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Law firm settles gender discrimination claim by female attorney

A law firm should provide measures to insure that female attorneys don't make claims of gender discrimination, and then have the basis for the claims generally verified by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). A prominent Florida firm, Greenberg Traurig, just settled a lawsuit for gender discrimination with a female attorney, who is a former employee in one of the firm's offices outside of Florida. She filed the complaint in Dec. 2012 in a federal district court, and just settled recently by way of an order of dismissal with prejudice entered by a federal judge.

As is usually the case, the amount of the settlement was undisclosed, although the complaint had asked for $1 million. The firm stated that the case was settled 'amicably'. The claim was that the firm's office in another major city practiced a pattern of discrimination against women in the terms and conditions of employment. Apparently, a main contention was that men were paid better than women.

When the complaining attorney brought this to the attention of a regional operating shareholder in charge of the Philadelphia office, he advised her that he believed that only tall, male and Jewish lawyers generate business. The lawsuit claimed that she was terminated for complaining about gender discrimination and that the firm stopped assigning her work. The firm said that she resigned on her own and that women were compensated based on merit.

However, one critical development probably encouraged the firm to seriously consider this relatively early settlement. The EEOC made a formal determination in the case in June 2012. It concluded that there was reasonable cause to support class-wide claims of gender discrimination based on lower pay for women.

The federal agency, which hears all federal employment discrimination claims first, also found reasonable cause to claim that women were treated less favorably in the terms and conditions of employment. The EEOC also found reasonable cause to support an allegation of retaliation. The findings applied only to the firm's Philadelphia office. The law firm has hopefully acted to correct the problem and to prevent complaints of gender discrimination in Florida and its other offices.

Source: South Florida Business Journal, "Greenberg Traurig settles discrimination lawsuit," Paul Brinkman, May 28, 2013

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