Diane M. Saunders

Shareholder Boston

Diane Saunders is a Shareholder in the Boston office. Ms. Saunders is the Co-Chair of the firm’s Retail Practice Group, and a member of the firm’s Steering Committees for the Class Action Practice Group and Professional Development. Ms. Saunders has been helping employers with their labor and employment issues and business disputes for over 20 years. Her clients include businesses of all sizes and in a variety of industries, as well as non-profit organizations. Ms. Saunders is a skilled and aggressive litigator and possesses significant expertise in class and 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 has tried over a dozen matters in federal and state courts, 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.

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.

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 listed in Best Lawyers in America since 2013 and 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 and is a Fellow in the Litigation Counsel of America. She is a frequent speaker at education programs for attorneys, human resources professionals, business owners, and managers.

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.


Experience

Class and Collective Action Defense

Ms. Saunders handles wage and hour class and collective actions brought in both state and federal courts under the Fair Labor Standards Act, Equal Pay Act, Massachusetts Tips Law, Massachusetts Payment of Wages Law, Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law and other state laws.  Representative claims include those alleging claims of failure to pay overtime, denial of meal and rest periods, violations of the minimum wage laws, failure to pay overtime at the proper rate, improper rounding and docking, and employee misclassification unjust enrichment, and tortious interference. Ms. Saunders also handles pattern and practice discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims brought under federal and state law 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:

  • Obtained favorable ruling from Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts on the legality of employer "no tipping" policies in a putative class action brought against a regional franchisee under the Massachusetts Tips Law.
  • Achieved denial of class certification in a putative class action in Massachusetts federal court alleging claims of meal and rest period violations against a major dairy manufacturer and distributor.
  • 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 and 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.

Employment Law and Litigation

Ms. Saunders has over 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, the Equal Pay Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, and 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.

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 provides aggressive, cost-effective representation. 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.

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 policies and practices. When litigation is brought against her clients, Ms. Saunders defends 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; holiday and premium pay; and payroll frequency.

Professional Activities and Speeches

Professional Activities:

  • National Retail Federation (Committee on Employment Law, Chair of EEOC and Supreme Court Subcommittee)
  • 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 (Chair of Senior Practice Committee and former Board Member)
  • The Boston Club

Speeches:

  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - ''EEOC and Supreme Court Update'' - Washington, DC - October 2015
  • International Council of Shopping Centers, US Shopping Center Law Conference - ''Hot Regulatory Legal Issues: What Keeps Us Up at Night'' - Phoenix - October 2015
  • Ogletree Deakins Workplace Strategies Seminar - ''Retail and Hospitality Roundtable - What's Keeping Employers Up at Night'' - San Antonio - May 2015
  • Ogletree Deakins Workplace Strategies Seminar - ''Living Wages - Ethical, Legal, Economic and Practical Issues'' - San Antonio - May 2015
  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - ''EEOC and Supreme Court Update'' - Longboat Key - April 2015
  • Ogletree Deakins Webinar - ''Massachusetts' New Leave Laws - What Employers Need to Know'' - March 2015
  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - ''EEOC and Supreme Court Update'' - Chicago - October 2014
  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - ''EEOC and Supreme Court Update'' - Washington - October 2014
  • National Employment Law Institute - ''Employment Arbitration Agreements - Effective Design and Implementation'' - Washington - July 2014
  • Boston Bar Association - ''The Supremes'' - Boston - October 2012 - October 2013
  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - ''EEOC and Supreme Court Update'' - Dallas - October 2012
  • Ogletree Deakins Briefing - ''Labor and Employment Law Update'' - Boston - September 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

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Published Works

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Media

Media Quotes

January 12, 2016 - Daily Labor Report - "Are Scheduling Measures in D.C., Elsewhere Helping Workers or Meddling in Businesses?"
December 07, 2015 - SHRM Online - "'Tis the Season to Train Seasonal Workers"
September 03, 2015 - Corporate Counsel - "Hiring and Laying Off En Masse? Here's How"

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