Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners with ‘El Gallito’ radio station to help listeners with legal issues

January 31, 2018 | 9:52 am


In an effort to raise awareness throughout Kern County on how to protect you and your families in the case of an injury or accident, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered with a local Spanish radio station to provide legal insight during interviews.

The 30-minute interviews will run once per month on KCHJ “El Gallito” 1010 AM and 92.1 FM, a radio station that broadcasts primarily ranchera and Norteño  oldies reaching Bakersfield, Delano and extending throughout other Central Valley areas, such as Visalia and Tulare.

It’s hosted by local radio and TV personality Pepe Reyes, who has also hosted the morning show “Despierta Bakersfield” on Univision.

The first 30-minute interview, featuring Chain | Cohn | Stiles associate workers’ compensation attorney Beatriz Trejo, will air at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 7, on KCHJ “El Gallito” 1010 AM and 92.1 FM.

The goal of the show and partnership is to assist radio station listeners who need help with their potential accident, injury or workers’ compensation* cases.

Questions answered by Trejo on the first show included:

  • What do you do if you’re injured at work, and what steps should you take?
  • What if I’m hurt and I am not a citizen?
  • How does Chain Cohn Stiles stand out compared to other law firms?

Future interviews with Pepe Reyes will continue to feature Beatriz Trejo, who will answer listeners legal questions and provide insight on legal issues of the day. The shows will also feature Chain | Cohn | Stiles director of marketing and public relations Jorge Barrientos, who will discuss the law firm’s work throughout the community that includes combating DUI crimes, and increasing pedestrian and bicycle safety, among other efforts.

Recently, you might have seen Pepe Reyes when he helped re-enact “El Grito de Dolores” Mexican Independence chant during the annual celebration in September in downtown Bakersfield, hosted by the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Trejo, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, has also become a regular of sorts on El Show De Cascabel, a Spanish language show on 96.9 FM, as well as on Radio Lazer, 106.5 FM. On those shows, as well, she discusses the law firm’s services, and answers questions from listeners.

Trejo earned her bachelor’s degree from Cal State Bakersfield and her master’s degree from Cal State Northridge. She earned her law degree from the University of Akron School of Law in Ohio. Before joining Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Trejo was a defense attorney who practiced in front of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board — she is familiar with the inner workings of insurance companies, insurance carriers, and self-insured employers. She is currently the president of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA), Bakersfield Chapter. She is also the 2017 winner of the “Young Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar Workers’ Compensation Section.

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Click the link below to listen to the interview with Beatriz Trejo on El Gallito with Pepe Reyes:

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If you or a someone you know needs assistance with a potential accident, injury or workers’ compensation case, call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for a free consultation at 661-323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Kern County’s ‘Immigration Justice Collaborative’ aims to educate community on legal rights

January 24, 2018 | 10:06 am


The following “President’s Message” was published in the April 2017 issue of the Res Ipsa Loquitur, a monthly news magazine from the Kern County Bar Association. It was written by Kern County Bar Association president James Yoro, who is also a partner and workers’ compensation attorney at the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles. The article focuses on immigration policy in the United States, which continues to be a topic of debate today, and highlights a group of local lawyers — including Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys — aiming to educate our community on their rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, separation of powers, and the status of changes in immigration policy. 

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Immigration Justice Collaborative

By James A. Yoro

At my installation dinner in January, I announced that “service” would be the theme for my year as president of the Kern County Bar Association. In my speech, I asked every attorney in our organization to make a commitment to provide voluntary service to our profession and our community.

In February, I attended an event initiated by Judge Robert Tafoya (with the help of the KCBA’s Multicultural Bar Alliance) that brought together members of the Bench and Bar with representatives of multiple local educational programs that promoted responsible citizenship in order to support, develop and encourage a partnership that would benefit our local youth and our profession. I was surprised to see how well attended this event was by both Bench and Bar especially since it was the first time such an event was organized. I felt encouraged that my theme for the year was being taken seriously by so many members of our organization.

