Biglaw, Minority Issues, Racism, S.D.N.Y., Staff Attorneys / Discovery Attorneys, Yolanda Young

Staff Attorney Claims Discrimination at Quinn Emanuel

I’m starting to think that staff attorneys are being discriminated against because they are staff attorneys.

Today Thomson Reuters reports that a racial discrimination lawsuit has been filed against Quinn Emanuel by a former staff attorney. The plaintiff, who is African-American, claims that she was given less desirable work than her white colleagues and that she was forced to work with a person she “feared,” as retaliation for complaining about her treatment at the firm.

I’m not sure if racism really fits into Quinn’s work hard/play hard firm culture. I feel like the only color Quinn cares about is green, as in, “You’ve billed a ton of hours today despite being all kinds of hungover, I think you’re turning green”….

The woman worked in Quinn’s New York office. Here’s the gist of her complaint, from Thomson Reuters News & Insight:

In a complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Kisshia Simmons-Grant alleged that while she was a staff attorney at Quinn Emanuel’s New York office from 2006 to 2010 she received fewer and less-favored assignments than her white colleagues even though she was as qualified or more qualified to handle them. She also claimed that she was forced to work with an attorney whom she feared after she complained about the alleged racism.

The complaint asserts violations of federal, state and local civil-rights laws. Simmons-Grant seeks lost past and future earnings and compensation for mental anguish, in addition to punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

Kisshia? How do you pronounce that? Like Kesha? Or KISS-sha? Man, not to go all Bill Cosby on you, but maybe she received less favorable work because partners couldn’t pronounce her name.

Whatever — if she’s telling the truth, then the firm’s alleged “retaliation” was subtle yet effective:

After she complained about the problem, Simmons-Grant alleged, the firm retaliated against her by forcing her to work with another staff attorney, although she complained that she didn’t feel safe with him. She asserted that the staff attorney “became enraged” at being assigned to work over a holiday weekend and that he physically threatened her. She asserted that she twice told managers that she didn’t want to work with him, and that she had to quit after she was forced to do so.

It’d be kind of fun to be the dick in the office who was so bad the firm makes working with you a punishment for those it’s trying to get back at. “I sexually harassed you? Why don’t you go work with Elie for two weeks and then we’ll see if you’re singing the same tune.” Come on, I can’t be the only one who’d enjoy that work.

Alas, Quinn denies these allegations. But Simmons-Grant isn’t filing this pro se, so maybe she’s not crazy. She’s represented by lawyers from Liddle & Robinson, and she herself has a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

That’s sounds a lot like Yolanda Young, another Georgetown Law grad turned staff attorney turned civil rights plaintiff.

I’ll tell you one thing: Georgetown should just tell its African-American female graduates to avoid taking staff attorney positions. People go to law school to get out of the ghetto, not to get thrown back into one.

Former staff attorney sues Quinn Emanuel for race discrimination [Reuters]

Earlier: Covington and Its ‘Staff Attorney Ghetto’?

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