Kendra K. Kawai

Employment Compliance, Employment Litigation and Labor Relations

Kendra K. Kawai is a Director in the labor and employment department of the firm. She has extensive trial experience and regularly defends small and large employers in discrimination, harassment and disability cases at the administrative, state and federal levels. She also provides employers with guidance on wage and hour compliance issues and evaluates and updates employee handbooks.

Practice Highlights

  • Successfully served as first-chair counsel and obtained a unanimous defense verdict for three police officers in a week-long jury trial in federal court involving civil rights and punitive damages claims, and prevailed on appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
  • Served as co-counsel in obtaining a favorable jury verdict in state court for the City and County of Honolulu in a sexual harassment and retaliation case.
  • Served as co-counsel in obtaining summary judgment in a race and sex discrimination case in federal court on behalf of an employer, prevailed on appeal to the Ninth Circuit in 2009 and successfully defeated plaintiff's application for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court in 2010.
  • Extensive experience advising employers on wage and hour issues including exempt/nonexempt status, independent contractor status, compensable versus noncompensable time, computation of rate of pay for overtime purposes and drafting of employment agreements such as Belo agreements, fixed salary for fluctuating workweek agreements, and independent contractor agreements.
  • Drafted post-arbitration briefs on union grievance matters obtaining favorable determinations on behalf of employers.

Ms. Kawai has previously worked for the City and County of Honolulu in the Department of the Corporation Counsel's Tort Litigation and Counseling & Drafting Divisions handling various legal matters including advising departments on employment and labor issues.  Ms. Kawai also worked as a law clerk for the Honorable (ret.) Colleen K. Hirai, Chief Judge of the First Circuit of the State of Hawai`i.

Recognition/Distinctions

  • Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Hawaii Chapter, Educational Foundation, Oahu, Programs Committee Co-Chair (2011-2012).
  • Journal of Environmental Law and Litigation, Member and Operations Editor, University of Oregon School of Law (2000-2002).
  • Moot Court Board, Member and Assistant Director, University of Oregon School of Law (2000-2002).
  • Asian Pacific American Law Student Association, Member and Assistant Director, University of Oregon School of Law (1999-2002).

Education

  • J.D., 2002, University of Oregon School of Law
  • B.A., 1998, University of California, San Diego
    • Major: Political Science
    • Minor: Philosophy

Admitted to Practice

  • Hawaii State Bar, 2002
  • United States District Court, District of Hawaii, 2002
  • United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, 2006
  • United States Supreme Court, 2010

Areas of Practice