Steven M. Berliner

Steven M. Berliner Partner

Steve is the Chair of the firm's Retirement, Health and Disability Practice Group and works to ensure that our firm stays on the cutting edge of the law related to these important areas. He has an extensive labor relations practice and unparalleled retirement law expertise. Steve has acted as chief negotiator for many public agencies in labor negotiations with their employee groups, helping them reduce payroll and other costs. He also advises clients on contract interpretation issues and represents clients in grievance matters and is frequently called on to assist agencies in times of fiscal crisis.

Of particular importance to many agencies is reducing pension and retiree medical costs. Steve has successfully negotiated changes to agencies' arrangements with public employees that resulted in employees paying a greater share of the cost for these benefits and other cost savings. Steve is a prolific speaker and speaks at conferences throughout the state on public retirement issues. 

Steve has renowned expertise in the area of public agency retirement laws and vested rights. His extensive experience allows him to be ahead of the curve in spotting issues and trends in retirement law. This experience and his ability to describe issues in plain language helps clients plan and budget for changes.  Steve also litigates retirement issues on behalf of our clients. Whether its an administrative appeal of a CalPERS audit finding, or a lawsuit related to vested benefits, retiree medical benefits or any other retirement related matter. Steve brings his extensive knowledge and experience to each case.

Steve also represents clients in a wide range of legal proceedings, including writs, breach of contract, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and before the Public Employment Relations Board. 


  • JD, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law

  • BA, State University of New York at Binghamton


San Bernardino County of Public Attorneys Association (SBCPAA) v. County of San Bernardino, et. al. (2014) - Successfully defended the County of San Bernardino against SBCPAA's challenge to the County, eliminating its pick-up of a portion of the employees' contribution to the retirement system. SBCPAA argued that a statute enacted as part of the PEPRA actually required the County to continue the pick-ups absent the employees' agreement to a change in the employer contribution.

Neustadter v. CalPERS, et al. (2013) - In this case, Steve defended a lawsuit brought by a former local agency employee against CalPERS and the agency, that sought to compel higher retirement benefits through CalPERS or for the agency to pay the difference if CalPERS was determined to not be responsible for the payment. Steve successfully argued that the benefits currently being provided were correct and the agency had no further liability to the former employee.

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a Division of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Glenn William Steele v. Southern California Regional Rail Authority, d/b/a Metrolink (2011) - In a case handled by Steve Berliner and James Oldendorph of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore's Los Angeles office, the Los Angeles County Superior Court ruled that Metrolink's installation and operation of an audio and video monitoring system in the cabs of Metrolink locomotives did not violate the locomotive engineers' privacy rights, due process rights, and that the actions were not preempted by state law.  The union for the engineers that operate the locomotives, and one individual engineer, had sued Metrolink seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that the engineers had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the cabs of the locomotives and that Metrolink's monitoring system violated their procedural and substantive due process rights.  They also claimed that the installation of the cameras and the policy adopted to govern their use were preempted by state law. The Court granted Metrolink's motion for summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs' causes of action, finding that there were no issues of material fact warranting a trial.  This ruling resulted in a victory for Metrolink on all claims.


City of Carlsbad - Safety and Non-Safety Units.

City of El Cajon - Safety and Non-Safety Units.

City of La Mesa - Safety and Non-Safety Units.

City of Fullerton - Safety Units.

City of Port Hueneme - Safety Units.

City of Rancho Cucamonga - Non-Safety Units.

City of Murrieta - Safety and Non-Safety Units.

City of South Pasadena - Safety and Non-Safety Units.

City of Oceanside - Safety Units.

Joshua Basin Water District - Non-Safety Unit.

City of Encinitas - Safety and Non-Safety Units.

City of Redondo Beach - Served on Factfinding Panel.

City of Port Hueneme - Served on Factfinding Panel.

Kern County - Presented Case to Factfinding Panel.

City of Hesperia - Served on Factfinding Panel.

City of El Cajon - Served on Factfinding Panel.



  • JD, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law

  • BA, State University of New York at Binghamton

Awarded Top 75 Labor & Employment Lawyers, Daily Journal

Awarded Top 25 Municipal Law Attorneys, Daily Journal


  • JD, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law

  • BA, State University of New York at Binghamton

Mar 16, 2020

House Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Bill Moves To Senate For Vote

On March 14, 2020, at 12:51 am, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in an effort to reduce the impact of the virus on American families, the House of Representative passed H.R. 6201, titled the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the Act).  The bill will now move to the Senate, where it will be debated and voted upon.  If the bill passes in the Senate, President Trump will likely sign the bill into law, as he released a statement on March 14, announcing his full support of the bill.   

Mar 6, 2020

How Public Employers Should Respond to Employees’ Exposure To COVID-19

This Special Bulletin follows up on our February 5, 2020 Special Bulletin on COVID-19, the novel coronavirus of 2019.  The information in that Special Bulletin remains valid, including those steps individuals can take to lessen the spread of the virus.

Mar 6, 2019

State High Court OKs Legislature Rescinding Employee Benefit It Once Gave

Steven Berliner was quoted in an article for the Daily Journal on the California Supreme Court’s ruling of certain state employee’s ability to purchase pension service time.

Feb 19, 2019

The California Rule on Public Employee Pensions Under Attack: Will We Still Call It The “California Rule” If It Is No Longer The Rule In California?

Most public employees in California are eligible to enroll in a state or county retirement system.  These retirement systems are governed by state statutes, known primarily as either the Public Employees’ Retirement Law (“PERL”) or the County Employees’ Retirement Law (“CERL”), depending on the retirement system in question.  

Aug 24, 2018

Strategies to Manage Increasing Pension Costs

Steven M. Berliner published “Strategies to Manage Increasing Pension Costs” in the August 2018 issue of the League of California Cities magazine – Western City.

 In California, increasing pension costs are already starting to crowd out any discretionary spending for many cities. Recent news from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) offers little hope for relief for agencies that contract with CalPERS. Changes in the actuarial assumptions used by CalPERS in the past few years will lead to even higher employer rates over the next few years. One significant change is the reduction in CalPERS’ “discount rate” (the assumed investment rate of return) from 7.5 percent to 7 percent, meaning that to pay for a defined benefit, employers must contribute more to the fund. Other changes are having similar impacts. 

Feb 4, 2015

Effect of Retirement Costs on Negotiations

In these monthly videos, members of LCW’s Labor Relations and Negotiations Services practice group will provide various tips that can be implemented at your bargaining tables. 


  • JD, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law

  • BA, State University of New York at Binghamton

26 March 2020
Speaking Engagements

Bargaining Over Benefits

Liebert Cassidy Whitmore Alhambra
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29 January 2020
Speaking Engagements

How to Hire CalPERS Retirees the Right Way

California Society of Municipal Finance Officers (CSMFO) Annual Conference Anaheim
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21 November 2019
Speaking Engagements

Best Practices to Managing Ever-Changing (And Increasing!) Pension Costs

California Public Employers Labor Relations Association (CALPELRA) 2019 Annual Training Conference Monterey
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  • JD, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law

  • BA, State University of New York at Binghamton

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