and complicated regulatory, administrative and jurisdictional questions.
- Dollar Tree Stores - Represented Dollar Tree at trial in a certified class action and the subsequent appeal. The certified class consisted of more than 5,000 store associates who sought millions of dollars in penalties based on novel legal theories under the California Labor Code. After months of briefing and limiting the issues, the case proceeded to trial. The jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Dollar Tree in under an hour. When the class representative appealed the result, Ms. Baca and her team successfully defended their trial win. The matter was affirmed on appeal.
- Dollar Tree Distribution - Represented Dollar Tree’s California distribution centers after the court certified seven different classes. This matter involved questions of what is compensable work time, the enforceability of arbitration agreements and notice issues, and factual disputes related to clock-in, clock-out, and rest and meal break practices. Ms. Baca’s team filed a successful motion to compel arbitration that excluded over two-thirds of the certified class (from 3,500+ employees to fewer than 800 - nearly an 80% reduction). Ms. Baca and the team were named “Legal Lions” by Law360.
- Gilead Sciences - Represented Gilead Sciences and its subsidiary, Kite Pharma, Inc., against claims of sex discrimination and retaliation by a former Kite employee. Ms. Baca led her team in taking an aggressive approach to defend against the claims from the outset. The parties conducted the seven-day hearing, including extensive witness examination and oral argument. The arbitrator issued a Final Award denying all claims asserted by claimant.
- Flexera Software - Represented Flexera Software when a former employee initiated a putative class action claiming millions of dollars in damages. Through a motion to compel arbitration, the class claims were eliminated. Next, through forensics it was determined the plaintiff had destroyed evidence, stolen company information, and fraudulently altered a key document. A cross-complaint was filed. In the middle of the arbitration hearing, during the plaintiff’s cross-examination, the plaintiff abandoned his claims.
- Staffing Networks - Represented Staffing Networks against a putative Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”) action seeking many millions of dollars in penalties for alleged wage statement violations. When an opportunity was presented by a recent PAGA amendment, the alleged violation was cured, thereby mooting the claims. Plaintiff’s counsel argued the claims, which were filed before the amendment, could continue. Through a number of procedural turns, in two different counties, the case was finally won when summary judgment was entered in Staffing Networks’ favor.
- American Apparel - Represented American Apparel in its defense against legal proceedings filed or instigated by its former CEO, Dov Charney. Recently, when Charney sued American Apparel and its Board Chair for defamation, Ms. Baca immediately filed a successful motion to dismiss and secured an award against Charney for more than $100,000 in attorneys’ fees. Ms. Baca is also representing American Apparel in its defense against Charney’s arbitration demand seeking more than $20,000,000 for his alleged wrongful termination (currently stayed).
- Lockheed Martin - Represented Lockheed Martin in a disability discrimination and wrongful termination matter. After the jury returned a defense verdict in less than 20 minutes, plaintiffs appealed. The higher court affirmed, but for the claims the trial court had dismissed without sending them to the jury, which went back to the jury. Plaintiff retained new counsel and the case was tried anew with changed theories from opposing counsel. Again, the jury returned a defense verdict within minutes.
- UPS - Represented UPS in more than 54 individual cases stemming from a successfully decertified class action alleging misclassification and meal and rest break violations. During an eight-year battle with a potential liability in the 8-9 figure range, oversaw all individual cases which resulted in 16 wins, 38 walk-aways, and defense attorney fees in 5 of the cases.
- AIG - Represented an insurer facing a novel misclassification claim, related to hearing officers. Rather than await the plaintiff’s move, Ms. Baca elected the novel strategy of bringing a preemptive motion to deny class certification. The trial court granted the motion. Ms. Baca then immediately moved for summary judgment and successfully defended the ruling on appeal.
- Global Talent Agency - Secured a defense award after a multi-week arbitration on behalf of a global talent agency that faced high-profile harassment, discrimination, and retaliation claims asserted against it and individual executives in the Motion Pictures Department.
- Executive Advisory Board Member, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation
- Co-Chair, Lawyers Committee, National Center for State Courts
- Fellow, The Trial Lawyer Honorary Society
- Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America
- Member, Diversity Law Institute
- Member, Trial Law Institute
- Member, American Board of Trial Advocates
- Ex-officio Lawyer Representative for the United States District Court, Central District of California
- Former Member of the Magistrate Judge Merit Selection Panel for the United States District Court, Central District of California
- Former Adjunct Professor, Pepperdine Law School, Civil Procedure and Complex Civil Litigation
- Former Board Member, Children Affected by AIDS Foundation
- Former Board Member, Hispanic American Bar Foundation
- Former Board Member, Human Rights Campaign
- Former Board Member, National Center for State Courts