Know Your Rights Content Reviewers

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Ethan C. Surls | California

Ethan Surls received his Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Sociology from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ.  Mr. Surls is admitted to practice in all California State Courts. 

Prior to starting at Stansbury Brown Law, Mr. Surls worked for a variety of organizations whose purpose was to provide legal services to disadvantaged workers including the Wage Justice Center as well as an internship with the Labor Commissioner’s office.

Additionally, Mr. Surls has worked pro-bono with the organization Kids In Need of Defense (K.I.N.D) by defending undocumented-minors in deportation proceedings and facilitating their petitions for asylum.  After graduating Law School, Mr, Surls worked for a plaintiff’s employment firm focusing on wage and hour class actions and individual wrongful termination and discrimination suits, where he worked on a number of landmark cases in California wage and hour litigation.

From 2006 until 2019, Mr. Surls worked in the restaurant industry as a minimum wage employee and was personally subjected to the gross mistreatment of workers.  These experiences have fueled his desire to fight with vigor for the rights and dignity of employees who have faced similar experiences.

Mr. Surls is a native of the South Bay of Los Angeles and an avid surfer and snowboarder.  Mr. Surls, a Spanish speaker, frequently travels to the various countries of Latin America to enjoy the beautiful beaches and explore the wildlife in the rainforests.

Rebecca G. Pontikes | Massachusetts

Rebecca G. Pontikes, the founder of Pontikes Law, LLC, represents employees in all areas of employment law, specializing in gender and family responsibility (caregiver) discrimination, sexual harassment, negotiation of employment contracts and separation agreements, noncompetition agreements, retaliation and whistleblower claims (in all sectors, including the government and financial sectors), violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act, and violations of the wage statutes. 

Ms. Pontikes regularly speaks on employment law topics for Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, bar associations, groups representing employees, and organizations that promote women’s rights in the workplace. 

She has co-written amicus briefs in support of the employee in Trustees of Health and Hospitals of the City of Boston v. Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, 449 Mass. 675, (2007) and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority v. Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, 450 Mass. 327 (2008), Dahms v. Cognex Corp., 455 Mass. 190 (2009), and Flagg v. Ali-Med, Inc. 466 Mass. 23 (2013).  

Ms. Pontikes is an active member of the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association, where she sat on the board of directors for twelve years and chaired the solo and small firm committee for ten years. She is an active member of the Legislative Policy Committee and lobbied for the passage of the Massachusetts Pay Equity law and a Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act. She is an active member of the Massachusetts Employment Lawyer’s Association, an association of attorneys who focus on representing employees and currently co-chairs the Amicus Committee. In the past, she has served on the Boards of Directors of Deana’s Fund, an organization devoted to educating against dating violence through educational theater, and the Greater Boston Chapter of the National Organization for Women.

She was selected by her peers as a “SuperLawyer” Rising Star in 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 and as a “SuperLawyer” in 2013 and 2014. Massachusetts Lawyer’s Weekly named her a Top Woman of Law in 2012.  SuperLawyers named her one of the Top 50 Women SuperLawyers in Massachusetts in 2014. She graduated from Tufts University, magna cum laude in 1994, and from the University of Michigan Law School in 1997. In her free time, she is a political activist, particularly the underprivileged, reads, watches movies, and writes letters to the editor.  

David G. Webbert | Maine

David G. Webbert is the Managing Partner of Johnson, Webbert & Garvan, LLP, which is the leading workers’ and civil rights law firm in Northern New England. He specializes in employment, civil rights, and complex litigation. He graduated magna cum laude from both Yale College in 1982 and Harvard Law School in 1985, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. David clerked for Judge Kenneth W. Starr of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and practiced for 5 years with a leading litigation firm in D.C. He has been listed five times as one of only five Maine lawyers on Super Lawyers annual list of the Top 100 lawyers in New England and has been listed since 2003 in The Best Lawyers in America. Since 1998, David has been the President of the Maine Employment Lawyers Association. The Chambers USA guide to leading lawyers has listed David as the top attorney for employees in Maine, describing him as “in a league of his own” for “pure courtroom horsepower” and commending his legal strategy skills: “If there is a hook to hang his case on, he will find it.”