Last month in my president’s message for the Res Ipsa Loquitir, I commented about the uplifting example of lawyers around the country volunteering their services to individuals who were harshly affected by the Trump Executive Order on immigration. Little did I know at the time that there was a movement being initiated by a group of local attorneys who are also doing the same thing here in Kern County. They called themselves the Immigration Justice Collaborative. When I found out about their efforts, I contacted Beto Sala who was one of the organizers of this assemblage of lawyers. He immediately welcomed me and my associate’s participation and invited me to attend an upcoming town hall meeting that was being staged at the CSU Bakersfield campus. When I arrived at the event, I was astonished to see a standing room only crowd of more than 300 people packed into the auditorium listening intently to the presentations being given by more than 15 attorneys with diverse law practices all volunteering their time in order to educate a sometimes frightened and confused public. Numerous attorneys stayed well after the event was over in order to respond to the individual questions that many in the audience did not want to ask publicly.

Afterwards, I asked Beto to tell me more about the Immigration Justice Collaborative and here is the information he provided:

“The IJC was created in mid-November 2016 in response to widespread uncertainty regarding the status of non-citizens in the United States. After the election, there were many instances of children being mocked and bullied at school. Children were being told that they and their parents would be deported and that a great wall would be built to keep them out. Many people were told there would be mass raids and deportations. This created an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and racist treatment towards immigrants. In response, a group of lawyers convened to establish the IJC, which is comprised of local attorneys who practice in diverse fields of law, including immigration, civil rights, employment law, criminal defense and family law. All the lawyers are volunteers. The goal of the IJC is to reach out to communities affected by the President’s executive orders to inform them of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the significance of the rule of law, separation of powers, and the status of changes in immigration policy. Each presentation consists of 12 or more lawyers. Thus far, the IJC has been to east Bakersfield, Lamont, Delano and CSUB. The IJC has reached over 1,000 members of the community and is expected to reach thousands more in the near future. The response by the community has been overwhelmingly favorable. There are numerous pending requests from other communities in Kern County to conduct attorney presentations. Recently, the IJC sent a letter to each principal of every school in Kern County, which was signed by 19 lawyers. The letter places the schools on notice of the legal requirements of protecting students against bullying by other students who resort to racially derogatory remarks and attacks. The California Endowment has funded a film documentary of the efforts of the IJC. We have been informed by the producers of the film that the IJC is unprecedented, and consequently they intend to distribute the film nationwide.”

It is my understanding that the IJC will soon have a website and Facebook page that the public can access.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and commend the attorneys involved for their selfless commitment to the public and to the profession.

The following lawyers are members of the Immigration Justice Collaborative (IJC):

  • H.A. Sala
  • David Torres
  • Daniel Rodriguez
  • RL Hutchison
  • Vanessa Sanchez
  • Beatriz Trejo
  • Edgar Aguilasocho
  • Edyta Christina Grzybowska-Grant
  • Emilio Huerta
  • Emily Milnes
  • Gabriel Godinez
  • Gabriela Lopez
  • Win Eaton
  • Xochitl Garcia
  • Joel Andreesen
  • Mai Shawwa
  • Sarah Rich
  • Marcos Vargas
  • Monica Bermudez
  • Richard Rivera
  • Claudia Lopez
  • David Leon
  • Jose Guerrero

Keep up the good work. You are all an exceptional example of why I am so proud to be a lawyer in this community.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles moves forward in case of alleged sexual abuse at Kern County juvenile hall

January 17, 2018 | 10:32 am


In an ongoing pursuit of justice for several victims of sexual assault by Kern County Juvenile Corrections officers while they were housed at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed an appeal in one of the cases. 

In an ongoing pursuit of justice for several victims of sexual assault by Kern County Juvenile Corrections officers while they were housed at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed an appeal in one of the cases.

The appeal filed by attorney Neil Gehlawat of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, along with Los Angeles-based lawyer Thomas C. Seabaugh, who are representing the victim, was filed recently in response to the court’s summary judgment.

Chain Cohn Stiles issued the following statement in response to media inquiries:

“Our client alleges that she was propositioned for sex by a juvenile corrections officer at Juvenile Hall, who also engaged in voyeurism by watching her in the shower on multiple occasions. She is one of three former wards who we have represented, all of whom alleged that they were the victims of sexual misconduct by corrections officers at juvenile hall.

