Diane M. Saunders

Profile

Diane Saunders is a Shareholder in the Boston office and a member of the firm’s Class Action Practice Group Steering Committee. Ms. Saunders is a skilled and aggressive litigator and possesses significant expertise in class/collective action matters and complex cases. Whether she is handling litigation or simply providing advice and counsel, Ms. Saunders employs a strategic approach to solving her clients' legal and business problems.  She always strives to achieve cost effective results that are consistent with her clients’ overall business objectives.

Ms. Saunders defends class and collective action suits alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Equal Pay Act, and Massachusetts wage and hour laws, including the Massachusetts Tips Law and the Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law. She also defends pattern and practice discrimination class actions, including allegations of class-wide discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

With close to 20 years of experience, Ms. Saunders has tried over a dozen matters in federal and state courts around the country, as well as before administrative agencies and in arbitration proceedings. Ms. Saunders regularly handles appeals in state and federal courts. She also defends employers in investigations and enforcement actions conducted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.  Representative matters include wage and hour, confidential information, trade secret and non-competition issues, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, whistleblower, and workplace torts and contract disputes. 

In addition to her litigation practice, Ms. Saunders regularly advises employers on employment law and wage and hour compliance and best practices. She reviews employee handbooks and employment policies, drafts employment agreements and non-competition agreements, conducts wage and hour audits, designs employment arbitration programs, and advises clients on best practices during workplace investigations.

Ms. Saunders has been recognized by Super Lawyers since 2006 as one of the leading employment lawyers in Massachusetts and New England. She is AV Preeminent Peer Review rated in Martindale-Hubbell. She is a frequent speaker at education programs for attorneys, human resources professionals, business owners, and managers. She also was a contributing author of the MCAD Guidelines: Employment Discrimination on the Basis of Handicap-Chapter 151B (1998) and the MCAD Guidelines: Guidelines on the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (2000).

Ms. Saunders graduated from American University’s Washington College of Law with honors and served as an Articles Editor on the American University Law Review. Immediately following her graduation from law school, she served as a judicial clerk for the Honorable Richard S. Salzman, District of Columbia Superior Court. She then practiced employment and civil rights law at the New York City Corporation Counsel’s office before moving to Boston. Prior to joining Ogletree Deakins, Ms. Saunders was a partner with a boutique labor and employment firm in Boston for many years.

AV Rated Martindale HubbellBest Lawyers

Experience

Experience: 

Class and Collective Action Defense. 

Ms. Saunders currently serves as lead counsel on several putative wage and hour class actions in Massachusetts, alleging claims of violations of the Massachusetts Tips Law, failure to pay overtime, denial of meal and rest periods, improper rounding, unjust enrichment, and tortious interference. Ms. Saunders also presently serves as co-lead counsel in a putative class and collective action in federal court in New York, in which the plaintiffs allege claims of gender discrimination on a nationwide basis in connection with the company’s evaluation, compensation, and promotion practices under Title VII and the Equal Pay Act, as well as various state laws.

Ms. Saunders has handled numerous hybrid wage and hour class and collective actions brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act and state law, which claimed violations of the minimum wage laws, failure to pay overtime at the proper rate, improper rounding and docking, and employee misclassification. She has also handled pattern and practice discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims brought on a class-wide basis, including putative class claims brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Significant examples of her representation in the area of class and collective actions include the following:

  • Achieved denial of class certification and summary judgment in a putative race harassment class action brought in New York federal court against a major retailer.
  • Obtained court approval of an $815,000 private class action settlement, in conjunction with a consent judgment with the U.S. Department Of Labor, in a hybrid wage and hour class/collective action in Massachusetts federal court against a leather manufacturer closed after a highly publicized ICE raid.
  • Obtained court approval of a $7.95 million dollar settlement of a wage and hour class action with over 10,000 class members brought in New York state court against a major retailer, alleging improper deductions from commission earnings.
  • Obtained Equal Employment Opportunity Commission approval of a $1.8 million dollar settlement of a putative pattern and practice age harassment and discrimination class action in Minnesota against a major retailer.

Wage and Hour. 

Ms. Saunders assists employers with proactive initiatives to ensure wage and hour compliance, such as internal wage and hour audits of pay polices and practices. When litigation is brought against her clients, Ms. Saunders handles both single plaintiff wage and hour matters, as well as claims brought on a class-wide basis.  She also represents employers during investigations and audits conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.

Some of the wage and hour issues that Ms. Saunders frequently addresses include: employee classification; tipping and tip pooling; overtime; rounding; docking; off-the-clock work; meal and rest periods; vacation pay; pay at termination; deductions from wages; prevailing wages; and payroll frequency.

Protecting Confidential Information, and Customer and Employee Relationships.

