Kalpana Kotagal to Deliver UCI Law 2018 Commencement Keynote Address


IRVINE, Calif., — Kalpana Kotagal, a partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and co-author of the “Inclusion Rider” contractual clause, will deliver the keynote address at UCI Law’s 2018 commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 12.

Kotagal is a member of Cohen Milstein’s Civil Rights & Employment practice group and chair of the firm’s Hiring and Diversity Committee. She is co-author of the “Inclusion Rider,” a stipulation that actors, directors, or producers can have inserted into their contracts to ensure greater diversity on screen and behind the camera. Academy Award winner Frances McDormand referenced the term during her acceptance speech in February.

A noted public speaker, Kotagal is often called on to address issues of employment and civil rights law, class actions, mandatory arbitration, and diversity in the workplace. Two of her current cases include representing a class of female sales employees in a Title VII and Equal Pay Act case against one of the nation’s largest jewelry chains, and representing transgender beneficiaries of federal health insurance who have challenged the denial of transition-related care as discriminatory.

Her past litigation includes representing a class of disabled veteran job applicants, a class of nurses who contended that hospitals conspired to suppress and fix their wages, and a class of 8,000 chicken processors in a wage and hour lawsuit that resulted in the recovery of 85 percent of the back pay owed. Kotagal also played an instrumental role in representing Wal-Mart employees in the landmark Supreme Court case Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

“Kalpana Kotagal’s tireless advocacy is an inspiration to us all,” said L. Song Richardson, dean and professor of law at UCI Law. “She is a shining example of the champion and leader we teach our students to be, and we look forward to hosting her on our beautiful campus.”

Kotagal was previously a field organizer with Green Corps, a field director with the United States Public Interest Research Group, and an advisor to a Congressional candidate in 2006. She also served as an honorary chair of the National Finance Committee of Young Lawyers for Obama in 2008.  She currently chairs the governance committee of the Board of Directors of CISV USA, an international youth-empowerment and peace education organization with more than 20 chapters in the United States.

Law360 recognized Kotagal in 2017 as a “Rising Star,” an honor awarded to lawyers under the age of 40 whose professional accomplishments transcend their age.

Kotagal earned her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, where she was a Morris K. Udall Scholar and graduated with honors. She earned her J.D. cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a James Wilson Fellow and served as articles editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.  She previously clerked for the Hon. Betty Binns Fletcher of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

UCI Law’s seventh commencement ceremony will be held in Aldrich Park on May 12 at 9:30 a.m. For more information, visit here.