“The federal district court ruled in December in this case that even if our client’s allegations were true, that the conduct she alleged would not violate the constitution. We are currently in the process of appealing that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Civil rights cases against law enforcement are often protracted and difficult, but we remain committed to obtaining justice for our client.”

The victim alleges in a lawsuit that Juvenile Hall corrections officer George Anderson sexually abused her and watched her shower. She is one of three alleged victims of sexual abuse by corrections officers at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles. In addition to seeking damages, the victim alleges that she was failed by the deficient oversight, training, and practices at Kern’s juvenile hall, which provided the perpetrator with opportunities that he was able to exploit.

“The fact that we have three girls … who have come forward to report sexual abuse by corrections officers, points to systemic problems at juvenile hall, and not just a few bad apples,” Gehlawat told local media upon the filing of the lawsuits in September 2016.

Seabaugh added: “The purpose of these victims’ stay at juvenile hall was to help them to get back on the path towards a normal life. Instead, law enforcement officers exploited their power and authority over these girls, who already represent some of the most vulnerable members of our society, with devastating consequences for the survivors and their families. This lawsuit is in the public interest, because it involves accountability and consequences for those who were responsible.”

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If you or someone you know if sexually abused by someone in power, contact our lawyers right away. Call 661-323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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Awards, goodwill, and a goodbye in 2017; Work for justice and safety continues in 2018

January 10, 2018 | 10:41 am


The following was sent recently to those subscribed to the Chain | Cohn | Stiles e-newsletter. If you would like to sign up to receive future notices, please click here

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A Happy New Year from our Chain | Cohn | Stiles family to yours! As Maya Angelou said, “The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.”

Before we move ahead, we wanted to share some law firm news and notes from 2017 with you:

  • It was a year of awards and achievements at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. Here are just a few:
    • Associate attorney Beatriz was named “Young Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar.
    • The law firm received a “Kern Green Award” for going above and beyond to make a positive environmental impact in Kern County.
    • For the fifth year straight, the law firm was voted among the “Best of Kern County” in the “Best Law Firm” category, as was managing partner David K. Cohn for “Best Lawyer”.
  • Milton Younger, a former esteemed attorney and partner who spent 53 years at the law firm, died in September. We remember his legacy.
  • The fourth annual “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash,” presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, brought together 1,000-plus and raised over $80,000 to fight against DUI crimes locally.

Today, hard work continues at the law firm, including the following:

Looking ahead into 2018, please join us in the following:

  • Voting in the 2018 “Best of Kern County” poll begins Jan. 16 and runs until Jan. 28, and we’re proud to share that we’ve been nominated once again. We wholeheartedly appreciate your vote and support.
  • We’re the presenting sponsor for the 2018 Bakersfield “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash”, which will be held Sept. 29, at Park at River Walk. Join us in the ongoing fight against DUI crimes.
  • Keep up with Chain | Cohn | Stiles activities throughout the year by following our various social media pages listed below, as well as our blog, Blogging For Justice.

Finally, we all wish you a healthy and happy 2018!

All the best,

Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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* NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ attorney James Yoro highlights life of a paralegal in Kern County Bar Association’s magazine

December 13, 2017 | 9:45 am


The following “President’s Message” was published in the December 2017 issue of the Res Ipsa Loquitur, a monthly news magazine from the Kern County Bar Association. It was written by Kern County Bar Association president James Yoro, who is also a partner and workers’ compensation attorney at the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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‘With a little help from my friends’

Most lawyers would like to believe that the primary reason for the success they’ve achieved in their practice is due to their own hard work and effort. However, when asked for a realistic assessment of their situation, most lawyers will admit that a crucial part of their success depends on their support staff. Depending on the type of practice one has, a paralegal/legal assistant may play a vital role in that success. In my own practice, I depend on my legal assistant Lesleigh Johnston, to perform many essential functions that contribute to the successful outcome of my cases. In fact, I consider her to be an indispensable member of my firm, who is as valuable as the associate attorney who also works with me. Therefore, I would like to give special recognition to all of those hard-working paralegals and legal assistants that make our jobs easier by devoting my message this month to them.

