Paul Cowie is a partner in the Labor and Employment Practice Group and is the go-to employment class action and PAGA defense lawyer.

Areas of Practice

Paul is experienced, highly responsive and knows how to successfully defend his clients. He serves as the Leader of the firm’s Transportation Team and has deep experience across many industries, including retail, technology, manufacturing, and transportation. Paul manages a large team that defends employers in every type of employment dispute, including class and PAGA actions of all descriptions, discrimination and harassment suits, independent contractors and the gig-economy, wrongful termination and whistleblower complaints, as well as trade secret litigation.  Active cases Paul is handling include allegations related to suitable seating, expense reimbursement, work from home, meal and rest periods, piece rate, overtime, wage statements, sick pay, security/bag checks, as well as discrimination class actions.

Paul was recognized as a “Top 40 Under 40” California attorney (Daily Journal, 2018); a Top Labor and Employment Attorney (Daily Journal, 2019, 2021 and 2022); and one of only 335 attorneys nationwide to be named a Client Service All-Star by BTI Consulting (2019).

Paul manages dozens of class actions, related to all forms of wage & hour disputes, discrimination, as well as misclassification. He counsels clients on all aspects of employment, including executive terminations, compliance, workplace investigations, workplace violence, assault, protecting intellectual property, and founder disputes. In addition, Paul has significant experience supporting M&A transactions and has worked closely with clients in structuring deals to minimize employment-related risks and to maximize the value of the transaction from an employment perspective.

Before practicing in the US, Paul practiced in the UK for approximately five years, representing and advising employers at all stages of employment litigation, including as lead counsel in UK Employment Tribunals. Paul has drafted hundreds of employment contracts and settlement agreements, negotiated warranties and indemnities in corporate transactions and is very familiar with the challenges faced by companies expanding into in the US and operating in California.

Paul is a trial-ready litigator who knows how to resolve all forms of employment-related disputes efficiently and effectively.



  • Currently handling approximately 80 class actions involving claims for discrimination, misclassification, FCRA, and all variety of wage and hour violations, including suitable seating, meal and rest breaks, minimum wage, bag checks, expense reimbursement, uniforms, joint employment, piece rate, and many standalone PAGA lawsuits. Paul is also managing approximately four dozen active single Plaintiff cases involving alleged harassment, discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination (among many other claims).

Representative Experience

  • 2022: Ninth Circuit affirmation of summary judgment for Swift Transportation in a putative class action alleging meal and rest period violations under California law.
  • 2022: Complete dismissal of all claims against gig-economy client and an individual defendant on an anti-SLAPP motion with an award of fees against the plaintiff in a case alleging negligence and asserting a false report to the police, among other claims.
  • 2022: Compelled individual arbitration in a PAGA action in state court for regional fast food chain client and then defeated individual claims in arbitration.
  • 2022: Sheppard Mullin was brought into this case several years into the litigation to argue an industry-wide issue in the Washington State Supreme Court in 2019, which we won. Sheppard Mullin then filed a motion for summary judgment as to each of the remaining causes of action against the certified class. In September 2022, the district court granted summary judgment as to the three highest value claims and held two other low value claims had disputed facts that need to be tried.  The Court denied the plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment. The decision effectively ended the case. 
  • 2022: Dismissal of all claims on motion for judgment on the pleadings on behalf of gig-economy client in a case alleging negligence, worker’s compensation, and failure to provide safe place of work.  In what was a first in California ruling for a gig-economy company, the Court ruled that rideshare companies owed no statutory or common law duty to conduct background checks on passengers as a matter of law.

