New York Partner
Melinda Koster is a Partner at Sanford Heisler Sharp and a Co-Chair of the firm’s Discrimination and Harassment Practice Group.
At Sanford Heisler Sharp, Melinda’s practice has focused on representing individuals and classes in discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wage and hour cases. In addition to representing clients in public litigation, she has recovered millions of dollars for employees through privately negotiated, confidential settlements. Melinda is passionate about vindicating her clients’ rights. An experienced advocate, she is committed to leveraging the law to create a more just workplace for employees. Clients have lauded Melinda for her powerful advocacy, sharp mind, and empathy. Melinda’s representations have included:
- Litigating on behalf of a class of thousands of female pharmaceutical sales representatives asserting gender and pregnancy discrimination claims, culminating in a $4 million Court-approved class settlement
- Litigating a high-profile sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against Columbia University and winning a $1.25 million jury verdict, which lands among the Top 100 Civil Rights Violations Verdicts in the U.S. in 2018
- Litigating an overtime class action case against telecommunications company Alaska Communications Systems and obtaining a multi-million-dollar settlement on behalf of sales employees who alleged they were misclassified as exempt from overtime pay under state and federal law
- Litigating on behalf of a class of truck drivers asserting wage and hour claims for unpaid overtime, culminating in a Court-approved six-figure class settlement
- Negotiating a six-figure settlement on behalf of an employee in the financial services industry who was denied pregnancy accommodations and terminated while on maternity leave
- Negotiating a six-figure settlement on behalf of an employee with pregnancy discrimination, caregiver discrimination, and retaliation claims
- Negotiating a multi-year settlement on behalf of a female executive in the tech industry with gender-based pay discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination claims
- Negotiating a multi-year settlement on behalf of an employee in the financial services industry with sexual harassment and retaliation claims
Melinda received her law degree from Stanford Law School and her undergraduate degree summa cum laude from Pomona College. At Stanford Law, Melinda was a Notes Editor for the Stanford Law Review and the recipient of the Gerald Gunther Prize for Outstanding Performance in Employment Law. She also served as a Co-President of the Stanford Public Interest Law Foundation, was on the board of Women of Stanford Law, and worked as a student attorney in Stanford’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and Stanford’s Criminal Defense Clinic. In college, Melinda was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and received Pomona College’s Ted Gleason Award in recognition of her leadership and exceptional contributions to the college community.
A member of the New York bar, Melinda is regularly called upon by the media to share her legal expertise on such issues as lactation accommodations in the workplace, paid leave laws, and pay equity statutes. She has also authored pieces on a variety of employment law topics, including a primer for employees returning from parental leave.
Before joining Sanford Heisler Sharp, Melinda clerked for the Honorable Julio M. Fuentes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and for the Honorable Esther Salas of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
Before law school, Melinda worked as a legal assistant at CASA de Maryland, where she helped lawyers provide direct legal services to day laborers and domestic workers and delivered know-your-rights presentations.
In her spare time, Melinda enjoys traveling, practicing Pilates, and exploring Brooklyn’s many playgrounds and parks with her toddler.
- J.D., Stanford Law School
- B.A., Pomona College, summa cum laude
- Stanford Law School: Immigrants’ Rights Clinic
- Stanford Law School: Criminal Defense Clinic
- Honorable Julio M. Fuentes, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
- Honorable Esther Salas, United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
- New York, 2013
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
- U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
Knows How to Find the Perfect Words to Explain the Situation
“Melinda is a super attorney. She is an artistic and amazing storyteller with her writing and truly knows how to find the perfect words to explain the situation. She helped resolve my case with a fantastic outcome. She is a genius who also happens to be very empathetic and patient with stressed and distraught clients like myself. Thank you, Melinda!”
– Former Client
Incredibly supported, heard, and understood
“When I was experiencing pregnancy discrimination and seeking legal counsel, I never could have imagined working with someone like Melinda. She is extremely thorough, organized, and diligent, the exact type of person you want representing you.
Throughout a tough and complex legal journey, Melinda made me feel incredibly supported, heard, and understood. I walked away from my legal journey feeling empowered, heard, and whole again as Melinda stood by my side, worked tirelessly, and defended me each step of the way.”
– Former Client
Every step of the way I felt deeply listened to
“I can’t express how grateful I am to you for all of your work, commitment, and advocacy. From the first moment we spoke on the phone I felt all of the support and validation I had been missing and you made me feel strong enough to go through with this process. Every step of the way I felt deeply listened to, like you prioritized giving me all of the information, and empowered to make my own decisions. While the results of the settlement were of course exciting, just having you believe me and dedicate so much time and effort to fight for me gave me all of the closure I was looking for. I could not have asked for a better advocate. I feel eternally fortunate to have gotten the chance to work with you.
Thank you for everything; you truly did so much for me.”