There are many ways that one can become a paralegal. Depending on one’s background, training and education, a paralegal may be able to handle many aspects of the legal process or the workup of the file. For example, my legal assistant was previously employed for more than 10 years as an insurance adjuster with a major workers compensation insurance carrier before she came to work for me. Because of this experience, she was well-equipped to evaluate cases and understood the nuances of how a workers compensation file should be handled from beginning to end.

Since building an effective legal team is important in order to serve the best interests of the clients and achieve success in one’s practice, what should one look for when hiring a paralegal?  I asked this and several other questions to two of the paralegals in our firm, Barbara Hass and Donna Wilkins, and here were their answers:

 

What background, education, and/or training did you have in order to become a paralegal?

Barbara Hass:

Background: 37 years in the legal field.  I began my career as a legal secretary in 1980.  In 1985 I became a civil defense paralegal for Art Pearl and then Larry Peake.  In 1995, I began working for David Cohn as a personal injury paralegal and supervisor of his PI practice.  I also taught Personal Injury Law at CSUB – Attorney Assistant Program in the evenings for many years and wrote the text book for the class utilized by CSUB.

Education: Completion of the Attorney Assistant Program at California State University, Bakersfield.  Examination through the National Association of Legal Assistants for my certification as a California Advanced Specialist in Civil Litigation; Advanced Paralegal certifications in Trial Practices, Discovery, Wrongful Death, and Personal Injury.

Training: Under the supervision and training from the best attorneys.  Art Pearl and Larry Peake hammered in me civil procedure, while David Cohn and Matt Clark fine-tuned the art of personal injury and case management.

Comment: Education cannot replace experience.  Education is the stepping stone.  Experience is the mountain top.  All the education in the world cannot teach a paralegal how to navigate through the day-to-day encounters of an area of law.  Only experience gives you that.  That is why it is a combination of education and experience that makes for an outstanding paralegal.”

Donna Wilkins:

My background is not your typical educational background that you will find of most paralegals today.  There were no schools specializing in paralegal studies when I first started in the legal industry in 1979 when I was 19 years old; the only specialized education I could find to help assist me in advancement was a correspondence course, which I did take and complete.

My background is solely from experience. I started as a receptionist in 1979 for a small firm in San Francisco.  From the day I sat at the desk, I knew I had found my calling.  I did everything I could to learn as much as I could and kept asking questions and requesting more responsibility.  I absorbed everything I could and advanced to legal secretary in less than a year.  I moved firms about 3 times in 5 years in order to obtain knowledge in the areas of personal injury, construction defect, probate, family law and insurance defense.  Later in my career I worked in the areas of criminal law, corporate law, and civil and criminal appellate law.  The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn and was very fortunate to find employment with attorneys and firms that encouraged my advancement and shared their knowledge with me – even allowing me to sit in on depositions, court hearings, oral argument in appellate court and civil trials.   Next year I will have 40 years in the legal field, over 25 of them as a paralegal and I have never looked back – only forward to the next challenge as a paralegal.”

 

What skills are necessary in order to be a quality paralegal?

Barbara Hass:

“At a minimum, all paralegals are required to be in compliance with Business and Professions Code Section 6450 – 6456.  In addition, it is very important for paralegals to possess excellent writing and research skills, understand the rules, procedures and mechanics that apply to their area of practice; stay up-to-date on the changing rules and procedures; possess exceptional technical skills; and possess excellent analytical and case management skills.  However, having all of these “skills” doesn’t make a great paralegal.  To be a great paralegal you must also possess the qualities of a great employee:  loyalty, work ethic, detail oriented, dedication to your craft, tenacity, and a thick skin.”

Donna Wilkins:

“In addition to skill, I believe it is absolutely imperative to have an affinity and love for what you do.  Knowledge and skills are one thing, but if you do not love what you do, you won’t be as successful as you could be.  The most important skill I believe is the ability to prioritize.  With all the work that lands on my desk, I must be able to determine what must be done now and what can wait.  A system of following up on projects is also imperative.  Organization is crucial, as you can’t get things done if you do not have a system in place to make sure that nothing is missed.  You must be able to communicate, both verbally and in writing, with the attorneys and staff, but also with clients and the courts.   Maintaining knowledge of current case law and statutes which pertain to your area of practice is also necessary.”

