What I love most about my practice is solving problems in a way that minimizes not only the risks but also the disruptions to our clients’ organizations. That’s true in litigation, and it’s also true when I offer advice and counsel. I serve as a practical business partner, and I focus on providing realistic solutions. My clients look to me for expertise in how to best resolve their problems. That gives me the greatest satisfaction.
John Baum is a partner in the firm’s San Francisco office. His focus is in employment law litigation and counseling on behalf of employers. John represents employers in wrongful discharge and discrimination disputes before federal and state courts and government agencies.
Two-thirds of his time is spent in litigation. Says John, “Litigation has a pathway, with multiple decision points along the way. I am collaborative with my clients throughout the process. My clients understand they have a business partner in an often very difficult dispute. I’m looking at how to solve their business problems most efficiently. That could mean filing a particular motion. It could mean trying the case. Or it could mean resolving the matter through mediation.”
The other third of his time is spread between advice and counsel, training, and episodic internal investigations. “Day by day, my job changes dramatically,” he says. John counsels clients on a variety of issues impacting the employer-employee relationship, including employee discipline and termination, personnel policies and employer investigations.
“I thought I was going to law school to do education law, as I was a special education teacher previously,” John says. But two law school summers spent at labor and employment firms convinced him that he liked that area of the law. “The attraction obviously is the personal side of law. It’s real people with real problems. Helping employers solve real-world problems is something that I enjoy.”
John considers one of the most interesting pieces of litigation he has worked on to be a sexual harassment case in which two plaintiffs alleged very serious charges against their supervisor, involving both environmental and quid pro quo harassment. “They were very credible at their respective depositions and made good witnesses,” he says. “They were aligned in describing this individual’s conduct. We had three very accomplished plaintiffs’ firms on the other side, so we needed to litigate it very aggressively. It took a year of discovery, but the case was successfully resolved when we found out that the two had colluded to make up their allegations. We discovered that a third person had been approached to also fabricate the story. Ultimately, we achieved a very favorable result for our client.”
John also offers a special expertise in the areas of compliance with disability laws and reasonable accommodation. “From early on, that was an area that was of interest to me,” he says.
John greatly enjoys providing training to managers and individual contributors on a wide variety of employment topics, most particularly Respect in the Workplace, which includes the prevention of discrimination and harassment. “I think it is important that all employers ensure that every employee is treated with respect and in a non-discriminatory fashion. That is what every person deserves, and such a core value also significantly contributes to a more successful organization. It is far more efficient to avoid a claim or lawsuit by having managers understand their obligations to create and maintain a fair and respectful workplace.” John regularly presents in-house management training on how to manage within the law, prevent sexual harassment and how to conduct an internal investigation into employee issues. “The training that I provide includes group training as well as one-on-one training for individuals who have been determined to have done something wrong but not serious enough to warrant firing. I get referred that type of training by other attorneys at the firm.”
John frequently lectures on employment topics before professional organizations, attorneys and business groups. He also conducts investigations into employee issues for clients who want such matters conducted by someone outside of the organization.
“I really like developing relationships with clients so that they view me as a trusted advisor, and even ask me about matters outside employment law. I like to think that I am, as an attorney and litigator, appropriately aggressive, but not a jerk. I don’t believe you have to be a jerk to practice law in an excellent way. I refuse to engage in that kind of conduct even when I see it in opposing counsel. The jury, judge, mediator or other third parties will view my style and demeanor as a reflection of my client’s approach to how employees are treated. Consequently, I want to project a professional and respectful approach with 100% belief in my client’s position.”
Outside of the office, John is very family oriented. “My wife Nancy and two adult sons, David and Stephen, are the most important things in the world to me,” he says. He also has a fondness for “sports, good food, interesting beer, movies, and non-fiction books.”
2008-2018: Named a Northern California Super Lawyer by peers in the State Bar
2007 Volunteer of the Year, Larkin Street Youth Services
2014 Extraordinary Community Service Award, Lifehouse
Co-Presenter, “The ABC’s of A.B. 5: Get Ready For The New Independent Contractor Law,” Webinar, October 17, 2019
John Baum to Speak at National Academy of Arbitrators Annual Meeting
John F. Baum & Natasha Baker will present Workplace Investigations Basics at the Association of Workplace Investigators, Inc. (AWI)
John Baum Discusses Uber and A.B. 5 with SF Chronicle: “Uber, wary of AB5, is giving California drivers more freedom. Its tactics may not work,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 10, 2020
John Baum Quoted, “How AB5 affects gig rivals: One gets more business, one exits California,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 13, 2020
John Baum and son, David Baum, examine “Minding the Generation Gap” in the Daily Journal.
Employment Agreements: Drafting the New Prenup
NLRB Bans Confidentiality Admonitions
Employment Practice: Being Both the Investigator and Counsel
Do the Right Thing (Ten Important Things to Know About Employers)
Ten Proactive Steps for the Multi-Jurisdictional Employer: A Global Approach to Your Employment Law Audit
Lead attorney in successfully arguing and briefing Kaiser v. Superior Court, (1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 1217, where the attorney-client privilege intersected with an organization’s internal investigation process.
Complete defense verdict after five-week jury trial where the plaintiff alleged retaliation and constructive discharge claims.
Complete defense verdict after four-week jury trial where the plaintiff alleged sexual harassment and failure to prevent harassment.
Complete defense verdict after two-week jury trial where the plaintiff alleged disability discrimination and wrongful termination.