Federal Judges have repeatedly praised David’s work describing him as (1) “a highly professional advocate who approaches difficult cases with an admirable blend of diligence, intelligence, and practicality,” (2) a “highly skilled and experienced civil rights” attorney whose “professional performance was exemplary” and who represented his client “zealously” and with “professional excellence,” and (3) “highly skilled and knowledgeable.” He is an elected Fellow of The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, the highest recognition by colleagues of sustained outstanding performance in the field of labor and employment law.

David has won many precedent-setting workers’ rights and civil rights cases, including class action settlements of $5, 3.3, and 1.45 million and individual case settlements of $1-2 million, an academic freedom verdict of $805,000 featured in the American Bar Association Journal, two of the largest Americans with Disabilities Act verdicts ever in Maine, a race discrimination and free speech verdict for the President of the Portland NAACP, a landmark ruling upholding a claim of family responsibilities and sex stereotyping discrimination by a woman unfairly denied a job promotion because she was the mother of young triplets, and fair housing cases reported in leading national newspapers.

He has won awards from the Maine Civil Liberties Union and Disability Rights Maine. Since 1998, David has been a member of the Maine Federal Court’s Local Rules Advisory Committee. He is also an elected member of the American Law Institute, a group of leading judges, legal scholars and lawyers founded in 1923 to promote clarity and reform in judge-made law and recognized as the most prestigious American legal association. David served as the President of the Board of Directors of Disability Rights Maine, the protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities, and continues to serve on its Board of Directors Advisory Committee. He has been recognized in the Congressional Record for his contributions to the enactment of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 and the Civil Rights Tax Relief Act. LawDragon has repeatedly selected him as one of the country’s 500 leading plaintiff employment lawyers.

Sarah Brown | Kansas

David G. Webbert is the Managing Partner of Johnson, Webbert & Garvan, LLP, which

Sarah Brown is a civil trial attorney who has focused her practice on discrimination and  harassment cases for more than 30 years. Sarah is compassionate about eliminating  harassment and discrimination in organizations and giving a voice to individuals  victimized by trusted others and by persons in positions of power. She is a partner with  the Kansas City law firm of Brown & Curry, LLC.  

Her active practice focuses on cases involving wrongful termination, harassment,  retaliation, and discriminatory practices based on sex, race, age, disability and other  protected classes, as well as cases involving school or educator abuse and discrimination and harassment of students and teachers. She has had more than 30 jury or arbitration  trials, is a frequent speaker at continuing legal education seminars, and a mentor to young  attorneys. 

Sarah has a B.A. from Trinity College, with a double major in Religion (Intercultural)  and Art. She is a 1984 graduate of the University of Kansas School of Law. She received  a Women’s Justice Award for Litigation in 2014 from Missouri Lawyers Weekly and was  the 2017 recipient of the Courageous Attorney Award from the Kansas Bar Association for her work on cases involving sexual misconduct perpetrated by priests, clergy and  religious institutions. 

is the leading workers’ and civil rights law firm in Northern New England. He specializes in employment, civil rights, and complex litigation. He graduated magna cum laude from both Yale College in 1982 and Harvard Law School in 1985, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. David clerked for Judge Kenneth W. Starr of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and practiced for 5 years with a leading litigation firm in D.C. He has been listed five times as one of only five Maine lawyers on Super Lawyers annual list of the Top 100 lawyers in New England and has been listed since 2003 in The Best Lawyers in America. Since 1998, David has been the President of the Maine Employment Lawyers Association. The Chambers USA guide to leading lawyers has listed David as the top attorney for employees in Maine, describing him as “in a league of his own” for “pure courtroom horsepower” and commending his legal strategy skills: “If there is a hook to hang his case on, he will find it.”

Federal Judges have repeatedly praised David’s work describing him as (1) “a highly professional advocate who approaches difficult cases with an admirable blend of diligence, intelligence, and practicality,” (2) a “highly skilled and experienced civil rights” attorney whose “professional performance was exemplary” and who represented his client “zealously” and with “professional excellence,” and (3) “highly skilled and knowledgeable.” He is an elected Fellow of The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, the highest recognition by colleagues of sustained outstanding performance in the field of labor and employment law.

