Although the number of women attending law school has outnumbered the number of men attending law school for several years now, it seems those women have a harder time climbing the corporate ladder than their male counterparts once they graduate from law school. According to a recently proposed class action lawsuit against Jones Day, the law firm allegedly maintains a fraternity-type culture that consistently treats men better than women – especially women who are pregnant and/or already have children.
The proposed class action gender discrimination lawsuit was filed by Andrea Mazingo, Nilab Rahyar Tolton, and four other women who have chosen to remain anonymous, on behalf of all female associates who are working for or have worked for Jones Day in Irvine, California. Despite the fact that the firm hires the same number of male and female associates, their situations allegedly vary drastically once they get the job. Female associates are allegedly paid less than their male counterparts and are significantly less likely to make partner. The law firm also allegedly has a practice of regularly firing women who get pregnant and retaliating against women who speak up.
By contrast, the lawsuit alleges male associates were consistently mentored, groomed for partnership, and given better assignments and more access to clients than their female counterparts. Mazingo alleges she was encouraged to wear high heels, another plaintiff claims she was told to smile more, and another was allegedly referred to as “eye candy.”
Mothers, regardless of their performance, were allegedly labeled as being deadline challenged or lacking in commitment, since their decision to have children was routinely perceived as choosing family over their career. Even women without families were allegedly blamed for being too intense or lacking fun.
According to the proposed class action lawsuit, Stephen Brogan, the firm’s managing partner, makes all decisions about compensation and partnerships with complete autonomy.
The result was the women who wanted to succeed at the firm were essentially required to participate in this bro culture that was inhospitable towards them. It’s an uncomfortable position for any woman to be in, but the lawsuit alleges women who did not participate in the culture of the firm were forced to forego advancement in their careers.
Sanford Heisler Sharp is the law firm seeking to represent the class of plaintiffs, which is suing in federal court in Washington, D.C. for $200 million for alleged violations of the Equal Pay Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as well as other labor laws in both California and Washington, D.C.
This isn’t the first time Jones Day has had to face allegations of gender discrimination in court. The law firm is currently facing another lawsuit filed by a partner who was fired from the firm. That lawsuit also accuses Jones Day of maintaining a secretive compensation system that allegedly deliberately pays men more than women in similar positions. Furthermore, it alleged there was not enough transparency or oversight of the firm’s compensation system, which allegedly allowed it to consistently undervalue its female associates. In order to keep the system secret, the lawsuit claims the firm enforced a code of silence about compensation in order to keep women in the dark about their pay disparity.
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