Law Firm: Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker
Practice Area: Employment, labor and commercial litigation, including class action defense
Years in Practice: 31
Law School: California Western School of Law
Donna Melby has spent a lot of the past year defending large companies against proposed class actions in which workers are fighting their job classifi cations. She’s battling attempts by a group of workers to gain class action certifi cation in a four-year-old suit accusing her client, bakery giant Sara Lee, of misclassifying them as independent contractors. Last year, in another case, Melby successfully opposed conditional class certification for a suit contending her client, pharmaceutical company Glaxo Smith Kline, improperly pegged non-exempt employees as exempt. Melby was the fi rst lawyer to persuade a judge to block certifi cation among several similar pending suits nationwide. Her case is currently stayed while the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reviews the exemption issue in a similar case. In another high-stakes case winding its way through the court system, Melby is defending Belo Corp. — owner of several major newspapers around the country — against a suit charging the company with improperly listing carriers as independent contractors. Melby’s other major cases include representing United Parcel Service, which is fi ghting 20 cases brought by supervisors who allege they were erroneously classified. She’s also defending Toyota Motor Credit Corp. against a temporary service provider’s breach of contract suit and recently persuaded a judge to strip several key claims from the case.
Pretrial Ritual: Melby says she tries to become “calmer than usual,” and block out distractions by rising early in the morning to ride her bicycle or jog.
Biggest Career Break: An opportunity to try one of the fi rst same-sex harassment cases in the state nearly 20 years ago played a big role in steering her toward major cases involving employment law.