Employment Discrimination

If you’re looking to catch up on your reading of classic novels, I’d recommend Tess of the d’Urbervilles (affiliate link) — or, to use its complete title, “Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented.” It tells the story of a virtuous but destitute young woman who takes a job working for the wealthy d’Urberville family. While working for them, she receives unwanted advances from a libertine son, who develops an obsession with her. Complications ensue.

I was reminded of Tess of the d’Urbervilles upon reading a complaint that was just filed in federal district court here in New York. The complaint tells the story of a virtuous but debt-saddled young woman who takes a job working for a boutique law firm. While working for them, she receives unwanted advances from a libertine partner, who develops an obsession with her. Complications ensue.

Multiple sources brought the lawsuit to our attention. The complaint is going viral over email — partly because the allegations are shocking (and very sad if true), and partly because they’re being made against a prominent New York lawyer.

Let’s check out the complaint. At 24 pages, it’s much shorter than Tess of the d’Urbervilles….

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Judge Lynn N. Hughes

Being a federal judge is like being a professional boxer: you have to know when it’s time to hang up the robe. (Yes, pare, I’m talking to you, Congressman Pacquiao.)

How does a federal judge know when it’s time to retire (not just senior status, but complete and total retirement)? Well, how about when he starts making bizarre, offensive, and racially charged comments — on the record?

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Pamela Levinson

You know what’s the mark of a good lawsuit against a law firm? The ability to polarize. Sure, it’s fun to laugh at the wacky ones, like Berry v. Kasowitz Benson or Morisseau v. DLA Piper. But the true classics are cases in which half the people think the plaintiff is a crusader for justice, and half the people think the plaintiff is an extortionist.

Take the 2007 lawsuit of Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell, brought by a young M&A lawyer claiming anti-gay discrimination. That was a great lawsuit. Some readers saw it as a Philadelphia for the 21st century, while others saw it as a shameless shakedown of a top law firm.

By this standard, Levinson v. WilmerHale is a good lawsuit. Readers can’t seem to agree on this one. Let’s check out the sharply divided opinions — and also hear more about Pamela Levinson, from former colleagues at the firm….

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Back in December, we wrote about a major employment discrimination case filed against Greenberg Traurig. That suit contained some salacious allegations, including claims that women lawyers had to sleep with superiors to get ahead.

Today brings news of another employment discrimination lawsuit filed against another top law firm. It’s being filed by the litigation boutique of Sanford Heisler LLP, which seems to be carving out a nice little niche in plaintiff-side Biglaw employment litigation.

Which firm is being sued this time, and what are the plaintiff’s allegations?

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We offer a lot of coverage of lawyers suing their law firms. They’re almost always the same: lawyer is fired; lawyer finds something to sue the employer over. Sometimes the lawyer’s claims have merit; sometimes they don’t.

It’s a little more rare for a law professor to sue his or her law school. That’s probably because it’s much harder for a law professor to be fired or pushed out. Oftentimes you only see lawsuits from professors when they feel like they’ve been unfairly denied tenure. After they get tenure, well, there’s little the law school can do to them anyway.

Well, unless the school concludes that a professor “poses a safety risk,” to the students at the law school. Then, the professor can be suspended.

And then, much like a lawyer in private practice, the law professor will sue the school….

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Women often get the short end of the stick when it comes to upward mobility in their careers. Despite the fact that firms claim to be rectifying these inequities, for every two steps forward the legal industry takes, women seem to be pushed two steps back. Be it smaller salaries or fewer leadership opportunities, women lawyers are usually left holding the bag. It’s almost as if they’ve got to make up for what they lack (dangling genitalia), in all of their dealings.

Women already have a hard enough time as it is without being unfairly subjected to unspoken policies that affect both firm politics and partnership decisions. But, such is life when you’ve thrust yourself into the wonderful world of Biglaw, where the “boys club” reigns supreme, and women are essentially railroaded into the pink ghetto.

How would you like to work for a firm where men hog all of the origination credit, and do their damnedest to exclude women from client pitches? How would you like to work for a firm where women are encouraged to have intimate relationships with firm leaders in order to be promoted?

That doesn’t sound like a friendly working environment, but that’s exactly what a $200 million class action suit against Greenberg Traurig alleges….

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“In accepting the offer to join Ropes & Gray, Ray accepted Roscoe Trimmier’s assurances that Ropes ‘does not see black and white, only shades of Ropes & Gray.’”

That’s paragraph 75 from the latest complaint filed by John H. Ray III, a 2000 graduate of Harvard Law School and an African-American man, against his former employer, Ropes & Gray. According to Ray, the firm, after initially embracing him with open arms, turned on him. Ray claims that he was subjected to racial discrimination and retaliation, which made his time at the firm more painful than pleasurable. And, unlike Anastasia Steele of Fifty Shades of Grey (affiliate link), Ray did not enjoy the alleged abuse.

When we first wrote about Ray, he was proceeding pro se against Ropes & Gray. Now he has hired counsel — an experienced employment-discrimination litigator who has appeared before in these pages.

Let’s find out who’s representing John Ray, and take a closer look at the complaint — which features an Above the Law shout-out, interestingly enough….

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You often hear about women filing gender discrimination complaints that allege sexual harassment by lecherous male superiors. It’s less often that you’ll see a man making similar allegations against a woman. But it just so happens that someone in the federal government has lodged these very complaints against a female superior, and boy is his complaint juicy.

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, James T. Hayes Jr., a top-level Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, is suing the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security because he claims that ICE’s chief of staff, Suzanne Barr, created a hostile working environment — specifically, “a frat house-type atmosphere that is targeted to humiliate and intimidate male employees.”

What does one have to do to create a “frat house-type atmosphere” in the offices of a federal agency? Let’s check out the allegations made in the complaint….

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Back in September 2011, we mentioned to our readers via Morning Docket that Ronald Kratz II, a 680-pound man, had allegedly been fired because he was too fat. At that point, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had stepped in to sue on this gentleman’s behalf, because apparently his employer perceived his size as a disability.

Now, almost one year later, we’ve got an update on the status of Kratz’s lawsuit. His settlement check is almost as large as he was at the time he was terminated….

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* Dewey know how insolvency laws work in Dubai? The failed firm’s partners in the United Arab Emirates have filed for creditor protection in the hopes of receiving end-of-service payments. [The National]

* “This is your fault.” “Uh, no, this is all your fault.” “I’m going to sue you.” “Not if I sue you first.” Florida and the DOJ got into a good old fashioned slap fight yesterday over the purging of the state’s voter rolls. [Reuters]

* And now for your morning dose of nasty ass sexual abuse allegations. The testimony in the Jerry Sandusky case will continue today, with more lurid accounts from the former football coach’s accusers. [Bloomberg]

* Is this what it’s come to in the legal profession? Are people really so desperate for work that they’re willing to apply in droves for a job that pays less than minimum wage? By all accounts, it sure looks like it. [ABA Journal]

* Tips for parents of law school applicants? Screw that, ours are better: 1) tell your kid to read ATL; 2) smack your kid in the face if he still wants to apply; 3) repeat if necessary. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* A female security official for the NBA who happens to be a law school graduate is suing for employment discrimination. And no one cares about women’s basketball any more than they did before. [New York Times]

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