Maria Z. Stearns


Rutan & Tucker LLP
18575 Jamboree Road
9th Floor
Irvine, CA 92612

Tel: (714) 338-1821


Maria Stearns represents local and national employers doing business in California. They seek her counsel on employment litigation and transactional matters, with particular expertise in the healthcare, restaurant, manufacturing and apparel industries. Maria’s creative strategies in efficiently and effectively resolving matters have been recognized by the Daily Journal in its inclusion of Maria in the prestigious list of California’s ‘Top Women Lawyers’ and ‘Top Employment Lawyers.’

A significant part of Maria’s litigation practice is defense of wage and hour class actions and Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) representative claims. Among the claims Maria has defended are: allegations of meal/rest period violations, employee misclassification (exempt/non-exempt), improper bonus/commission plans, unpaid business expenses, uniform claims, reporting time pay, and timecard rounding.

In addition to her class action/PAGA work, Maria has successfully represented employers in discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment, disability and wrongful termination cases in state and federal court, and in administrative charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (and other state fair employment administrative agencies), the U.S. Department of Labor and the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

Maria also provides preventative counseling and guidance to businesses regarding all aspects of the employer-employee relationship. This includes:

  • Assisting employers in conducting wage and hour self-audits and in responding to government audits;
  • Guiding employers through reduction-in-force programs, including compliance with state and federal laws such as the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (“WARN”);
  • Drafting employee handbooks, workplace policies, employment agreements, commission plans, separation agreements, and employee counseling documents;
  • Advising on leave of absence and disability accommodation issues;
  • Providing on-site sexual harassment training pursuant to A.B. 1825; and
  • Serving as a day-to-day resource regarding employment questions.
  • Harvard Law School (J.D., 2002)
  • University of Kansas (B.A., 1999), Summa cum laude, Philosophy/Spanish
Our Employment Group represents local, regional, and national employers across a wide spectrum of industries, in all aspects of employment law, and with an emphasis on the unique challenges facing California employers. Our client-centric, lean staffing structure provides clients with regular partner contact while maintaining cost-effective representation.

Our expertise includes, but is not limited to:

  • Wage and Hour Class Actions and PAGA Actions
  • Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation Litigation
  • Government Agency Proceedings
  • Misappropriation of Trade Secrets
  • Unfair Competition and Employee Mobility Disputes
  • Employment Practices Counseling
  • Anti-Harassment Training
  • Workplace Investigations
  • Employee Handbooks and Other Employment Documents

Rutan & Tucker lawyers are experienced and highly regarded experts, delivering sophisticated and superior client service and value in a wide-range of practice areas, markets and industries. Our lawyers enjoy what they do and appreciate the opportunity to help our clients achieve their goals. We recruit new lawyers from more than 30 top law schools nationwide. Many of our lawyers graduated with law school honors, including Order of the Coif, law review, or moot court, or held judicial clerkships prior to joining the firm. Many of our lawyers hold significant leadership positions in philanthropic, community and professional organizations.

Our lawyers have skill sets that are both broad and deep, with significant emphasis on working with clients to develop cost-effective solutions consistent with client goals. We use technology in all aspects of our practice and welcome collaboration with client in-house counsel, management or other resources to help clients manage their legal budget.

For many decades Rutan has distinguished itself as the largest full-service law firm in Orange County, and today, our practice extends to Northern California through our Silicon Valley and San Francisco offices, and nationwide.

Rutan represents a broad spectrum of clients in many markets and industries including, for example, multi-national corporations, financial institutions, publicly traded companies, technology companies, private equity and venture capital funds, real estate developers and financers, construction companies, agricultural enterprises, cities and other public entities, hospitality companies, public/private partnerships, aerospace and defense contractors, educational institutions, family-owned businesses, individuals, non-profit organizations and pro bono clients.

We assist our clients with a wide-range of transactional, litigation, government, financial, intellectual property, real estate, employment, tax and international matters and can readily and efficiently bring expertise in each of these areas to bear on specific issues.