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Major law firm facing workplace discrimination allegations

A major employment law firm which has at times received accolades for its treatment of women in its workplace is now facing serious allegations of systemic gender discrimination, particularly with respect to wage discrimination and unequal advancement opportunities.

The workplace discrimination complaint, filed by one of the firm's "nonequity" shareholders, alleges that women who are shareholders in the firm are paid over $100,000 less than are men who are doing similar work. Moreover, the complaint also points out that while over half of associates working for the firm are female, less than one-third of the higher-ranking shareholder attorneys are women.

For its part, the law firm denies the allegations and says that it is committed to having a workplace free of discrimination. While the firm did not deny that women tend to make less than men in its prepared statement, it did say that overall, its compensation system was fair, leaving the door open for the firm to give some alternative explanation to what are, on their surface, concerning numbers.

As an important point of note, while many gender discrimination cases focus on sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual or romantic behavior in the workplace, another area in which women often experience discrimination is in terms of pay. Even in professional environments thought to be more progressive, women can often find themselves inexplicably lagging behind their male counterparts in terms of salaries and promotions.

If anything, this story shows that, just because they supposedly know the law and work with it every day, lawyers and law firms can run afoul of Rhode Island and federal law when it comes to maintaining an environment free of unlawful discrimination. Rhode Islanders who do work at a law firm and feel they have been discriminated against should consider what legal options are available to them.

Source: Above the Law, "Am law 100 firm hit with $300 million gender discrimination lawsuit," Kathryn Rubino, Jan. 16, 2018.

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