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January 31, 2024

The Section

It is my honor to share the following memorial statement for Robert M. Dohrmann, former Section Chair and formidable force in the practice of labor law, which was adopted by the Section of Labor and Employment Law Council on April 27, 2024.

The Section memorializes Robert M. Dohrmann, a former Chair of the Section and Union Co-Chair of the State and Local Government Bargaining and Employment Law Committee. He was acknowledged as one of the most prominent labor lawyers in California over the past fifty years.

As Section Chair from 1997–98, he was an important participant in the substantive change in the structure of the union caucus of the Section by opening leadership opportunities for the members of the plaintiffs’ bar. This major change led to the first plaintiffs’ lawyer becoming a Section Chair, Richard T. Seymour, who served from 2011–2012. Bob’s leadership in this regard was significant.

As Co-Chair of the State and Local Government Bargaining and Employment Law Committee, he encouraged his younger committee members to become more active and to make their own contributions to the Section, which eventually led to two of those members becoming leaders of the Section and eventually its chairs. He was a true mentor to the lawyers who followed him into leadership positions.

He was also a president of the College of Labor and Employment and Lawyers in 2003.

He graduated from the University of Southern California College of Law and was admitted to the California State Bar in 1963. He joined the Los Angeles law firm of Arnold, Smith and Schwartz, which later became Schwartz, Steinsapir, Dohrmann and Sommers. The work of that firm included the representation of unions, individual workers and employee benefit firms.

Bob became a litigation specialist and was sworn into  the U.S. Supreme Court in 1970. In what became a text book labor law case, he and his firm successfully argued Manhart vs. Department of Water & Power before the Supreme Court in 1978, where the justices agreed that under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, women had the right to be paid and receive benefits exactly the same as their male co-workers. This precedent-setting case is often cited in labor and employment law filings to this day.

Always an active member of the bar, Bob frequently lectured on a wide variety of topics throughout his 50+ year career. In 2020, he was honored with the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law Arvid Anderson Public Sector Labor and Employment Attorney of the Year Award for his invaluable work in our field.

Bob was a native Californian, who spent his summers working in Yosemite National Park in a variety of park jobs, and he became friends with the most notable mountaineers and rock climbers. He accompanied them on many climbs throughout the Park and high Sierra Nevada. He is credited with the first ascent on Mt. Winchell in the rugged Parkside Region. In later life, he and family members spent their summers in Yosemite.

He was almost always accompanied by his wife, Barbara, who was a mainstay of the Section as its First Lady and whose passing we also memorialize.

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Denise M. Clark


Denise M. Clark is the founder of the Clark Law Group, PLLC, in Washington, D.C. She is Chair of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law for the 2023-2024 bar year. Denise's practice is focused on litigation in the areas of disability discrimination, retaliation under several employment statutes, and ERISA pension and disability claims.