– Former Client
Commitment to Success
“After experiencing a challenging situation with my employer, I reached out to a former colleague who experienced a similar situation and obtained a successful resolution through working with Sanford Heisler Sharp. He referred me to the firm, which was some of the best advice I have ever received. When I contacted Sanford Heisler Sharp, I immediately felt confident that I made the right decision. The legal team that provided counsel on my discrimination case was extremely compassionate, committed, determined, and worked tirelessly to drive the most favorable outcome I could have ever expected. Melinda was a key member of that legal team and went above and beyond to help resolve my case. Her attention to detail, which she exhibited in seeking to understand all aspects of my case, was beyond impressive. The empathy she demonstrated as well as her dedication to my success and the success of her team was apparent at all times. And her knowledge and ability to identify individual situations and behaviors exhibited by my employer that strongly supported my case clearly demonstrated her strong expertise and commitment to success. I will always be grateful for the support and counsel provided by Melinda and the Sanford Heisler Sharp team, during a most difficult time. And you could not have a more dedicated and supportive person providing counsel for you than Melinda. Thank You!”
– Former Client
Care, Compassion, and Concern
“I am incredibly grateful to have had Melinda as one of the main attorneys handling my case. Her care, compassion, and concern helped give me the confidence I needed to continue through what was undeniably one of the most challenging circumstances I have ever faced. Her dedication to the law and her clients is unsurpassed. Melinda is an absolutely excellent example of what an attorney should be. She is a great asset to Sanford Heisler Sharp and to any client who is smart enough to have her fighting for them.”
– Former Client
Absolutely outstanding to work with.
“A heartfelt thank you to Sanford Heisler Sharp for the successful resolution of my pregnancy discrimination case. Everyone I worked with at Sanford Heisler Sharp was excellent. In particular, I wanted to call out Melinda Koster who was absolutely outstanding to work with – brilliant, thoughtful, sincere, thorough yet efficient, responsive; there really aren’t enough superlatives to describe her. Any firm would be so fortunate to have such a high caliber employee, and I hope to read someday about how far she has gone in the legal field.”
– Female Financial Services Professional
Demonstrated compassion and understanding.
“When I contacted Sanford Heisler Sharp, I expected to be represented by an intelligent, accomplished, and dedicated attorney. I got that and much more with Melinda Koster. My case was far from simple, yet, Melinda spent the necessary time and asked the right questions to fully understand my situation and craft a powerful and compelling story. She demonstrated compassion and understanding during a very difficult time for me. Melinda clearly explained the pros and cons of every decision and enabled me to make the right decisions, taking into consideration my overall well-being. Melinda truly wanted the best possible outcome for me and worked tirelessly on my case. There is no better person to have in your corner than Melinda Koster.”
– A Human Resources Executive
“Thank you to Melinda, David and the Sanford Heisler Sharp team for your outstanding and winning counsel, powerful support and true humanity. It was a real privilege to work with such a professional and caring group of people. I am particularly grateful for Melinda’s hard work, sharp mind and empathy throughout the process during a very difficult time.”
– Former Marketing Executive
I could not have had a better representation.
“Ms. Koster managed my case from the firm’s New York office. Words have power only when they are crafted to make a compelling story and Ms. Koster is a master of this. It takes more than just putting words on paper – to get the story to be powerful it takes an attorney who asks the right questions to get the information needed to organize the facts in the most forceful and emphatic manner. I could not have had a better representation for my case.”
– Former Client
You always made me feel like I was your only client
“Dear Melinda, It was a pleasure working with you. I was always impressed with your professionalism and responsiveness. Although I am confident that you had many other clients to tend to while working on my matter, you always made me feel like I was your only client. You did a great job in keeping me informed and in securing an outcome that exceeded my expectations. I enthusiastically recommend Melinda Koster and her firm, Sanford Heisler Sharp to anyone facing employment discrimination.”
– Former Client
Well organized, professional, and understanding
“Melinda is wonderful—well organized, professional, and understanding. Her responsive work-style reassured me that my case was important, even in the context of other priorities.”
– Former Client
According to the complaint, Defendants regularly failed to compensate the Virginia truck drivers for both straight time and overtime during weeks in which they worked over 40 hours
The lawsuit seeks unpaid overtime wages for Claim Specialists who worked on long term disability insurance claims (“LTD Claim Specialists”) for MetLife and two of its subsidiaries, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and MetLife Insurance Company USA.
Sanford Heisler Sharp represents sales employees on a class and collective action complaint in the U.S. District Court in Anchorage against Alaska Communications Systems Group, Inc., and Alaska Communications Systems Holdings, Inc. (Alaska Communications). Plaintiffs allege that Alaska Communications failed to pay sales employees overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Alaska Wage and Hour Act (AWHA). In December 2014, the court granted conditional certification of the collective action and authorized notice to the class under the FLSA.
According to the Complaint, Ms. Urquhart-Bradley’s career advancement repeatedly faced discriminatory roadblocks despite her objectively outstanding performance.
In July 2012, Sanford Heisler Sharp filed a $100 million class action lawsuit against Forest Laboratories, Inc., and Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Forest”) in federal court in New York, alleging, among other claims, that Forest discriminated against its female Sales Representatives by paying them less than their male counterparts. The Plaintiffs also allege claims of failure to promote, discrimination based on pregnancy and maternity leave, sexual harassment, and retaliation. In 2014, the Court denied Forest’s attempt to dismiss the Plaintiffs’ claims, and in 2015 the Court conditionally certified a class under the Equal Pay Act (EPA).
The complaint provides extensive details regarding how the senior leadership of Columbia – including the Provost of the University and the Dean of Columbia Business School – allowed one of Columbia’s senior, tenured professors to sexually harass and obstruct the work of a female junior faculty member, plaintiff Enrichetta Ravina.
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