David has won many precedent-setting workers’ rights and civil rights cases, including class action settlements of $5, 3.3, and 1.45 million and individual case settlements of $1-2 million, an academic freedom verdict of $805,000 featured in the American Bar Association Journal, two of the largest Americans with Disabilities Act verdicts ever in Maine, a race discrimination and free speech verdict for the President of the Portland NAACP, a landmark ruling upholding a claim of family responsibilities and sex stereotyping discrimination by a woman unfairly denied a job promotion because she was the mother of young triplets, and fair housing cases reported in leading national newspapers.

He has won awards from the Maine Civil Liberties Union and Disability Rights Maine. Since 1998, David has been a member of the Maine Federal Court’s Local Rules Advisory Committee. He is also an elected member of the American Law Institute, a group of leading judges, legal scholars and lawyers founded in 1923 to promote clarity and reform in judge-made law and recognized as the most prestigious American legal association. David served as the President of the Board of Directors of Disability Rights Maine, the protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities, and continues to serve on its Board of Directors Advisory Committee. He has been recognized in the Congressional Record for his contributions to the enactment of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 and the Civil Rights Tax Relief Act. LawDragon has repeatedly selected him as one of the country’s 500 leading plaintiff employment lawyers.

Beth Creighton | Oregon

Beth Creighton has devoted her professional life to the defense of the rights of employees and the promotion of justice in the community. Her practice concentrates on the representation of individuals harmed by sexual harassment, discrimination, wrongful discharge, and by the violation of civil rights and other manifestations of police and governmental abuse. Beth’s undergraduate degree is in Women’s Studies from the University of Toronto (1992) and her JD is from the University of Wisconsin (1996), renowned for its labor and employment law programs. When she moved to Oregon in 1996, she began working with Crispin & Associates practicing employment law.  From 1997-1999, she represented clients in employment related claims while working for a firm that primarily did workers’ compensation law. In 2000, she began working for Steenson, Schumann, Tewksbury, Later & Rose, PC, where her practice was employment law and civil rights litigation (both employment related and police misconduct).  In July, 2010, she and her partner, Michael E. Rose, took over the firm and formed Creighton & Rose, PC.

Beth currently serve as one of the co-chairs of the employment section of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) and is a member of OTLA’s Board of Governors, as well as an active member of the education, amicus and legislative committees. She is also active in the National Employment Lawyers’ Association (NELA), and, in 2013, was elected as the first member of the NELA Board of Directors from Oregon. She has lobbied in both Washington, D.C., and Salem for legislative changes that have given workers more rights and protections in the workplace. Beth continues to work tirelessly to enforce the rights of workers and others abused by the system and has been an indomitable advocate for change on both an individual and systemic level to benefit her clients.

Outside of the litigation arena, Beth is currently being trained by her teenage daughter to become more adept at conflict resolution.

Laura Koistinen | New York & Oregon

Laura Koistinen is a civil rights attorney dedicated to advancing the rights of employees and holding police and other government actors accountable through litigation, advocacy, and education. Laura received her undergraduate degree in political science from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, and her law degree from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. Laura currently resides just outside New York City where she is a solo practitioner. Prior to moving to New York, from October 2017 through June 2021, Laura worked as an associate attorney at Creighton & Rose, PC in Portland, Oregon, where she represented employees discriminated against by employers and people who had their constitutional rights violated by government actors.  In her free time Laura teaches high school students about the US Constitution as a volunteer coach through the Classroom Law Project and Center for Civic Education. Laura is licensed to practice law in New York and Oregon. 

Jonathan Grode | Immigration Law

Jonathan Grode serves as the U.S. Practice Director and Managing Partner for the Firm. Jonathan has worked continuously in the U.S. business immigration law field since 1999 and has amassed considerable experience obtaining nonimmigrant and immigrant visas for new company start-ups, professional workers, artists and entertainers, athletes, physicians, and scientific researchers. In addition, Jonathan has significant experience dealing with Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security enforcement actions as well as with EB-5 Investor filings.

