As labor and employment work surges, Morgan Lewis & Bockius has added litigator Brian Berry, the co-chair of California class action practice at Ogletree Deakins, to its San Francisco office.

Berry’s practice focuses on defending employers facing complex class and systemic alleged discrimination, misclassification and wage-and-hour claims, the firm said. Prior to Ogletree, Berry spent nine years as a complex commercial litigator at Latham & Watkins.

Morgan Lewis “is a labor and employment powerhouse,” Berry said. “Not just in the size of the team around the world, but also in the depth and breadth of experience. Morgan Lewis is an industry leader in class action litigation in the wage-and-hour space and in the systemic discrimination space, which are the focus of my practice.”

Berry joins a fast-growing practice in California. In June, the firm lured Orrick employment litigator Michael Weil to its San Francisco office. In February 2019, it added an eight-lawyer employment team from Sidley Austin led by partners Douglas Hart, Jennifer Zargarof and Max Fischer in Los Angeles.

“Between expected COVID-19-related litigation and changing labor and employment laws, many companies find themselves in need of first chair class action litigation experience,” Grace Speights, leader of Morgan Lewis’ labor and employment practice, said in a statement. “Brian’s proven track record of defending employers in and out of the courtroom will be a great complement to the work of our 80-plus team of California labor and employment lawyers.”

Wage-and hour and systemic discrimination class actions in particular are “spiking” as a result of COVID-19-related claims, Berry added.

“The global pandemic changed everything for employers who are now faced with navigating return-to-work protocols and a changed workplace,” Berry said. “This has created a new set of challenges for employers as they continue to adjust to these conditions. Coming to a firm with such an impressive group of lawyers who work in this area was incredibly appealing and a natural fit for my practice.”

Ogletree did not respond to a request for comment on Berry’s departure.

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