 

What do you do to assist the attorney you work for?

Barbara Hass:

“Development and case management from the date of intake to completion; legal research; discovery; trial preparation; Federal case management; fact gathering and retrieving information; drafting and analyzing legal documents; collecting, compiling, and utilizing technical information to make an independent analysis to the supervising attorney.”

Donna Wilkins:

“You cannot list in detail in a few short paragraphs all of the responsibilities of a paralegal.  However, I can provide the following brief description:  I manage the case files to make sure all necessary information is obtained from the clients, that the medical records and bills are obtained so that a case can move forward either to settlement or litigation.  I draft demand letters and follow-up on settlement demands and offers.

Once a case is ready to be filed with the Court, I prepare the complaint for the attorney’s review and filing with the court.  I maintain the docketing calendar so that all dates pertaining to litigation are calendared and reminders are up to date.  I prepare initial discovery and meet with clients to obtain information on discovery propounded to them, and then prepare the draft responses for the attorney’s review.  I perform the initial review of defendant’s responses to discovery and prepare a summary for the attorneys and suggest additional discovery to be propounded and which depositions should be set.  I prepare Case Management Statements for the attorney’s review and filing with the Court.  I contact expert witnesses and make sure they have the documents they need to provide their opinions.

Once a trial date is set, I manage all related dates and make sure that all pre-trial discovery is completed, depositions taken, etc.  I prepare a draft of the pre-trial documents, including expert designations, trial witness and exhibit lists, etc. I subpoena witnesses and arrange for expert testimony.  I then prepare the exhibits themselves for submission to the Court and opposing counsel to be used at trial.”

Paralegals do more than help lawyers to prepare their cases, conduct relevant research and draft legal documents for litigation; they help to manage the clients throughout a long and sometimes frustrating process and as such are an essential element of an attorney’s legal team. To all of you out there who currently employ paralegals/legal assistants, take a moment to applaud and recognize their efforts as your success depends on it.

 

If you would like to comment or respond to my message, please e-mail me at jyoro@chainlaw.com.

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If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, please contact the experienced legal team at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

#MeToo: How to protect yourself from sexual harassment, assault and abuse

November 29, 2017 | 7:00 am


Recently, the United States has seen an uprising of women (and men, too) who have gone public with their stories of sexual harassment, assault and abuse, and systemic sexism, particularly in the world of Hollywood.

The “Me Too” campaign has spread virally to denounce sexual assault and harassment in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against film producer and executive Harvey Weinstein. Millions of people throughout the world have used the #MeToo hashtag to come forward with their own experiences.

Sadly, these types of cases are all too familiar in Kern County as well. In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has represented dozens of victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, and sex assault and abuse at the hands of law enforcement officers, employment supervisors, and others in roles of power.

Earlier this year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat contributed an article to the Kern Business Journal that outlined how sexual assault and harassment victims could fight back, specifically in the workplace. That article below has been re-purposed here:

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Sexual harassment is, unfortunately, still a prevalent occurrence in the workplace.

According to a recent study conducted at the South by Southwest conference in 2016, two-thirds of women reported having experienced “unwanted sexual attention” at work. Moreover, a survey conducted by Cosmopolitan magazine revealed that one in three women between the ages of 18 and 34 have been sexually harassed at work. Sexual harassment is evidently more prevalent in the service industry, where a 2014 survey by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found that 90 percent of women feel forced to “curry favor” with their customers when working for tips.

Even worse, 70 percent of women who experience sexual harassment in the workplace do not report for fear of repercussions, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This is a disappointing statistic, because there are laws in place both in California and in the United States to protect employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, applies to both public and private employers and prohibits sexual harassment against employees, applicants, volunteers, unpaid interns and even contractors in the workplace. You can file a complaint online by visiting the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) website, but it is recommended that you contact an attorney before making such a complaint. The statute of limitations in California requires employees to obtain a right to sue notice letter from the DFEH within one year of the alleged harassment. The employee then has one year from the date of the right to sue notice letter to file a lawsuit.

