Throughout her 24-year legal career, Debra L. Reilly has conducted over five hundred workplace investigations for various municipalities (including police departments and fire departments), water districts, sanitation districts, transportation authorities, public and private elementary schools, private and public universities, the United States Postal Service (holding a “sensitive” security clearance by the Postal Inspector’s Office), and a multitude of private sector employers.   Debra has conducted employment investigations throughout the United States and California, but more particularly in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Imperial, Kern, and Riverside Counties.  She has testified in depositions, arbitrations, and trial concerning the findings of her investigations, all of which have been upheld by the triers of fact (arbitrators and juries).   Given her legal training and added litigation experience representing both sides of a case (management and employees), Ms. Reilly’s investigations are objective and thorough.  Ms. Reilly has also qualified and testified as an expert witness in Human Resources Standard Practice in conducting harassment and discrimination investigations.

In 1984, Ms. Reilly graduated from Brigham Young University with a B.S. in Psychology.  In 1989, she received her J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law, where she was a Comments Editor for the San Diego Law Review and was selected to have her article Reversal of a RICO Predicate Offense on Appeal: Should the RICO Count Be Vacated? published in Volume 27, Issue 1, of the San Diego Law Review. She was also a Finalist in a USD Moot Court competition in 1989.

After graduation, Ms. Reilly worked as an Extern Law Clerk for Justice David R. Thompson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals before joining the Orange County-based law firm Murtaugh Miller Meyer & Nelson LLP from 1990 to 1999, where she became a partner practicing employment law on behalf of employers and management, which included the performance of workplace investigations.  In 1999, Ms. Reilly moved to San Diego to serve for one year as the Research Attorney to United States District Judge Larry A. Burns of the United States District Court, Southern District of California. In that capacity, she researched and drafted proposed judicial opinions and orders and handled discovery conferences with counsel on such diversified issues as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Civil Rights Act of 1871 (42 U.S.C. § 1983), Copyright/Patent Infringement, Social Security Appeals, Federal Tort Claims Act, and Writs of Habeas Corpus.

Ms. Reilly then joined a Mission Viejo law firm as a named partner for three years heading up the firm’s employment law department before eventually opening her own employment law practice in 2002. In Ms. Reilly’s representation of public entities, corporations, management, and employees, she has handled all facets of employment litigation, including trial work. She has handled numerous administrative proceedings before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the California Labor Commission’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, the Employment Development Department, and the City of Santa Ana Personnel Board.

Ms. Reilly has published numerous articles on employment law and workplace investigations. She has spoken in educational seminars, sponsored by the State Bar of California, the Association of Workplace Investigators, the Orange County Bar Association, and the San Diego County Bar Association on how to conduct prompt, thorough, and impartial workplace investigations. She is a member of the California State Bar (Labor and Employment Law section), the San Diego County Bar Association (Labor and Employment Law section), the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), a past member of the Orange County Bar Association (Labor and Employment Law section), a past member of the North County Personnel Association of San Diego, and a past member of the San Diego Society for Human Resources Management. She is a founding (and current) Board Member of the Association of Workplace Investigators (“AWI”) and has served as the Chair of its Publications Committee since 2009 and Editor-in-Chief of The AWI Quarterly since 2009. Ms. Reilly is also certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (“SPHR”) by the Human Resources Certification Institute.

Debra can be reached by email at

Practice Areas

  • Workplace Investigations of employee harassment, discrimination, retaliation, fraud, abuse of public funds, and other employee misconduct
  • Training on how to conduct workplace investigations
  • Training and one-on-one coaching on sexual harassment prevention
  • Expert witness testimony concerning workplace investigations
  • Wage and Hour Audits
  • Mediation of Employment Disputes (pre- and post-litigation)

Professional Associations

  • Association of Workplace Investigators
  • California Bar Association (Labor and Employment Law section)
  • San Diego County Bar Association (Labor and Employment Law section)
  • San Diego Society for Human Resource Management
  • North County Personnel Association of San Diego
  • Association of Certified Fraud Examiners