Ms. Saunders assists her clients with creating and implementing policies, practices, and restrictive covenant agreements designed to protect their valuable confidential business information and trade secrets from misappropriation, and to protect their customers, clients, vendors, suppliers, and employees from improper solicitation. Ms. Saunders also assists her clients with creating and implementing best practices and policies to ensure that they do not violate their competitors’ restrictive covenant agreements, or find themselves embroiled in unfair competition and trade secret litigation. When litigation becomes necessary, she aggressively prosecutes and defends enforcement actions brought in both state and federal courts. Ms. Saunders has handled successfully many temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction motions on behalf of her clients.

Her notable client victories in this area include the following:

  • Obtained a $2.4 million dollar judgment against a former employee in federal court in Massachusetts in a case involving claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and claims alleging breach of the duty of loyalty, common law fraud, and other torts.
  • Obtained a permanent injunction and $48,000 judgment against a former employee in federal court in Florida in a case involving claims of wrongful solicitation of customers and disclosure of confidential information.

Employment Law and Litigation.
Ms. Saunders has close to 20 years of experience in all aspects of employment law, from day-to-day counseling to handling complex litigation through trial and appeals.  She has significant experience with the myriad laws governing the workplace, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, as well as the various state laws that also govern the employer-employee relationship. In addition to issues of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on age, race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and disability, Ms. Saunders regularly advises and represents employers in connection with matters such as: employee privacy; voluntary and mandatory employment arbitration programs; accommodating people with disabilities; religious accommodations; workplace investigations; reductions-in-force; criminal records inquiries; employee leave issues; and whistleblower issues.

Her extensive experience in the area of employment law includes:

  • Obtained countless dismissals before trial on motions to dismiss and for summary judgment in state and federal courts across the country in cases involving claims of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on age, race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.
  • Obtained favorable results for employers in multiple employment law cases tried before judges, at administrative hearings, and at arbitration.
  • Achieved defense verdict for major retailer and individual manager after a three-week race discrimination jury trial in Seattle, Washington.
  • Achieved defense verdict for major retailer after a two-week age discrimination jury trial in Newark, New Jersey.

Education and Honors

Education: 

J.D., with honors, American University's Washington College of Law, 1992
B.A., with high honors, University of Vermont, 1987

Honors and Awards: 
  • Best Lawyers In America (2013 & 2014)
  • New England Super Lawyers (2011)
  • Massachusetts Super Lawyers (2006-2011)
  • AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell
  • Articles Editor, American University Law Review
  • Paul Evans Award - Outstanding Senior in History (University of Vermont)

Professional Activities

Professional Activities: 
  • National Retail Federation (Committee on Employment Law)
  • Defense Research Institute (Labor and Employment and Ethics and Professionalism Sections)
  • American Bar Association (Labor and Employment and Litigation Sections)
  • Massachusetts Bar Association (Labor and Employment Section, former Section Council Member and Committee Chair)
  • New York State Bar Association (Labor and Employment Section)
  • Boston Bar Association (Labor and Employment Section)
  • Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association (Board Member and Chair of Senior Practice Committee)
  • The Boston Club
Speeches:
  • Boston Bar Association - "The Supremes" - Boston - Fall 2012
  • Ogletree Deakins Briefing - "Labor and Employment Law Update" - Boston - September 1, 2012 - October 1, 2012
  • Ogletree Deakins Briefing - "Class and Collective Action Trends – What Employers Need To Know To Protect Themselves" - Boston - November 2011
  • Boston Bar Association - "Dancing With The Feds—Tips for Handling Federal Government Investigations and Enforcement Actions" - Boston - Fall 2011
  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - "The Medicare Secondary Payer Statute, the Gorilla In the Settlement Room" - Longboat Key - Spring 2011
  • Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc. (Program Chair and Panelist) - "Taking and Defending a Dynamite Deposition in Your Next Employment Case" - Boston - Fall 2010
  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - "Common Ethical Dilemmas in Employment Cases—How to Avoid and Resolve Them" - Longboat Key - Spring 2010
  • Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc. - "Ethical Quandaries for Employment Lawyers" - Boston - Spring 2010
  • Sterling Education Seminars - "Employment Law in These Challenging Times" - Boston - Spring 2009
  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - "Employment Arbitration Agreements—Effective Design and Implementation" - Longboat Key - Spring 2008
  • South Shore Chamber of Commerce - "Wage and Hour Update" - Quincy - 2008
  • Lorman Education Seminars - "Human Resources Fundamentals" - Boston - 2008
  • Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc. (Program Chair and Panelist) - "Employment Law for Non-Profits" - Boston - 2007
  • Boston Bar Association, Labor and Employment Section - "Litigation Tips" - Boston - 2007
  • Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc., Employment Law Basics Course - "Employee Leaves of Absence" - Boston - 2003/2009

In The News

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