Employment Attorney

  • Salk Institute for Biological Studies
  • La Jolla, San Diego, CA, USA
  • Oct 28, 2020
Full time   Legal Affairs

Job Description

Posting Details

    • Posted: July 23, 2020
  • Full-Time
  • Locations

    Showing 1 location
    Salk Main Campus

    La Jolla, CA, USA
    Salk Main Campus

    La Jolla, CA, USA
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Job Details


Application Instructions:

Employment History Include your last ten (10) years of employment history, or length of your employment history if less, including all position (even those that are not relevant to this position) and periods of unemployment. Incomplete information could disqualify you from further consideration.


The Salk Institute for Biological Studies seeks an experienced, resourceful attorney who, under the general direction of the General Counsel, will be a critical member of the Human Resources (HR) team providing a wide range of support in the areas of general advice and counsel, risk management, local, state and federal labor law compliance, policy review and development, training, employment law updates, transactional support, and benefits compliance support.

This position reports directly to the General Counsel, but is physically embedded in HR. This role supports and works with senior leadership and faculty to help ensure that the Institute’s hiring and employment practices and compensation and benefits programs are aligned with risk management strategies that support business objectives, talent acquisition and retention goals. 

This position partners with organizational peers in Finance, IT, OEI, Academic Affairs and other compliance functions related to personnel to strengthen proactive collaboration with HR.

The attorney contributes functional employment law expertise to support business objectives and collaborates with administrative and laboratory colleagues to manage risks. Works with General Counsel to develop employment-related litigation strategies.

The incumbent delivers all legal services using a consultative and collaborative approach and model accountability and responsiveness by communicating proactively and meeting service commitments timely.


Advice & Counsel and Risk Management 25%

  • Regularly interfaces and partners with Institute leaders, including but not limited to: the Sr. Director of HR, General Counsel, Senior Vice President of Administration, Vice President, Equity & Inclusion, Chief Financial Officer, faculty, departmental operations leaders and other HR colleagues to provide and ensure proactive advice and counsel in support of recruitment, retention and risk management goals.
  • Develops and implements strategies for providing accurate and timely guidance on a wide range of employment related issues.
  • Provides advice and counsel to HR and other business units regarding local, state and federal labor and employment laws and on various employment-related decisions involving hiring, termination, leaves of absence, corrective action/discipline and other employment actions. Works with HR to ensure alignment.
  • Establishes a positive rapport and working relationship with employees at all levels in order to act as a trusted advisor and encourage the proactive use of in-house legal counsel as a preventative measure for employment law issues.
  • Contributes functional employment law expertise to support business objectives and collaborates with Institute colleagues to manage risks.
  • Builds strong relationships with internal colleagues and external partners.
  • Participates in developing creative, strategic, proactive and technically correct advice to clients both in special situations and as part of day-to-day responsibilities.
  • Keeps abreast of developments in the field to maintain technical, professional expertise.
  • Provides legal advice with regard to faculty and staff in the labor and employment areas, including wage and hour issues. Confers with and directs outside counsel as appropriate.
  • Manages and oversees outside counsel including efficiently managing outside counsel costs and fees and advising the various business units on strategy and mitigation of risk.
  • Advises appropriate HR staff on workers’ compensation strategy to minimize the Institute’s risk with regard to loss runs. May coordinate directly with carrier defense counsel on risk minimization strategies including but not limited to payout proposals and Salk’s presence at depositions and hearings.
  • Advises appropriate HR staff and others as appropriate on union collective bargaining agreement renewals and other aspects of unionized labor.

Employment Compliance & Training 20%

  • Formulates strategies and ensures compliance with Institute-wide standards for compliance with the California Labor Code, FLSA, FEHA, Title VII, Title IX, OFCCP, HIPAA, ERISA and other state and federal leave provisions to include but not limited to: developing and implementing plans to assess Institute risk and liability; creating working groups to address issues; and developing education and communication strategy plans
  • Develops and proposes strategies for implementing changes related to laws and regulations. Stays abreast of the changing legislative and regulatory landscape. Delivers effective and practical compliance counseling and advice.
  • Manages or shares in organizational compliance reviews and projects, government filings, and self-audits.
  • Develops and/or conducts training and/or advises those who develop or conduct training for employment-based compliance-related topics (anti-discrimination & harassment, etc.).
  • Proactively advises senior management on compliance with employment laws in a manner that accomplishes business objectives without undue risk.
  • Maintains a focus on operational excellence in implementation of specific objectives supporting strategic initiatives.
  • Supports special projects as assigned by the General Counsel including compliance, litigation management, reporting and other strategic projects.
  • Protects the interests of the Institute potential legal cost exposure related to adverse employment-related claims.

Benefits & Compensation Program Support 20%

  • Provides compliance support to Salk compensation and benefits functions working to protect the interests of the Institute, treat employees equitably, and minimize potential legal cost exposure related to employee compensation and benefit plans and programs.
  • Serves on the Retirement Plan Administrative Committee (RPAC) and acts as a plan fiduciary (after 12 months of employment).
  • Provides advice and counsel on leaves of absence regulations and policies and the application thereof.
  • Interprets federal and state statutes/laws affecting the Institute's compensation and benefits programs; understands and remains informed about IRS/DOL/ERISA requirements, rulings and changes; HIPAA, 403(b) retirement and 457(b) top hat deferred compensation plan regulations, IRC section 125 plans, etc.
  • In conjunction with outside benefits counsel and HR leadership, develops and implements strategies for providing accurate and timely guidance on the design, implementation and administration of a wide range of employee benefits, employee data privacy issues.
  • Provides assistance to Institute compensation and benefits staff to interpret plan documents and resolve complex situations. Advises on program administration with an emphasis on equity and fairness.

