Biglaw, Labor / Employment, Lawsuit of the Day, Old People, Partner Issues, Partner Profits, Racism

Old White Man Sues Firm, Alleging Racial, Gender, and Age Discrimination

Ray Carey

You don’t see this everyday. Raymond Carey, a 57-year-old white male partner at Foley & Lardner, is suing the firm, alleging that it paid him less than it would have paid a “female, non-Caucasian, younger partner.”

Sadly, it appears the only evidence Carey has for his claims is that he wasn’t paid as much as he feels he was promised. That’s disappointing. When women, gays, or minorities make discrimination claims, there are usually juicy tidbits about inappropriate jokes and statements made to the alleged victim. But I just read through a 63-page complaint and there wasn’t a single alleged “cracker” joke. Apparently nobody at Foley told Carey he needed to show “more bulge.”

But hey, if the brother’s not getting paid as much as other people in his office, maybe he has a point. And even if you don’t find the complaint particularly salacious, one of Carey’s attached exhibits is the Foley & Lardner partnership agreement….

Law360 summarizes Carey’s complaint:

Throughout his employment, Carey has been paid tens of thousands of dollars less per year than the firm promised to pay him when he was hired, the complaint alleges.

In addition, the firm interfered with and destroyed Carey’s relationships with clients by wrongfully holding him accountable for the errors of other partners, the suit claims.

Carey blames these alleged wrongful acts on the firm’s discrimination against him on the basis of race, age and gender and in retaliation for his complaints about the alleged broken promises about his employment.

For each of the last several years, the firm has paid him less than what he claims he has earned and at the lowest rate among all partners in the Detroit office, the suit alleges.

His pay has been less that “similarly situated female, non-Caucasian and younger partners of defendant who were no more than equally but actually less qualified than plaintiff,” the complaint said.

Carey doesn’t give specific examples of “similarly situated” partners who were paid more, and he doesn’t give specific examples of partners “actually less qualified” than Carey who were paid more.

So is there real discrimination going on here, or is Carey just falling back on the old saw of assuming women and minorities have some kind of “advantage,” without any specific knowledge of the other person’s situation? Carey wouldn’t be the first white man who thinks he knows something about the “qualifications” of women and minorities he works with, when in reality he has no clue.

On the other hand, you don’t need to see the direct-deposit slips of every other person in your office to know that you are getting screwed.

And it’s not like Carey was some run-of-the-mill Foley partner. He was the founding partner of Foley’s Detroit office. Am Law Daily points out that he is a former president of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association. So it doesn’t look like Carey is some kind of nut job. And I don’t think you can go very far — making your living in Detroit, of all places — if you are running around being constantly paranoid that minorities are getting something at your expense.

Still, this complaint hinges on what Carey and Foley & Lardner agreed to when Carey joined the firm. That’s where Foley’s partnership agreement comes into play.

You can read that agreement here. It’s interesting to see the partnership agreement, but it’s not totally on point. The crux is what Carey thought he was agreeing to when he came to Foley, which Law 360 summarizes:

When he started work at Foley, the firm failed to honor the promises it had made to him “from almost the inception” of his employment, in breach of his employment contract, the suit alleges.

The firm initially made Carey a contract partner for three months, promising to make him a full partner by February 2001, the suit says. Instead, the firm extended the contract period for a year until February 2002, then for again until 2003, when he was promoted to full partner, according to the suit.

You can read the full complaint here. You’ll see that Carey believed he would get a certain percentage of the revenue he generated, and he alleges Foley did not pay him that percentage.

Whether or not Foley would have paid a younger, darker, female partner more money is anybody’s guess. But if a female founding partner or a minority founding partner felt they were getting screwed out of their money while white men in other offices were parading around the office with models and bottles, a discrimination lawsuit wouldn’t surprise anybody.

Foley & Lardner Partnership Agreement
Foley Partner Slaps Firm With Bias, Contract Claims [Law 360]
Foley & Lardner Sued for Bias, Breach of Contract by Founding Detroit Partner [Am Law Daily]

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