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, sexual 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, sexual 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.

Learn more about Diane M. Saunders

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, sexual 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, sexual 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, sexual 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.

Education

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

Admittance to Practice

  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • New Hampshire
  • U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts
  • U.S. District Court, District of New Hampshire
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern and Southern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, First, Second, and Third Circuits

Professional Activities

  • National Retail Federation (Committee on Employment Law, Chair of EEOC and Supreme Court Subcommittee)
  • Defense Research Institute (Employment and Labor Law, Lawyers’ Professionalism and Ethics, and Retail and Hospitality Committees)
  • 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

  • Boston Bar Association, Employment Law Conference - "Arbitration with Class Waivers" - Boston - October 2018
  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - "Help! Navigating English Only Policies and Other Hot Workplace Issues" - New York City - October 2018
  • Dunkin Donuts Independent Franchise Owners, National Conference - "Navigating Class Action Lawsuits" - New Orleans - June 2018
  • Ogletree Deakins Workplace Strategies Seminar - "Retail Roundtable: Strategies and Solutions for Today’s Industry Challenges" - Phoenix - May 10, 2018
  • Dunkin Donuts Independent Franchise Owners, Information Workshop on Regulatory and Lawsuit Exposure in Massachusetts - "Class Actions and Other Challenges in Massachusetts" - Providence - May 2018
  • Boston Bar Association, Venture Capital and Private Equity Conference - "Due Diligence and Other Challenges In The #MeToo Era" - Boston - April 2018
  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - "The #MeToo Movement and the Retail Workplace" - Longboat Key - April 2018
  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - "Social and Political Issues at Work" - Washington, D.C. - November 2017
  • National Association of Women Lawyers, Meet the Challenge - "Women and Pay Equity Issues—Strategies For Maximizing Your Compensation And Achieving Equity" - Boston - September 2017
  • Ogletree Deakins Webinar - "Preparing for the Massachusetts Equal Pay Law, Part I: Whether, When, and How to Conduct a Pay Equity Audit" - June 14, 2017
  • National Retail Federation, General Counsel's Forum - "Social and Political Issues at Work" - Washington, D.C. - June 2017
  • Ogletree Deakins Workplace Strategies Seminar - "Best Practices for Pursuing and Negotiating Class and Collective Action Settlements" - San Diego - May 5, 2017
  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - "Social and Political Issues At Work 2.0" - Longboat Key - April 2017
  • Ogletree Deakins Briefing - "A Closer Look at Massachusetts's Pay Equity Law" - Needham - October 20, 2016
  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - "Social and Political Issues At Work" - Washington, D.C. - October 2016
  • Ogletree Deakins Webinar - "Executive Webinar: Massachusetts Enacts Sweeping Pay Equity Legislation" - August 24, 2016
  • Ogletree Deakins Workplace Strategies Seminar - "Retail and Hospitality Roundtable – The Top Issues Keeping Employers Up At Night" - Chicago - May 2016
  • National Retail Federation, General Counsel’s Forum - "Hot Legislative & Regulatory Issues For Retail Employers in 2016" - New York - January 2016
  • International Council of Shopping Centers, US Shopping Center Law Conference - "Hot Regulatory Legal Issues: What Keeps Us Up at Night" - Phoenix - October 2015
  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - "EEOC and Supreme Court Update" - Washington, DC - October 2015
  • Ogletree Deakins Workplace Strategies Seminar - "Living Wages - Ethical, Legal, Economic and Practical Issues" - San Antonio - May 2015
  • Ogletree Deakins Workplace Strategies Seminar - "Retail and Hospitality Roundtable - What's Keeping Employers Up at Night" - 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
  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - "EEOC and Supreme Court Update" - Dallas - October 2012