Jonathan has been a panelist and moderator on immigration law topics for numerous organizations, including the American Bar Association, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, French Chamber for Commerce and Industry (Paris, France), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association. He also writes regularly for industry publications and academic journals. In addition, Jonathan is an Adjunct Faculty at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law where he teaches Business Immigration Law, Advising Global Corporations, and Law Practice Management. In 2020, Jonathan Grode was named Adjunct Faculty of the Year by Temple University.

Notably, Jonathan has been listed as one of SuperLawyers Rising Stars from 2012-2019 and in 2020 was named a Super Lawyer. He has also been honored with the 2014 Pennsylvania Bar Association Special Achievement Award for “Dedication and Commitment to the High School Mock Trial Competition”, for which he has served as Lead Author since 2007. Jonathan was also the recipient of Lexology’s Client Choice Award in 2019 and was named in the 2020 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America Jonathan graduated first in his class from Temple University Beasley School of Law in 2008.

Thank you to our past Know Your Rights research volunteers for their contributions!

Gary Aber (DE), Heidi Allison (MI), Bill Amlong (FL), Jim Arruebarena (LA), Walt Aubil (WV), Alan Banov (DC), Patricia Barasch (NJ), Robert Belton (TN), Kathy Bogas (MI), Barbara Bonar (KY), Nancy Bornn (CA), J. Derek Brazie (TX), Harris Butler (VA), Michael Carroll (IA), Richard Cassidy (VT), Robert Childs (AL), Amy Coopman (KS & MS), Linda Correia (DC), Wade Cowan (TN), Stephen Dennis (KS), Danica Dodds (DC), John Dominy (NJ), Dale Dorr (ME), Lori Ecker (IL), Dennis Egan (MS), Herb Eisenberg (NY), Sue Ellen Eisenberg (MI), Deborah Thompson Eisenberg (MD), Allyson Fenton (CA), Allegra Fishel (NY), Randy Freking (OH), Tom Gagliardo (MD), Fred Gittes (OH), Anne Golden (NY), Steve Granberg (NM), Ken Grimes (UT), Margaret Harris (TX), Phil Hearn (MS), Victoria Herring (IA), Piper Hoffman (NY), Lee Holen (AK), Elizabeth Hubbard (IL), Mark Humowiecki (NY), Joan Jonkel (MT), Tim Jordan (CA), Charles Kirwan (RI), Ethan Klepetar (MN), Denise Knecht (OH), Mike Kratville (NE), Catherine Kyres (FL), Michael Latimer (TX), David Lee (IL), Chris Lenzo (NJ), Mindi Line (WV), Duane Lillehaug (ND), Judith Lonnquist (WA), Ann Lugbill (OH), John Lynn (ID), Scott Mach (MS), Daniel Marks (NV), Bill Martinez (CO), Jeffrey Martin (DE), Kraig Marton (AZ), Kristin Meier (CO), Charles Merton (OR), Judith Meyer (CT), Marty Meyers (MS), Mike Milligan (TX), Michael Nauyokas (HI), Robert Newcombe (AR), Steve Novick (OK), Wayne Outten (NY), Cliff Palefsky (CA), Travis Payne (NC), Kathleen Peratis (NY), Elliot Platt (PA), Richard Renner (OH), Ben Reifman (MI), Nancy Richards-Stower (NH), Terry Rickson (SC), Christian Roberson (AL), Cynthia Rockwell (IN), Patty Rose (WA), Sharon Rose (WY), Rebecca Salawdeh (WI), Dorene Sarnoski (MN), Robert Savage (RI), Richard Schall (NJ), Steve Scheinberg (CT), Doug Scherer (NY), Tim Schulte (VA), Debra Schwartz (GA), Mary Anne Sedey (MS), Henry Sherrod (AL), Clyde Summers (PA), Andrea Taylor (IN), Paul Taylor (MN), Archibald Thomas (FL), Victoria De Toledo (CT), Laura Unflat (MA), Cathy Ventrell-Monsees (MD), Katherine Watts (CA), Brad Yamauchi (CA) and Jeffrey Young (ME).

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.