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Case Against Ropes & Gray for Discrimination and Retaliation

 

According to The American Lawyer, U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns granted a motion to allow former law firm associate John H. Ray III to add defamation and invasion of privacy claims to his racial discrimination and retaliation case filed in August 2011 against Ropes & Gray.

The Boston, MA federal judge on August 23, 2012 granted Ray’s motion, noting that the defense had not opposed the move. The original complaint included causes of actions for breach of contract and the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; unfair competition; and violations of several Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws, according to The American Lawyer.

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Ray, a Harvard Law School graduate, filed suit against the global law firm with offices in Boston, Chicago, Hong Kong, London, New York, San Francisco, Seoul, Shanghai, Silicon Valley, Tokyo, and Washington, DC. He named as defendants in the lawsuit 13 of Ropes & Gray’s partners, and its former human resources chief officer.

According to the news article, Ray alleged he was treated as a “token black associate” and a “diversity hire,” and that he was denied work and otherwise punished after a bias complaint within Ropes & Gray and to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In the lawsuit, Ray claimed a Ropes & Gray partner requested he serve in 2008 as the “token black associate” and a “black face” during a meeting with a prospective bank client facing allegations that it had discriminated against black residents in Dorchester, a neighborhood in Boston, MA.

In 2008, Ray was an eighth-year associate. He joined Ropes & Gray in 2005 following stints at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York and Jenner & Block in Chicago. According to his bio on Kachroo Legal Services P.C.’s website, where he is now Of Counsel, Ray “has over ten years of experience in complex securities fraud class actions and derivative litigation.” He is a member of the Illinois and Massachusetts bar. He once clerked at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

According to the news article, Ray alleged that after complaining to partners and others at Ropes & Gray about the “token black associate” comment and a “nigger” joke, retaliation began with partners assigning him less work. This reduced his billable hours. From June to December 2008 his billable hours fell to 882.2, compared to 1,111.75 during the same period in 2007.

The retaliation continued after he filed the EEOC complaint in May 2009, Ray claimed. The law firm locked Ray out his office, and individual partners reneged on agreements to give recommendation letters or references, according to the news article.

According to the news article, a spokesman at Ropes & Gray reported the EEOC cleared the firm of wrongdoing: “The EEOC specifically determined that Ropes & Gray did not discriminate against Mr. Ray and that determination was subsequently reconfirmed by the EEOC.”

Ray’s lawyer, Latif Doman of Washington’s Doman Davis, stated the amended complaint was necessary because the law firm allegedly disclosed confidential EEOC documents to the news and gossip website Above the Law.

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