Investigations, Agency Claims, Mediation, Litigation 15%

  • Directs personnel investigations completed by internal or external parties and reviews reports. Coordinates with Salk leadership on any personnel decisions that from investigations and grievances. 
  • Responds to employment-related subpoenas, agency claims and other requests for information from third-parties and advises on any potential privacy related issues.
  • Works with the General Counsel to ensure timely notice to insurance carriers with regard to demands, claims or threatened litigation.
  • Attends employment-based mediations and agency hearings on behalf of Salk.
  • Advises and manages employment matters at the pre-litigation stage and, depending on the facts and circumstances, through litigation.
  • Manages employment related claims, litigation and related matters including the retention and management of outside counsel or other experts.

 Policy Development & Review 10%

  • Maintains a strong working relationship with General Counsel's office to formulate policies and procedures that impact Institute employment/appointments.
  • Develops policies, guidelines and training materials in partnership with HR and other departments.
  • Works with members of senior management who wish to implement policies to ensure that process is followed and employment consequences are considered.
  • Ensures alignment of employment-related policies with other Institute policies.
  • Evaluates requests for exceptions to policies and advises on options.

 Transactional Support 10%

  •  Drafts, reviews and negotiates a wide variety of documents in support of Institute objectives.
  • In collaboration with Procurement, reviews contracts and contract templates of significance or with risk related to personnel or personnel programs.  
  • Advises HR partners on severance agreements they draft; reviews and approves final versions for dissemination. Negotiates changes with represented employees/former employees within authorized limits by Institute management. Advises HR staff on negotiations with non-represented employees/former employes.
  • Supports HR with independent contractor analysis for agreements that come to HR from Procurement.


  •  JD from ABA accredited law school
  • Licensed to practice law in California with membership active and in good standing.



  • A minimum of six years of relevant experience of increasing responsibility, with significant knowledge and experience in employment and labor matters, including litigation, agency and administrative proceedings.
  • A minimum of two years of litigation experience.
  • Extensive experience advising on and applying California and federal employment laws.
  • Experience creating effective presentation materials and conducting training sessions for clients.


  • Some collective bargaining, affirmative action, immigration and ERISA experience.
  • Work experience in higher education, biotechnology or non-profit research environment.
  • Experience in working with Federal Contract Compliance and regulations pertaining to OFCCP requirements pertaining to employment practices with Federal Contractors.


  •  Strong legal research and analysis skills and ability to connect different facets of employment law.
  • Ability to exercise sound judgment in a fast-paced environment. Ability to exercise agility and adaptability in providing legal advice.
  • Comfort in a rapidly changing academic environment.
  • Superior analytical and legal skills, mature judgment, and innovative thinking.
  • Demonstrated ability to independently manage a diverse and complex workload while maintaining priorities and proactively anticipating issues.
  • Consistent good judgment and ability to apply legal knowledge to help create practical business solutions.
  • Flexibility, a positive attitude, a sense of humor, and ability to constructively manage change.
  • Unquestioned integrity and ethics in business and personal conduct.
  • Excellent oral communication and interpersonal skills to inspire and influence employees at every level to embrace compliance initiatives.
  • Desire to be part of a cohesive and supportive team environment.
  • Delivers all legal services using a consultative and collaborative approach and model accountability and responsiveness by communicating proactively and meeting service commitments in a timely manner.
  • Some knowledge of the legal requirements governing employee benefit plans, including ERISA.
  • Advanced knowledge of a broad range of state and federal employment laws including wage and hour, FEHA, Title VII, Title IX, leaves of absence, etc.
  • Analytical skills and the ability to think through critical information and make informed recommendations in a thorough and well-organized manner.
  • Skill in negotiation, client service and ability to interact effectively with personnel, take ownership of problems and drive issues to closure.
  • Skill in legal draftsmanship, ability to perform legal research, advocacy, or and written communications, and to manage and influence committees.
  • Skill in developing interpersonal relationships to effect compromises, to function under time constraints and pressure, and to recognize potential issues and make sound legal judgments.
  • Ability to take initiative and exercise good judgment, communicate effectively, drive tasks to closure, and focus on client service.
  • Working knowledge of HIPAA compliance, PII, PHI and data privacy issues.
  • Knowledge of general law and federal contractor laws and regulations.
  • Ability to effectively use/manage outside counsel.
  • Ability to work effectively on multiple projects simultaneously and across various department and laboratory silos.
  • Willing to learn Salk’s organization structure, policies, procedures, and administrative systems.
  • Passion for Salk’s mission.


  • Must be willing to work in an animal-related research environment.
  • Successful completion of the Institute’s background investigation.
  • Must be willing to work a flexible schedule based on staffing, workload and deadlines.
  • Execution of Salk’s Employee Confidentiality Agreement is Required.
  • Annual conflict of interest disclosure is required.
  • Serves on the Institute’s Benefits Committee in accordance with Salk’s Voluntary Employee Benefits Association (VEBA) Trust.
  • Participates in insurance matters and renewals as needed.


This position requires constant adjusting focus, grasping, hearing, keying, seeing, sitting, talking, analyzing, calculating, communicating, reading, reasoning and working inside.


Application Details

When inquiring or applying for positions at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, please also reference AcademicCareers.com

Applicants with dual-career considerations can find university jobs such as professor jobs, dean jobs, chair / department head jobs, and other faculty jobs and employment opportunities at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and at other institutions of higher education in the region on www.AcademicCareers.com