Legal News

Law Firm Discrimination Case Raises the Question: Can Partners Be Employees?
Download PDF
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

Summary: Gender discrimination cases filed by law firm partners have sparked the debate on whether or not they are employees or business owners. 

An anonymous female partner is suing Proskauer for $50 million, but the law firm is arguing that as a partner, she is not an employee and therefore cannot sue. The case is one of several against law firms that accuse them of treating females differently in the workplace.

  
What
Where


This week, Proskauer asked a judge to throw out the sex bias case. According to Reuters, the firm’s motion for summary judgment said that “Jane Doe” cannot sue the firm under federal and state anti-discrimination laws because those laws are made to protect employees and not business owners. They said that she is an equity partner and signed an agreement when she joined the firm, acknowledging that partners can attend meetings and vote on firm business. The agreement also said that she owns her own practice and receives a cut of the firm’s yearly profits.

“At its core, (Doe’s) argument is that for a law firm to have owners it must be run by a committee of the whole, its profits must be shared in accordance with a pre-determined formula and its partners must operate as autonomous, independent contractors who simply share space and divide expenses,” the Proskauer brief stated. “That is not a formulation required by Clackamas; nor is it the partnership plaintiff signed onto when she joined Proskauer.”

The Clackamas case that Proskauer referred to was 2003’s Clackamas v. Wells, which has become a guide to how to determine whether or not a partner is an employee or business owner. In that lawsuit, Deborah Wells stated that she was fired from the Clackamas doctor’s office for having a disability, and she sued under the American with Disabilities Act. The office said that they were ineligible to be sued under the ADA because the firm did not have enough employees because the four physicians on staff were shareholders.

Get JD Journal in Your Mail

Subscribe to our FREE daily news alerts and get the latest updates on the most happening events in the legal, business, and celebrity world. You also get your daily dose of humor and entertainment!!




Jane Doe argued that Proskauer’s rank-and-file partners have no direct control over the firm and that decisions such as firing and hiring are made by a seven-member executive committee in which she is not a part of.

The woman, who is being represented by Sanford Heisler Sharp, said that she is treated like an employee in the fact that her work is affected by the decisions of the committee.



“Ultimately, the overarching question is whether Proskauer exercised sufficient dominion over (the) plaintiff’s employment to be in a position to discriminate and retaliate against her,” the plaintiff’s lawsuit said.

In this case, the committee that Jane Doe is mentioning is one that was elected by the partners to govern. Reuters said that in 2002 there was an age discrimination lawsuit filed against Sidley Austin, and that the judge allowed it to proceed because the partner was ruled by an unelected committee. This key difference may affect Jane Doe’s case against Proskauer, who has used the same defense argument as Chadbourne & Parke, another major law firm that is being sued by a female partner for gender discrimination.

Defense lawyers from Chadbourne & Parke used the same argument of non-employee status in their defense, and Reuters said that these cases “raise really tough questions about the nature of law firm partnership in the era of megafirms.” Reuters pointed out that Proskauer has 730 attorneys and 280 of them are equity partners. A company of that size could not run without centralized management, so is it fair to say that none of the 280 equity partners are treated like employees?

Source: Reuters

Let us know what you think in the comments below.



 

Interesting Legal Sites You May Like


BCG FEATURED JOB

Locations:

Keyword:



Search Now

Mid-Level Commercial Business Litigator

USA-CA-Los Angeles

Los Angeles office is seeking a commercial business litigation attorney with 2-5 years of experience...

Apply Now

Senior Level Litigator

USA-CA-Woodland Hills

Woodland Hills office is seeking a litigation attorney with 5-7 years of experience and a background...

Apply Now

Litigation Associate Attorney

USA-CT-Stamford

Stamford office of our client seeks litigation associate attorney with 3+ years of experience. The c...

Apply Now

Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

USA-CA-Torrance

Torrance office is seeking an estate planning attorney with 7-10 years of experience.

Apply Now

RELEVANT JOBS

Paralegal / Legal Assistant (Criminal Defense Firm)

USA-CA-San Diego

Busy downtown San Diego criminal defense firm seeks paralegal who is experienced in handling client ...

Apply now

Paralegal

USA-UT-Salt Lake City

Our growing law firm is looking for another paralegal to assist with its current caseload. It is exp...

Apply now

Paralegal

USA-NY-Auburn

Plaintiffs\' litigation firm looking for FT experienced paralegal who is familiar with handling pers...

Apply now

Paralegal / Legal Assistant

USA-MO-Springfield

Full-time position available with local law firm. Legal experience of two years is required. Prefere...

Apply now

SEARCH IN ARCHIVE

To Top