  • 2022:  Prevailed on two motions for summary judgment as to all claims on behalf of gig-economy client in a contentious case involving an assault and battery. All claims were dismissed, and the claimants were ordered to pay a portion of our client’s costs.
  • 2021: Appellate affirmation of denial of class certification for construction company client.
  • 2021: Compelled individual arbitration and in doing so obtained dismissal of representative PAGA claims for health care client.
  • 2021: Dismissal of all claims against gig-economy client with respect to a passenger’s lawsuit to hold the company vicariously liable for a driver’s actions, including alleged claims of negligent hiring, retention, supervision, and training against the company.
  • 2021: Appellate affirmation of trial court order compelling arbitration for electronics company and dismissing class claims.
  • 2021: Prevailed on motion for judgment on the pleadings on behalf of retail client in representative PAGA action alleging misclassification of independent contractors.
  • 2019: Compelled individual arbitration and dismissal of class claims in a putative wage and hour class action in federal court for client Smart & Final Stores, and simultaneously prevailed on demurrer in PAGA representative action in state court brought by same plaintiff.
  • 2019: After three days of planned 10-day arbitration, secured a complete dismissal of all claims without any payment for nationwide healthcare client with respect to former employee’s alleged gender discrimination, harassment, retaliation, failure to remedy, wrongful termination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims.
  • 2019: Washington State Supreme Court win for employers as to legitimacy of commission and piece rate compensation structures (lead counsel and presented oral argument). This was the first and only win for an employer in the Washington State Supreme Court in years.
  • 2018: Obtained summary judgment in a wage & hour rest break putative class action.
  • 2018: Obtained summary judgment in disability discrimination single Plaintiff lawsuit.
  • 2018: Presented two 9th Circuit oral arguments, including overturning district court regarding proprietary of removal and how to calculate the amount in controversy.
  • 2017: Defeated class certification for client Swift Transportation for wage and hour class action, convincing court to overturn 24-page tentative ruling issued at the hearing.
  • 2017: Compelled individual arbitration of 24,000 person putative class in expansive wage and hour class action for client Smart & Final Stores.
  • 2017: Defeated certification in wage and hour class action for client Swift Transportation alleging rest break violations, convincing court to overturn 36-page tentative ruling issued at the hearing.
  • 2017: Defeated class certification despite facially unlawful policy.
  • 2016: Defeated class certification in a 20,000 plus putative class member wage and hour (multiple causes of action) class action with exposure into the billions of dollars for client Swift Transportation.
  • 2016: Defeated class certification of wage statement class for client Save Mart Supermarkets.
  • 2015: Dismissal with prejudice without any payment for client Brookdale Senior Living with respect to a former employee’s age discrimination and wrongful termination suit.
  • 2015: Dismissal for client Cox Communications without paying a cent on Plaintiff’s six causes of action including for Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy and Negligent Investigation.
  • 2015: Represented Benchmark Electronics in defeating Plaintiff former employee’s claims for wrongful termination and retaliation under Labor Code section 1102.5 without paying a penny.



Top Labor & Employment Lawyer, Daily Journal, 2019, 2021, 2022

Client Service All-Star, The BTI Consulting Group, 2019

Recommended Lawyer - Labor and Employment, Legal 500, 2019

Top 40 Under 40, Daily Journal, 2018

Northern California Rising Star, Super Lawyers, 2013-2018



Labor and Employment Law Blog Posts

Video Game Law Blog Posts

Media Mentions

Speaking Engagements

  • Employment Law Update, Silicon Valley Chapter of Association of Legal Administrators, 2017
  • Employment Law Update, Silicon Valley Chapter of Association of Legal Administrators, 2016
  • Gamification – Benefits, Pitfalls and Legal Considerations, FX Conferences, 2015
  • Structuring Independent Contractor Agreements to Avoid Costly Misclassification Liability, Strafford Webinar, 2014
  • Blackbox Connect U.S. Employment Law for Start Ups, Palo Alto, 2014
  • LebNet, Palo Alto, 2014
  • PASCO HR, Santa Rosa, 2013
  • Innovation Presentation Panel, Palo Alto, 2013
  • CDA Lunch and Learn, Silicon Valley, 2012
  • Doing Business in Europe, Los Angeles, 2011
  • Class Actions in the Financial Industry, San Francisco, 2010
  • Restrictive Covenants in the UK, Washington D.C., 2009




State Bar of California

UK Licensed Solicitor


J.D., University of Northumbria at Newcastle, UK, 2001, LLB honors


  • California
  • UK
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of California
  • U.S. District Court, Central District of California
  • U.S. Court for the Ninth Circuit
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