Recent Legal Training and Certifications

  • Examining the Investigation, November 2011
  • Global Data Privacy:  The New Frontier, November 2011
  • The Problematic Interviews:  Interview Ideas for Psychotic and Personality Disordered Individuals, November 2011
  • Issues in Eyewitness Evidence and Gathering Evidence Beyond Testimonial, November 2011
  • Investigation Law:  What Do the Legal Authorities Teach Us, November 2011
  • Want Me to Investigate Who?, November 2011
  • Evidence Examination, November 2011
  • Enlisting Your Client’s Help in Maintaing Investigation Integrity, November 2011
  • Expert Testimony on Trial, By the Experts, November 2011
  • Emerging Trends in Employment Practices–Simplifying the Complexities of Today’s Workplace, November 2011
  • Use of Liability Experts in Harassment Litigation, October 2011
  • Ethics in Employment Mediation, October 2011
  • Legal & Legislative Update, State Bar Labor & Employment Law, October 2011
  • What Keeps In-House Counsel Up at Night and How Outside Counsel Can Help Them Sleep Better, October 2011
  • Effective Use of Digital Evidence in Workplace Investigations, November 2010
  • Ready, Set, Go: Planning and Perfecting the Investigative Interview, November 2010
  • The Psychology of Bias:  Understanding and Eliminating Bias in Investigations, November 2010
  • Workplace Investigations on Trial: How Defendants Conduct Bulletproof Investigations and How Plaintiffs Shoot Them Down, November 2010
  • Special Issues in Public Sector Investigations:  What You Don’t Know Can & Will Hurt You, November 2010
  • SPHR Certification, Human Resources Certification Institute, January 2010
  • State Bar of California, How to Conduct Employment Investigations, October 2009
  • State Bar of California, Sexual Harassment Investigations: Conducting Them, Attacking Them, and Pitfalls with Witnesses, October 2009
  • State Bar of California, Retaliation Under Title VII and FEHA, October 2009
  • State Bar of California, Recent Developments in Statutory and Case Law, October 2009
  • State Bar of California, Recent Developments in Disability Discrimination, October 2009
  • State Bar of California, Religion, God in the Workplace, October 2009
  • State Bar of California, Employment Mediation in the 10’s, October 2009
  • EEOC Training Institute, Technical Assistance Seminar, September 2009
  • Pepperdine University School of Law, Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, Mediating the Litigated Case (42 hours), 2008
  • State Bar of California, Labor and Employment Update, 2008
  • State Bar of California, Disability Discrimination, 2008
  • State Bar of California, Personnel Actions in the Public Sector, 2008
  • State Bar of California, Issues of Age Discrimination and the Baby Boomer Generation, 2008
  • EEOC Training Institute, Technical Assistance Program, 2008
  • State Bar of California, Employment Law in the Biotech Industry, 2008
  • State Bar of California, Internal Investigations on Trial: Plaintiff and Defense Perspectives, 2007
  • State Bar of California, Update on Wrongful Termination and Discrimination, 2007
  • State Bar of California, Regulating Private Behavior in the Workplace, 2007
  • EEOC Training Institute, EEO Complaint Process, 2007

Recent Publications

  • Workplace Investigations: The Gold Standard, Calif. Business Law Practitioner–CEB, Spring 2012
  • Conducting Firefighter Investigations: The Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act, AWI Quarterly, July 2010
  • Tips for Conducting Peace Officer Investigations, AWI Quarterly, April 2010, with Sue Ann Van Dermyden
  • Practice Pointers for Workplace Investigations, AWI Quarterly, January 2010, with Nancy Bornn
  • Resolving Bitterness and Wounded Feelings in the Office After a Workplace Investigations, AWI Quarterly, January 2010, with Ron S. Brand and Emily Camastra


  • J.D., University of San Diego School of Law, 1989
    • Law Review: Comments and Note Editor, 1989
  • B.S. in Psychology, Brigham Young University, 1984

Bar Admissions

  • Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • U.S. District Court, Northern, Central, and Southern Districts of CA
  • State Bar of California since 1990


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