Melanie Ross has practiced in all areas of employment law for more than 25 years, with a particular emphasis on employment litigation. She defends employers and managers against claims brought in state and federal court and private arbitrations. Ms. Ross has tried several jury cases in Superior Court and has conducted dozens of successful arbitrations before JAMS. She has also successfully obtained and defended against preliminary injunctions against former employees who misappropriated trade secrets or confidential information for the benefit of a competitor. Ms. Ross zealously represents clients in mediations, when settlement is the best solution for a particular case. Each case is unique and each client has different priorities and needs. Recognizing that no two clients are the same and no two cases are identical, Ms. Ross prides herself on tailoring an aggressive defense strategy to each new matter with the goal of achieving a successful and cost-effective result for her client.
defends companies and individual managers against the following claims
- Sexual harassment and harassment based on age, race, gender, disability, or any other protected characteristic
- Discrimination and retaliation in the workplace
- Wrongful termination
- Whistleblower claims
- Disability rights issues, reasonable accommodation and the interactive process
- FMLA and other leave of absence claims
- Breach of contract
- Defamation, invasion of privacy
- Intentional torts
- Unfair business practices, misappropriation of trade secrets and violation of non-compete covenants
- Failure to pay wages
Ms. Ross was born and raised in Bay Shore, New York and moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to attend USC Law School. She began her legal career in 1990 as an associate in the employment law department of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker in Los Angeles. When not practicing law, Ms. Ross engages in endless conflict resolution between her sons at home, enjoys going to the movies and the theatre, New York City, watching her sons play basketball, and taking tropical vacations with her family.
California Supreme Court
Suzanne Hughes v. Chris Pair, 46 Cal. 4th 1035 (2009). In this case of first impression, the California Supreme Court unanimously held that verbal comments alone, even if inappropriate and offensive, cannot create liability for sexual harassment in business relationships under Civil Code Section 51.9, absent an objective real threat of physical harm. The trial court, Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court each granted and affirmed summary judgment in favor of Ms. Ross’ client. In reaching its conclusion, the California Supreme Court adopted Ms. Ross’ primary and underlying legal premise: namely, that the California courts must rely on the wealth of case law defining sexual harassment in the workplace under both the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and Title VII for guidance when analyzing claims for sexual harassment against business professionals under Civil Code Section 51.9.
Court of Appeals
Destinations to Recovery v. Evolve Growth Initiatives, Case No. B259011 (2016). In this unfair competition/misappropriation of trade secret case, Ross & Silverman worked together to convince the Court of Appeal to vacate two provisions in a Preliminary Injunction which prohibited their clients from communicating with their former employer’s patients and employees on the grounds that these provisions were over broad and violated the First Amendment.
Rickards v. United Parcel Services and Robert Esqueda, 206 Cal. App. 4th 1523 (2012). In this discrimination and wrongful termination case, Ms. Ross represented the individual manager, Robert Esqueda. The trial court granted her client’s Motion for Summary Judgment and awarded her client $40,000 in fees and costs for Plaintiff’s failure to dismiss the discrimination case against the individual manager. Both the dismissal and attorney fee award were affirmed on Appeal.
Lockhart v. MVM, Inc., 175 Cal. App. 4th 1452 (2009). Ms. Ross successfully argued before the California Court of Appeals that the Customs and Immigration Correctional Facility at Terminal Island was a federal enclave. This legal designation required the court to dismiss all of plaintiff’ state law claims on summary judgment prior to trial. This published decision was another case of first impression in California because no statute, case law or other written document previously designated any facility on Terminal Island as a federal enclave.
Long Beach Mortgage a.k.a. Ameriquest v. NovaStar Financial Inc. and NovaStar Mortgage Inc., Court of Appeals, Fourth Appellate District, Case No. G025646. In this case the Court of Appeals affirmed a nominal award of less than $22,000 in damages to Plaintiff following a jury trial for unfair competition where Ms. Ross was lead counsel.