Moreover, the FEHA requires employers of 50 or more employees to provide sexual harassment training to supervisory employees. The FEHA department permits employees to submit complaints if they have reason to believe that their employer has not complied with this requirement.

Sexual harassment is also prohibited under federal law. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person’s job or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment can range from inappropriate sexual jokes, to inappropriate touching. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically protects employees from sex-based discrimination, which includes sexual harassment, in the workplace and applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

I advise victims of sexual harassment to take the following steps.

  • First, tell the person harassing you to stop. You may do so in person, but you should also put your request in writing; for example, in the form of an email.
  • If this does not work, or if you are uncomfortable about taking such action, consult your employment manual. You need to follow the protocol laid out in the employment manual, if it exists.
  • If it does not exist, you should notify your human resources department or a supervisor, and inform them – in person, and in writing – about the sexual harassment. If the harassment persists, even despite taking the above steps, then you should contact an attorney immediately to weigh your options.

It is illegal under both state and federal law for an employer to retaliate against an employee for making a sexual harassment complaint. If you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, document your complaints in writing, take action, and always remember that the law is on your side.

— Neil Gehlawat is a partner with the Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where he focuses on civil rights, employment and wrongful death cases.

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If you feel that you’ve been sexually harassed or abused by an authority figure, it’s important to contact an attorney. The lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles take an aggressive approach to sexual abuse and harassment cases. You may be entitled to lost past and future wages and benefits if it’s a case of sexual harassment at work, and emotional distress damages, among others. For more information on sexual harassment and sex abuse cases, visit our specialized website here.

Contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website Chainlaw.com.

Season of Giving: Community comes together to renovate library at Boys & Girls Club of Kern County

November 22, 2017 | 7:03 am


It’s the season of giving — giving to the less fortunate, giving to our Kern County community, and giving thanks.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, philanthropy and giving back is a year-round mission, whether it’s giving out free safety helmets and bicycle lights to bicyclist throughout Kern County, supporting MADD Kern County who assists innocent victims of DUI crashes and fights against DUI crimes, or taking disadvantaged youth back-to-school shopping.

This Thanksgiving season, Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to highlight a special project at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County administered by Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Bakersfield, a professional development program that enhances leadership skills and introduces participants to diverse sector of Kern County. The law firm’s own marketing director Jorge Barrientos was a part of this project, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles served as a sponsor.

Learn more about the amazing community project below:

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Leadership Bakersfield Team 1 has unveiled a renovated, revitalized and updated library at the east Bakersfield branch of Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County that will provide a safe learning environment for years to come.

The room is used by students to study, read, finish homework, and receive tutoring assistance. It is also used to provide English as a Second Language services for children and adults alike.

The room had not been updated in more than 15 years due to lack of funding from grants and donations to renovate the room. Chairs and desks were run down, the floor was badly stained, book shelves were missing, and cabinets were deteriorating. Valuable counter space was limited, and ceiling tiles were water stained and breaking apart. Windows were covered by student art to prevent pedestrians from looking in and disrupting activities.

Among the renovations and conversion from a library into a multi-purpose room, Leadership Bakersfield Team 1 painted the room, brought in 30 new chairs along with a moving cart and foldable classroom tables for student workspaces, polished and revitalized flooring, installed new ceiling tiles, installed decals on the windows and walls, organized materials, and installed a mural.

“The project will undoubtedly benefit children and adults from Bakersfield needing a safe place to learn,” Leadership Bakersfield Team 1 said in a statement. “We believe the renovations made to this room will help provide a world-class experience, and adhere to the mission and vision of the Boys & Girls Club.”

The local chapter of Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County is the largest in the nation, serving 7,200 kids each day, with its main operating site in Kern County being on Niles Street. The clubs serve children from all walks of life, with most children coming from families of low socioeconomic backgrounds. The club also has a special outreach program for children residing in homeless shelters and foster care. The club’s vision is to provide a world-class club experience that assures success is within reach of every young person who walks through their doors. The club does this by offering support, programs and a safe and healthy environment to prosper and thrive.