  • Boston Bar Association - "The Supremes" - Boston - October 2012 - October 2013
  • 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
  • Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc. - "Ethical Quandaries for Employment Lawyers" - Boston - Spring 2010
  • National Retail Federation, Employment Law Meeting - "Common Ethical Dilemmas in Employment Cases—How to Avoid and Resolve Them" - Longboat Key - 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
  • Lorman Education Seminars - "Human Resources Fundamentals" - Boston - 2008
  • South Shore Chamber of Commerce - "Wage and Hour Update" - Quincy - 2008
  • Boston Bar Association, Labor and Employment Section - "Litigation Tips" - Boston - 2007
  • Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc. (Program Chair and Panelist) - "Employment Law for Non-Profits" - Boston - 2007
  • Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc., Employment Law Basics Course - "Employee Leaves of Absence" - Boston - 2003 - 2009
  • October 2016 - Defense Research Institute, Retail and Hospitality Newsletter - "The Proposed EEO-1 Form: What It Means For Retail and Hospitality Employers And How They Should Prepare Now"
  • November 19, 2015 - JD Supra - "Predictive Scheduling: A Primer for Retail and Hospitality Employers"
  • February 2013 - For the Defense - a publication of the Defense Research Institute - "The New Frontier in Employment Class Actions"
  • July 2010 - For the Defense, a publication of the Defense Research Institute - "Protecting Personal Information—What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You And Others"
  • August 2009 - For the Defense, a publication of the Defense Research Institute - "Approach With Care—Avoiding The Potential Pitfall Of Joint Representation"
  • January 2007 - For the Defense, a publication of the Defense Research Institute - "Lessons From The Hewlett-Packard Spy Scandal"
  • Fall 2006 - Professionalism Perspectives, the newsletter of the Defense Research Institute's Lawyers' Professionalism and Ethics Committee - "Advancing Technologies, Advancing Ethics?"
  • 2003 - 2012 - Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc. - "Employment Law Sourcebook And Citator"
  • November 2, 2018 - SHRM Online - "11 Compliance Tips for Working with Seasonal Employees During the Holidays"
  • March 1, 2017 - New England In House - "Judge rejects federal test on meal break compensability"
  • January 5, 2017 - Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly - "State judge rejects federal test on meal break compensability"
  • January 3, 2017 - SHRM Online - "Top 7 Workplace Legal Trends for 2017"
  • October 13, 2016 - HR Executive Online - "Scheduling Under Scrutiny"
  • January 12, 2016 - Daily Labor Report - "Are Scheduling Measures in D.C., Elsewhere Helping Workers or Meddling in Businesses?"
  • December 7, 2015 - SHRM Online - "'Tis the Season to Train Seasonal Workers"
  • September 25, 2015 - SHRM Online - "Massachusetts Policies and Procedures ‘Checkup’: The Top 10 Areas for Review"
  • September 11, 2015 - SHRM Online - "Flying Solo: HR Departments of One Still Need Co-Pilots"
  • September 3, 2015 - Corporate Counsel - "Hiring and Laying Off En Masse? Here's How"
  • Fall 2015 - The Practical NLRB Advisor - "Selling employee engagement"
  • May 14, 2015 - Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly - "Employer denied costs despite prevailing in gender bias trial"
  • May 4, 2015 - HR Executive Magazine - "Are You Asking Illegal Interview Questions"
  • August 21, 2014 - Corporate Counsel - "Workplace Laws Offering Leave for Domestic Abuse"
  • August 19, 2014 - Today's General Counsel - "Non-Compete Legislation Fails in Massachusetts"
  • November 2012 - Inside Counsel Magazine - "1st Circuit makes it harder to avoid class arbitration"
  • April 2011 - Law360 - "Ex-Morgan Brown Employment Attys Join Ogletree"
  • Best Lawyers Award Badge
  • Ranked in Chambers USA
  • AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell
  • Best Lawyers in America
  • Chambers USA
  • Named a 2016 Top Women of Law by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
  • Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America
  • New England Super Lawyers
  • Massachusetts Super Lawyers
  • Articles Editor, American University Law Review
  • Paul Evans Award – Outstanding Senior in History (University of Vermont)

Insights by Diane M. Saunders