Angie Garcia v. La Guadalupana Market. BC487701. In 2014 Ms. Ross obtained a defense verdict from a Los Angeles Superior Court jury in an age discrimination case. Plaintiff, a Cashier, testified that she was terminated due to her age. The Owner testified that Plaintiff was terminated for time card falsification. Defendant prevailed on a Special Verdict presented to the jury at trial finding that age was not a substantial motivating reason for the market’s termination of Ms. Garcia’s employment.
Suzanne Hughes v. Chris Pair. Case No. BP063500. In 2011 Ms. Ross obtained indemnification for her client, Christopher Pair, a Trustee of the Mark Hughes Family Trust, following a bench trial regarding allegations of willful misconduct made by the Trustee’s mother, Suzanne Hughes. The trial court held that Mr. Pair did not engage in misconduct and, therefore, was entitled to full indemnity from the assets of the Trust.
Long Beach Mortgage a.k.a. Ameriquest v. NovaStar Financial Inc. and NovaStar Mortgage Inc. Orange County Superior Court, 773458. In an adversarial case filed by an aggressive competitor against this new start-up mortgage company, the plaintiff-company claimed unfair competition, misappropriation of trade secrets, and unlawful solicitation of employees. Plaintiff sought $5 million in damages against defendant NovaStar and threatened its livelihood. After trial, the jury awarded less than $22,000 in damages against NovaStar. Using the creative strategy of an Offer to Compromise under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 998 prior to trial, NovaStar recovered costs from the plaintiff-company significantly decreasing their liability even further. In addition, NovaStar recovered fees from the plaintiff-company as sanctions for abuse of the discovery process during pre-trial proceedings.
Summary Judgment Motions
In employment litigation, summary judgment motions are difficult to obtain. Often, there are disputed facts that stand in the way of a court dismissing the action prior to trial. Through creative strategizing, an exhaustive investigation and a narrowly tailored deposition, Ms. Ross has been successful in obtaining numerous summary judgments in favor of her clients, thereby dismissing the case prior to a lengthy and costly jury trial.
Sherry Buchanan v. Anthem Blue Cross. Ventura County Superior Court, 56-2012-00420068. Plaintiff alleged that she was wrongfully terminated based on her age, public policy and in retaliation for making complaints about her manager under the California Labor Code. Plaintiff also filed claims for breach of contract and defamation. Anthem terminated Plaintiff after a telephone audit indicated that multiple member calls were disconnected from her line. After extensive briefing and two hearings for oral argument, the Court granted the Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissed the case.
Kathy Saigeon v. The Fuller Foundation. Los Angeles Superior Court, BC506990. The former CFO of the Fuller Foundation sued for gender discrimination after she was transferred to a new position and, subsequently, laid off. The Court dismissed the California statutory discrimination claim (FEHA) claim on the grounds that the Fuller Foundation was exempt from liability under the statute as a religious organization not organized for private profit. The remaining claims were dismissed on summary judgment based on the Fuller Foundation’s legitimate business reasons and a written at-will employment agreement.
Rickards v. United Parcel Services & Bob Esqueda. Los Angeles Superior Court. BC441150. Court of Appeals, 206 Cal. App. 4th 1523 (2012); Belaire v. United Parcel Services & Nick Kochek. Orange County Superior Court. 30-2010 00400459. In both these cases, Ms. Ross represented the individual defendant-managers who were sued for harassment. UPS was represented by separate counsel throughout the proceedings. Following Plaintiff’s deposition, Ms. Ross filed Motions for Summary Judgment in each case and was successful in convincing the court to dismiss her individual clients prior to trial.
Cynthia Kelley v. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Los Angeles Superior Court GC014166. JPL prevailed on its Motion for Summary Judgment in this sexual harassment case filed by a former employee working at JPL through a third party employment agency. The trial court also awarded JPL attorneys’ fees and costs, finding that the evidence presented in support of the Motion for Summary Judgment demonstrated that the case was frivolous.
has defended a prominent healthcare industry client and other employers in numerous private and confidential employment arbitrations before JAMS during the past twenty years.