The project was made possible through donations and support from Kern Federal Credit Union, Bakersfield Association of Realtors, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Gary & Tanya Carruesco Realtors, Wells Acoustics, HealthSouth, Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, Trans-West Security, and Stinson’s, who provided and donated all of the furniture for the room.

Leadership Bakersfield Team 1 participants include Rebecca Aceves, Tamara Baker, Jorge Barrientos, Lori Brackett, Gary Carruesco, Aaron Flores, Kristen Hartsell, Miranda Whitworth, and advisor Patricia Marquez.

The group unveiled the room during an open-house ceremony attended by Leadership Bakersfield group members, Boys & Girls Club representatives, supporters, and local dignitaries.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

ACLU report outlines civil rights violations in Kern County, highlights Chain | Cohn | Stiles cases

November 15, 2017 | 9:31 am


The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has published a report following a two-year study that concludes law enforcement agencies in Kern County – specifically the Bakersfield Police Department and Kern County Sheriff’s Office – have engaged in patterns of excessive force and systematically violated the civil rights of local residents.

ACLU calls on the two departments to reform their policies, re-train and re-orient line and supervisory officers “towards a culture that emphasizes the consistent use of tactical alternatives to force and consequences for the use of unreasonable, unnecessary, or disproportionate force, and establish rigorous and independent oversight institutions to ensure the departments remain accountable and responsive to the communities they serve.

Many of the excessive force, civil rights, and wrongful death cases outlined in the report are and were represented by the Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles. In response to the report, the law firm released the following statement.

“We are encouraged, but not surprised, that the ACLU has determined that both Bakersfield Police Department and Kern County Sheriff’s Office have violated the rights of many individuals in this community. We have reached the same conclusion over the course of the many cases we’ve prosecuted against officers in both departments. In some cases, these officers have faced criminal prosecution, but in the vast majority they have not. In those cases where criminal prosecution is off the table, these departments vigorously defend the officers, find their conduct to be within policy, and instead direct their attention toward blaming the victims. We hope the Attorney General’s Office will take these findings into account as they continue to investigate both departments. The hope – at the end of the day – is that the Attorney General’s Office will take action against these departments that will spark institutional change and restore the community’s faith in law enforcement.”

Read the full report here.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is already carrying investigating patterns of excessive force and civil rights violations in the two departments. The reports and investigations follows a five-part series by The Guardian publication that found these Kern County departments killed people at a higher rate than any other U.S. agencies in 2015. The series uncovered a culture of violence, secrecy and corruption in the county’s two largest police departments. Among the cases highlighted were those involving wrongful death, police misconduct, sexual misconduct and civil rights cases handled by Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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A future with fewer traffic accidents? A look at driverless cars, safety and liability

November 8, 2017 | 7:00 am


The U.S. government recently released new federal guidance for automated driving systems that officials say has the potential to change the way we travel. But what does that mean to you, the everyday driver and passenger of motor vehicles?

The answer comes down to safety.

“The safe deployment of  automated vehicle technologies means we can look forward to a future with fewer traffic fatalities and increased mobility for all Americans,” according to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

As Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David K. Cohn sees it, this is great news for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and others on our roadways. The Bakersfield-based accident and injury law firm each year represents hundreds of innocent victims of motor vehicle crashes where human error is the primary cause.

That guidance report, called “Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety 2.0,” calls for industry, state and local governments, safety and mobility advocates and the public to lay the path for the deployment of automated vehicles and technologies. It can be accessed and read here.

In fact, the California Department of Motor Vehicles recently unveiled a timeline for when driverless cars may begin appearing, as well as a new set of streamlined regulations. In short, test vehicles could be on California roads and highways by June 2018, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Currently, California rules require a human driver behind the wheel even when fully autonomous cars are being tested. Driverless cars already are operating in Arizona, Florida and other states that have looser rules than California, or no specific driverless regulations at all, according to L.A. Times.

DMV officials are trying to balance safety with technology development, and safety experts believe that robot cars will prove safer than human drivers.

According to Car and Driver, removing the possibility of fatigue or alcohol impairment in a driver alone knocks 45.5 percent off the fatality rate in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also declared that a driverless-­vehicle fleet, should at a minimum cut in half the current toll of roughly 40,200 deaths annually.

