Our People

Cynthia O'Neill

Partner, San Francisco


For more than 25 years, Cynthia has provided practical legal advice to public sector employers on such topics as: the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Public Safety Officers' and Firefighters' Procedural Bill of Rights Acts, municipal personnel practices and employee discipline, accommodation of employees with disabilities, and the prevention of sexual harassment. 

Clients seek Cynthia out to conduct investigations into claims of employee harassment or other alleged misconduct.  She works quickly to identify and interview witnesses, keeps the client advised as to the progress of the investigation, and provides a timely and comprehensive written report that addresses each allegation.  Cynthia is also expert in conducting internal audits of employer compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Her reports are succinct, timely, and offer practical advice.  Clients also request Cynthia to review employer policies and practices, personnel rules, and employer-employee relations policies. 

Cynthia has a successfully represented our public sector clients in the courts and in arbitration.  She convinced the California Court of Appeal, in the Gilbert v. City of Sunnyvale (2005) 130 Cal.App.4th 1264 decision, to limit a police officer's right to receive investigatory documents under both the Skelly due process procedures and the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act.   Cynthia has won anti-SLAPP cases and mandatory fee awards for our clients at the California Court of Appeal.  She was one of the attorneys of record on the Ninth Circuit Fair Labor Standards Act opinions of Barner v. City of Novato (9th Cir. 1994) 17 F.3d 1256 and Stanley, et al. v. City of Tracy (9th Cir. 1997) 120 F.3d 179. She drafted an appellate amicus brief on behalf of 136 California cities and towns in Stewart/Chan v. City and County of San Francisco (1993) 834 F.Supp. 1233, affirmed by unpublished opinion (9th Cir. 1995).

Representative Matters


  • Washington v. Contra Costa County Housing Authority et al. (2013) - After LCW obtained summary judgment in Contra Costa County Superior Court in favor of the Housing Authority and an individual defendant, defeating a sexual harassment claim brought by a male maintenance worker against a female manager, the employee appealed. The First Appellate District affirmed the judgment on behalf of both defendants and awarded the Housing Authority and the individual defendants their costs on appeal.
  • Tamara Warner et al. v. City of Citrus Heights et al. (2010) - Plaintiffs, two police sergeants and a police officer, alleged that they were harassed based on their sexual orientation and released from probation because of their sexual orientation. They asserted claims against the City for harassment and discrimination and retaliation, and against the individual defendants (the chief, a commander and a lieutenant) for harassment and emotional distress. Defendants filed an anti-SLAPP motion arguing that the City's actions in investigating one plaintiff for dishonesty and releasing all of the plaintiffs from probation were official proceedings protected under the anti-SLAPP statute. The trial court denied the motion and Defendants appealed. The Court of Appeal found that the anti-SLAPP motion should have been granted as to the discrimination and retaliation claims because the City's conduct was protected under the anti-SLAPP statute and Plaintiffs had not established a probability of success on the merits.
  • Coats v. San Mateo County Harbor District, et al (2010) - Employment discrimination lawsuit in the California Court of Appeal.  The plaintiff claimed that the District's investigation into his misconduct and resulting discipline was discrimination on the basis of his disability. The Court of Appeal agreed with our arguments that the District's investigation and disciplinary appeal procedures were protected activity under the Anti-SLAPP statute (CCP section 425.16) and ordered the plaintiff to pay the City's attorneys' fees in the Court of Appeal and Superior Court.
  • Gilbert v. City of Sunnyvale (2005) - The Court of Appeal limited a police officer's right to receive investigatory documents under both the Skelly due process procedures and the Act.


  • Lake v. City of Hercules (2013) - Obtained summary judgment in favor of the City in a case where Plaintiff, a female police officer, lied to her Police Chief in order to obtain approval to purchase an assault weapon. After the City terminated her employment for dishonesty she sued the City, alleging that the termination was based on her gender, disability, and protected activity. She also alleged that she had been harassed based on her gender and disability.


Selected for inclusion in Northern California Super Lawyers, 2008



  • JD, Santa Clara University School of Law
  • BA, University of California, Berkeley
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