Big law firms, like any other type of employer, are not immune to accusations of gender discrimination. In California, a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed against a well-known, large Northern California practice (the Firm) has come into the spotlight for just that reason.
Three female former employees of the Firm have accused the law firm of discriminating against pregnant women working as attorneys at the practice. According to the federal class action complaint recently filed in the Northern District of California, women lawyers at the Firm who took maternity leave were denied promotions, other advancement opportunities, and standard pay increases.
Under federal antidiscrimination laws, employers cannot discriminate against female employees who become pregnant or take maternity leave. Intentionally delaying the advancement of a female employee due to their maternity leave is one type of illegal pregnancy discrimination.
Allegations of Discrimination
The three Jane Doe plaintiffs allege as a result of taking maternity leave, their careers at the law firm were stalled. All three female employees were denied promotions and compensation increases upon their return to the law firm.
The complaint further alleges that although the women were denied pay increases during annual review cycles, their clients were charged at increased billing rates. Although the female lawyers did not get promoted or receive any benefits associated with promotions (such as pay increases or bonuses), their clients nonetheless were billed as though the attorneys were promoted.
One of the Jane Does alleges the partner she worked for warned her not to take maternity leave, by informing her “parents tend not to do well” in their practice group. Upon that employee’s return from maternity leave, she claims she was pressured to bill in excess of the firm’s 1,950 billable hours requirement, despite the fact she was not assigned the type of work necessary to allow for such high billing amounts.
Another female attorney alleges women returning from maternity leave would face inappropriate and discriminatory comments related to their level of commitment to their job, in light of the fact they were new mothers. These women lawyers would be reminded that in order to prove they were committed to their job and not just their new baby, they would need to work “really hard.”
Discriminatory Corporate Culture
In describing the corporate culture of the Firm as a “good old boys’ club,” the women’s attorneys assert the Firm’s practice of denying the promotion of women attorneys returning from maternity leave bolstered a damaging stereotype for female legal professionals.
According to the filed complaint, the law firm continues to deny women opportunities for advancement and greater pay, despite having knowledge of the detrimental impact these actions had on female employees. The Firm is accused of being aware of this discrimination and failing to take appropriate remedial measures to prevent or correct the problem.
The lawyers representing the plaintiffs in this suit have successfully litigated similar cases against other big, well-known law firms. Despite practices like the Firm providing extra leave for new mothers, this suit is indicative of an ongoing issue in the legal field.
The plaintiffs are seeking $100 million in putative damages against their former law firm.
Middletown Employment Discrimination Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Advocate for Victims of Pregnancy Discrimination
The experienced Middletown employment discrimination lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. represent New Jersey employees and employers in a wide variety of employment related matters, including pregnancy discrimination lawsuits. Call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, our Newark office at 973-878-9040, or contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout New Jersey.