Nichols Kaster LLP

News & Events
In the News
Nichols Kaster LLP

Nichols Kaster LLP

Minneapolis & San Francisco
Employee & consumer representation

A Minnesota-based boutique with a national reach, Nichols Kaster LLP established its San Francisco office in 2006. Partner Matthew C. Helland arrived to be managing partner the following year.

“We had a national wage-and-hour practice, and we were filing a lot of cases in the Northern District of California, and at that time, there were a lot of mortgage and financial services cases here. So it made sense to have an office here too,” Helland said.

The firm had recruited local litigator Bryan J. Schwartz to open the doors in San Francisco; he launched his own firm, Bryan Schwartz Law, in Oakland in 2009. Schwartz and Helland remain close colleagues on significant cases, including an ongoing civil rights class action for more than 6,000 African American production workers over alleged workplace racism and discrimination at the Tesla plant in Fremont. Vaughn v. Tesla, Inc., RG17882082 (Alameda Co. Super. Ct. filed Nov. 13, 2017).

“After Tesla failed to compel arbitration of the claims, we came on for the class certification phase,” Helland said. The motion for class certification, which remains pending, was accompanied by declarations from 240 workers detailing racism they’d experienced at the factory they called the “Plantation” or “Slave Ship.”

“It’s great to work together with Bryan,” Helland said. “Our firm brings technical resources for large-scale litigation. We believe this is the most significant racial harassment case ever filed, and Nichols Kaster is no stranger to going up against well-funded corporate defendants.”

Part of the firm’s strength involves strategies it has developed to oppose arbitration demands by defendants. “We have a lot of experience with resisting worker contract arbitration clauses that can eliminate class actions,” Helland said. “We were one of the first, for example, to file for mass arbitrations when defendants insist on enforcing those clauses.”

In 2020, Helland — again partnering with Schwartz — settled for $6 million in a proposed class action after a long battle over arbitration led a federal judge to sanction the defendant for “dilatory conduct.” The plaintiff workers’ overtime and rest break claims against CoreLogic, Inc. were sent to arbitration, but when Helland and Schwartz filed mass arbitration demands, CoreLogic refused to proceed with most of them. Mitchell et al. v. CoreLogic, Inc., 8:17-cv-02274 (C.D. Cal., filed Dec. 29, 2017).

“They challenged the arbitration rules and didn’t pay their filing fees, and the district court sanctioned them $86,000 for willfully disobeying its order to arbitrate,” Helland said. “Then they settled.” He and Schwartz then sought and got an upward departure in attorney fees of $2 million.

Nichols Kaster partner Robert L. Schug, who has worked in both the San Francisco and Minneapolis offices, last year won certification for a class of two million California policyholders who allege they were denied refunds on their auto insurance policies despite the drastic drop in claims due to the pandemic. Day v. Geico Casualty Co. et al., 5:21-cv-02103 (N.D. Cal., filed March 25, 2021).

Schug, who graduated summa cum laude from Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Minnesota, is also vice chair of the board of directors of Impact Fund, a Berkeley-based economic justice nonprofit.

“I love staying involved with the nonprofit community,” he said.

-John Roemer
© Daily Journal 2023


Share this post

Looking For
Help With Your
Workplace Concerns?

Bryan Schwartz Law, P.C. is also one of the few Bay Area-based law firms with extensive experience representing Federal employees in their unique Merit Systems Protection Board and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints.

Meet Our Award
Winning Team

What Our Clients
Say About Us

Contact Us*

Submit an inquiry to have Bryan Schwartz Law, P.C. evaluate your situation.

*Your submission of an intake request form does not guarantee that Bryan Schwartz Law, P.C. will take your case or provide legal advice. You must be offered and sign a representation agreement with the firm before you will receive any legal advice.