Above the Law recently reported that a top 100 law firm is being sued by female shareholders for discrimination. Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart has been sued for $300 million in damages based on claims that male shareholders of the firm make at least $110,000 in profits per partner more than the female shareholders. Other stunning allegations in the complaint include that even though women make up more than half of the associates at the law firm, women only make up 32 percent of the shareholders.
Dawn Knepper, a nonequity shareholder at the firm, initiated the purported class action suit against the firm and is represented by Sanford Heisler Sharp. This firm has taken a stand lately against large law firms that are accused of discriminating against women. Ogletree is represented by Nancy Abell of Paul Hastings. Ogletree maintains that the suit is meritless and that it will be able to defend against all of the claims lodged by Knepper and other potential class members. This suit is garnering even more headlines lately because Ogletree was recently recognized as having a thriving labor and employment practice across its many offices. The nature of this discrimination suit could have a negative effect on how Ogletree is perceived among its peers and potential clients.
Many of the other allegations in the complaint relate to a claimed pattern and practice of overlooking or undervaluing women in terms of promotion potential or pay increases. The lawsuit claims that the male shareholders at Ogletree consistently ignore the contributions that women shareholders and associates make to the firm through excellent lawyer skills and commitment to professional development. The complaint also states that women are not recognized at Ogletree for the business and clients that they bring to the firm at the same level that men are compensated and acknowledged.
In the wake of more public outcry against sexual harassment, it remains to be seen whether more gender discrimination suits against employers will start popping up in the months to come. It is likely that many firms are testing out the waters in this new climate of hostility toward gender discrimination and harassment.