The federal government will continue to set safety standards for automobiles, while the state’s role is to make sure vehicles traveling on state highways conform to federal standards, the DMV stated.

Already, some vehicles are available with autonomous features.

Available to the public for purchase, Tesla’s Model S and Model X are stocked with eight surround cameras, ensuring a full 360 degrees of visibility. Enhanced autopilot allows the self-driving car to match speed to surrounding traffic conditions and allows for multiple lane changes.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., similarly developed an autonomous car, Waymo, with its name deriving for the company’s mission to create “a new way forward in mobility.” Alphabet describes Waymo as “a self-driving tech company with a mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around.”

According to Forbes, of the 35,000 car crash fatalities in 2015, 94 percent were due to human error, with almost 40 percent of the fatalities resulting from driving under the influence.

While autonomous cars would drastically decrease the number of accidents due to the fault of the driver, car companies would face great liability from the number of accidents due to the fault of the automobiles, according to Forbes. In the event of a car accident, if the self-driving car is at fault, the automobile company would face the repercussions of the incident and accept liability. Autonomous cars could drastically increase in price in order to cover liability costs, but car insurance premiums could substantially decrease because there would be fewer accidents.

For Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which helps victims of car accidents and other motor vehicle accidents, fewer accidents equals fewer injuries and deaths. In that case, the future is bright.

— By Alyssa Wood for Chain | Cohn | Stiles 

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If you or someone you know is injured in an motor vehicle accident at the fault of someone else, please call Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com. For work injuries, you can also visit bakersfieldwclawyers.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners with Bike Bakersfield to give away hundreds of bicycle lights, safety helmets this fall

October 18, 2017 | 9:26 am


At least 30 pedestrians and bicyclists in Kern County have lost their lives in roadway accidents in 2017. Many of them were not properly illuminated during night hours.

As part of its mission to reduce the number of accidents in our community, Bike Bakersfield – in partnership with Chain | Cohn | Stiles and Kern Family Health Care – will be giving away hundreds of free bicycle lights and over 100 safety helmets throughout Kern County over several weeks starting this Thursday, Oct. 19.

“Project Light Up The Night” is Bike Bakersfield’s annual program that delivers sets of free bicycle lights in parts of our community where bicycles are used the most – Oildale, Arvin, east Bakersfield, and southeast Bakersfield. This year, free safety helmets of all sizes will also be provided thanks to support from the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Bike Bakersfield staff and volunteers will install lights for immediate use, and educate bicyclists on how to properly fit and adjust helmets. One set of lights and one helmet will be given per person with his or her bicycle present.

“Many cyclists still ride at night without lights, a practice that is illegal and life-threatening. And with the sun setting early this time of year, it is important that bicyclists be visible on the roadway,” said Jack Becker, Bike Bakersfield program manager. “Being visible to motorists is a key part of staying safe while riding a bicycle on the road, and these bright LED lights will let drivers know you’re there.”

For Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which often sees victims of vehicle versus bicycle accidents, providing safety equipment to children and adult bike riders who otherwise cannot afford one is just one key step toward improving safety on our roadways. The law firm for several years now has partnered with Bike Bakersfield in its “Kidical Mass” bike repair, safety demonstration, a group bike ride program, as well as the safety light and helmet giveaway.

“We hope these programs led by Bike Bakersfield not only helps raise awareness of the importance of bicycle safety and sharing the road with all vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists, but also will help decrease the number of injuries caused by crashes here in Kern County,” said David Cohn, managing partner and veteran personal injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

If you are a bicycle rider in need of a bicycle light or safety helmet, please take note of the following details to collect yours:

  • WHAT: Bike Bakersfield’s “Project Light Up The Night”
  • WHO: All residents who arrive with a bicycle are eligible for free lights and a helmet
  • WHEN: From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays (Oct. 19, Oct. 26, Nov. 2 and Nov. 9)
  • WHERE: Four locations: Corner of Roberts Lane and N. Chester Avenue in Oildale; Niles Street and Mount Vernon Avenue in east Bakersfield; Planz Park in south Bakersfield; and Bike Arvin in Arvin. Click here to view a map for locations.

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