About Joanne

Savvy litigation counsel for employment matters and unique actions brought against universities

Joanne Buser is a seasoned litigator who advises employers in a variety of industries, including public and private universities. Her practice includes:

  • Employment law counseling
  • Employment litigation
  • Investigations of employee complaints
  • Higher education litigation

Joanne prides herself on providing timely, practical advice to employers concerning employee disputes of all kinds, and she works to help clients find creative solutions to common challenges and ways to leverage litigation to an employer’s advantage. Working with university clients, she brings deep knowledge of the laws and regulations governing higher education institutions and an excellent track record of defeating student lawsuits.

Experience in Action

  • Defending employers against charges of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wage and hour violations.
  • Litigating single plaintiff, PAGA and class action employment cases, representing employers in state and federal courts, arbitration and administrative agencies.
  • Counseling employers about their employment practices, agreements, handbooks and compliance obligations.
  • Representing universities in lawsuits and appeals brought by faculty, staff and students, including writ actions challenging disciplinary decisions and lawsuits raising First Amendment and common law claims for fraud, breach of contract and the like.
  • Advising universities on compliance with federal and state law, policy and procedure reviews, and student conduct issues.


Litigation – Public Universities

  • Successfully obtained an anti-SLAPP dismissal and motion to dismiss a complaint filed by a former graduate student in federal court, obtaining a significant attorneys' fees award.
  • Successfully opposed an appeal of the denial of a writ petition challenging a student’s dismissal for academic misconduct.
  • Obtained defense verdict in jury trial for public university on claims of harassment and failure to prevent harassment.

Litigation – Private Universities

  • Obtained dismissal with prejudice on behalf of a private university filed by a former student in federal court based on alleged RICO Act violations, breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among others.
  • Obtained summary judgment on a university faculty member’s claims of FEHA gender discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
  • Obtained summary judgment for a university on Title IX sexual assault claims and obtained judgment for costs on behalf of the university, which was affirmed on appeal.

PAGA and Class Action Litigation

  • Obtained two favorable PAGA settlements for a large pharmaceutical company.
  • Obtained a waiver of costs in a class action wage and hour settlement for a large biotech company.


  • Authored investigative report of a disability accommodation and harassment claim as independent counsel for city council.
  • Authored significant sexual assault investigation reports as independent counsel for employer.
  • Authored whistleblower retaliation investigation report as independent counsel for county employer.
  • Authored sexual harassment and gender discrimination investigation report as independent counsel for county employer.

Professional Recognitions

  • Southern California Super Lawyers® (2015-2017)
  • New York Metro Super Lawyers® "Rising Stars" (2012, 2013)
  • San Diego Business Journal "Best of the Bar" (2016)
  • San Diego Business Journal “Women of Influence in Law” (2024)

Professional & Civic Activities

  • San Diego County Bar Association, Labor and Employment Law Section, member
  • State Bar of California, Labor and Employment Law Section, member
  • Dress for Success, volunteer
  • Partnerships With Industry, past board member
  • San Diego County Bar Association, Labor & Employment Law Section, chair (2017)

News & Insights


Bar Admissions

Court Admissions

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