Michael D. Bruno


  • Office Contact Info
  • Biography

    Recently elected to the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), Michael D. Bruno is a 30-year litigation and trial practice partner at GRSM, where he serves as the Practice Group Leader of the Employment Law practice group for the Bay Area. Michael represents both private and public entities in employment matters, focusing his practice on defending management against wage and hour class action, discrimination, retaliation and harassment claims. Michael has handled employment cases in both state and federal trial courts, as well as in connection with administrative agencies like the CRD (formerly the DFEH), EEOC, DOL, NLRB, and OSHA.  On the traditional labor side, Michael represents academic hospitals and international shipping companies when union disputes go to arbitration.

    Michael represents universities, in particular their medical and law schools, against claims that the schools have dismissed students, including medical residents, unfairly. He also represents private businesses accused of failing to provide fair and equal access for patrons and visitors with disabilities.

    Michael has tried cases successfully before state and federal court juries. Appearing in California's appellate courts, he has drafted and argued successful oppositions to appeals of his favorable decisions in the trial courts.

    In addition to his regular practice, from 2000 to 2011, Michael served as an Adjunct Assistant Professor with regular teaching responsibilities at the University of California's, UC College of the Law, San Francisco, formerly Hastings College of the Law.


    • California


    • American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA)
    • California State Bar, Labor and Employment Litigation Section
    • American Bar Association, Labor and Employment Section
  • Practice Areas
  • Representative Experience

    Representative Experience

    Examples of Michael’s extensive range of experience include the following:

    • Faulkner v. LPCH (2023): As lead trial counsel, Michael successfully represented the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford against claims that it retaliated against a popular patient care manager who supervised more than 150 neonatal intensive care unit nurses.  Trying the case before a federal jury in San Francisco, Michael and his team won a unanimous defense verdict. Because the case also included equitable claims, Senior US District Court Judge Susan Illston wrote a separate decision in which she too exonerated the hospital.
    • As lead counsel, Michael secured a complete defense verdict on behalf of firm client Chef Thomas Keller and The French Laundry after a 3 ½ week jury trial in Napa Superior Court.  The plaintiff was a former Captain (head server) who alleged that her offer to transfer from Keller’s restaurant Per Se in New York to his restaurant The French Laundry in Yountville was withdrawn after the General Manager of The French Laundry learned she was pregnant.  The plaintiff’s team of five attorneys (from four separate firms) was seeking nearly $2 million in compensatory damages, reportedly more than $4 million in fees, and intended to seek many times more in punitive damages against all the Keller restaurants on the basis of a “smoking gun” email which they argued proved discriminatory intent.  We argued that the decision not to hire the plaintiff was based only on the General Manager’s unfavorable impression of her from the time they had worked together years earlier at Per Se and suggested that the plaintiff was at least partially to blame for the result as she had mistaken the General Manager’s polite expression of, “We’d love to have you,” as a job offer. The jury deliberated for two days before returning a verdict in favor of grsm's client on all of the plaintiff’s claims.
    • Litigating discrimination, harassment and retaliation/whistleblowing cases in both state and federal courts, including failure-to-promote and wrongful termination actions where the plaintiffs have alleged that their age, sexual orientation, race, gender, pregnancy, disability or whistleblower status (retaliation) motivated their employers to fire them.
    • Litigating class action discrimination and “wage and hour” cases. 
    • Litigating cases involving claims of WARN Act violations, both state and federal. 
    • Representing businesses and individuals who have been accused of failing to conform their business policies and their business facilities to state and federal disability laws, and consulting on the appropriate modification of facilities that run afoul of the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), its California counterparts and implementing regulations.
    • Defending universities and testing services accused of failing to accommodate students' learning disabilities.
    • Appearing before administrative governmental agencies like the DFEH, EEOC, DOL, NLRB and OSHA

    Recent Jury Trials

    • Hayes v. The Regents of the University of California (Alleged Workplace Sexual Assault--Defense Verdict)
    • Kelley v. The Regents of the University of California (Alleged Disability Discrimination--Defense Verdict)
    • Vivero v. Tegsco, LLC dba San Francisco AutoReturn (Alleged Race Discrimination--Defense Verdict)
    • Thoeni v. The Regents of the University of California (Alleged Age and Sexual Orientation Discrimination--Defense Verdict)
    • Simonelli v. The Regents of the University of California (Alleged Disability Discrimination--Defense Verdict)
    • Cartwright v. The Regents of the University of California (Alleged Disability, Age and Sexual Orientation Discrimination--Defense Verdict)
    • Zimmerer v. NETGEAR, Inc. (Alleged Age Discrimination--Defense Verdict)
    • Ward v. FutureUS (Alleged Whistleblower Retaliation--Defense Verdict)
  • Publications & Presentations


    Michael has presented numerous lectures on employment law, including "best practices" for preparing performance evaluations, avoiding employment claims, and promoting a healthy workplace. 

    • Hot Button Issues and New Developments in Employment Litigation, GRSM Legal Education Conference, San Francisco, October 2019
    • #METOO - Nagivating Sexual Harassment Claims in the Aftermath of Weinstein, GRSM Legal Education Conference, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, 2018
  • Education


    J.D., Santa Clara University School of Law, 1993

    • Recipient, Emery Law Scholarship

    B.A., Political Science, University of California Los Angeles, 1990


    Best Lawyers in America® distinction in Litigation - Labor and Employment (2018-2024)

    Super Lawyers® distinction in the fields of Employment Litigation Defense and Civil Rights/First Amendment (2006, 2009-2023, Law & Politics)

    Top 50 Employment Defense Lawyers in California (Daily Journal, 2010)

    Top 75 Labor & Employment Lawyers in California (Daily Journal, 2011)

    Top Employment Defense Practices in Northern California (The Recorder, 2012)