James J. McDonald Jr.
Jim McDonald is managing partner of the Irvine office and a partner in the Los Angeles office. Jim tries employment cases before juries, judges, and arbitrators. He has defended hundreds of employment lawsuits alleging wrongful termination, employment discrimination, sexual and other forms of harassment, wage and hour violations, retaliation, defamation, and related torts. He also has prosecuted and defended cases involving misappropriation of trade secrets and unfair competition. He has won numerous trials, arbitrations, summary judgments and motions to dismiss and has obtained many favorable settlements in mediation. He also has been designated as an expert witness in several cases.
Jim also advises employers on how to prevent employment disputes from arising and on various strategic human resource management issues. He drafts employment agreements, nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements, and contractor agreements. He also has advised employers on the labor and employment law aspects of mergers and acquisitions in the hospitality, manufacturing and technology industries.
Jim additionally advises employers on how to manage union strikes and picketing, he has obtained injunctions against unlawful union picketing, and he obtained a six-figure settlement against a union for unlawful secondary boycott activity. He also has counseled numerous employers regarding layoffs and “right-sizing” their workforces, provided advice on the Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification (WARN) Act, counseled clients regarding their obligations under the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, and he has drafted severance agreements and conducted effects bargaining.
Jim is the author of the book California Employment Law: An Employer’s Guide, published annually by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). He is also editor of the treatise, Mental and Emotional Injuries in Employment Litigation published by BNA Books and he is the author of more than 50 published law review articles. He has spoken before many trade and professional organizations on issues such as political correctness and religion in the workplace, mental disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the defense of psychological injury claims in employment litigation, new theories of harassment and discrimination, the use of expert witnesses, and California employment law.
Jim has taught labor and employment law in the Human Resources Management Program at the University of California, Irvine for 16 years. He is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institute and he holds the SHRM-SCP certification as well.
Jim served on the Board of Directors of the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce for more than 20 years, including two terms as Board chair and several years as vice chair and general counsel.
- Obtained Summary Judgment in Transgender Student Lawsuit Against Christian University. The court awarded summary judgment on four of five of the plaintiff’s claims, holding that a private Christian university’s education program was not a “business establishment” under California’s Unruh Act and that the student was obligated to appeal disciplinary action via writ of mandate versus civil lawsuit.
- Won Appellate Court Affirmance of Summary Judgment Victory for Employer in Disability Discrimination Case. Trial and appellate courts rejected disability discrimination claim by former manager of a national manufacturing company who was terminated after he failed to return to work after 14 months of medical leave.
- Won Arbitration Victory in Defamation, Tortious Interference Case. Arbitrator rejected the plaintiff’s claims that her former employer defamed her and interfered with her business following her termination for misrepresenting to an unemployment appeals judge the reason for her missing an appeal hearing.
- Won Arbitration Victory in Age Discrimination, Breach of Contract Case. Arbitrator rejected automobile dealership manager’s claims that he was terminated in breach of contract and on account of his age, and that he was owed guaranteed bonuses.
- Obtained Nonsuit During Trial of Disability Discrimination Case. Court disqualified the plaintiff’s expert witness and granted nonsuit on her claim of disability discrimination, finding that her job stress and antagonistic relationship with her manager did not amount to a mental disability. The court also awarded attorneys’ fees to the defendant employer.
- Won Arbitration Involving Claims of Wrongful Termination and Partnership Interest. Arbitrator rejected claims of former general manager of automobile dealership that he was wrongfully terminated and that he had been granted a partnership interest in the dealership he managed.
- Obtained Defense Verdict in Whistleblower Case. Jury rejected claim of former human resources administrator for country club that she was terminated for complaining of employment law violations.
- Won Bench Trial in Wrongful Termination Case. Court rejected claim of former manager of a business that he was terminated without good cause in violation of the Montana Wrongful Discharge in Employment Act.
- Won Arbitration of Sexual Harassment, Retaliation Claims. Arbitrator rejected plaintiff’s claims that she was sexually harassed and terminated for complaining about the harassment and alleged race discrimination against a co-worker.
Honors & Leadership
Honors & Awards
- Named Best Lawyers "Lawyer of the Year," Employment Law - Management - Orange County, 2015-2016, 2016-2017
- Listed in The Best Lawyers in America since 2007.
- Listed in Southern California Super Lawyers since 2007.
- Recipient of Burton Award for Legal Writing, 2006.
- "AV" rated by Martindale-Hubbell.
- Chairman, Board of Directors, Irvine Chamber of Commerce
- Member, Editorial Board, Employee Relations Law Journal
- Member, Labor and Employment Law Section, American Bar Association
- Member, Society for Human Resource Management
- Chairman of the Board of Directors, Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce (1998-1999 and 2017-2018)
- Vice Chair and General Counsel, Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce (1999-2016)
- Vice President, The Colony at Indian Wells Homeowners Association (2010-present)
- Fisher Phillips Partner Authors Employer’s Guide to California Employment Law, An Amazon Best-Seller5.1.20
- Fisher Phillips Partners McDonald and Scherwin Recognized in 2018 Edition of Southern California Super Lawyers1.30.18
- Fisher Phillips Partner James McDonald Elected Chairman of Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors7.6.17
- James J. McDonald, Managing Partner at the Irvine Office of the Firm, Recognized For Employment and Labor Practice1.21.15
- James J. McDonald, Managing Partner at the Irvine Office of the Firm, Recognized For Employment and Labor Practice1.22.13
Seminars & Speaking Engagements
- 2016 Newport Beach Seminar9.15.16
The Gender Conundrum in California Employment
California State Council of Society for Human Resource Management (CalSHRM)
CalSHRM 2019 California State Legislative & HR Conference, Sheraton Grand
- "Social Framework" Evidence: Why Social Psychology Should Not Supplant Clinical Evaluations in Harassment and Discrimination Cases4.1.06
- California Employers Blog4.10.20
- California Employers Blog4.4.20
- California Employers Blog1.2.20
- Business Groups Bring Legal Challenge to California’s Prohibition on Mandatory Arbitration AgreementsCalifornia Employers Blog12.9.19
- California Employers Blog1.2.19
- California Employers Blog12.6.17
- California Employers Blog8.17.17
- California Employers Blog3.13.17
- California Employers Blog2.27.17
- California Employers Blog1.6.17
- California Employers Blog11.22.16
- California Employers Blog11.1.16
- California Employers Blog10.10.16
- California Employers Blog9.28.16
- California Employers Blog8.29.16
- California Employers Blog8.22.16
- California Employers Blog7.28.16
- California Employers Blog7.8.16
- Government Relations Blog10.6.15
- Litigation of Employment Disputes
- Strike Defense and Contingency Planning
- Americans with Disabilities Act
- Harassment in the Workplace
- Mental Health Issues in the Workplace
- Employment Discrimination and Related Litigation
- Automotive Dealership
- Employee Defection and Trade Secrets
- California Employment Law
- Mergers, Acquisitions, and Downsizing
- Georgetown UniversityJ.D. 1984, cum laude
- New College of FloridaB.A. 1981
- Georgia Supreme Court
- Supreme Court of California
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
- U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
- U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
- U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California