Jones Day has said sensational claims of sexism made by six of its former associates paint a "distorted picture" and are "without merit".
Six female lawyers are suing the US firm for gender and pregnancy discrimination, for underpaying them, for stymying their promotion prospects and for managing them out when they had children. They are seeking $200 million in damages.
In a 107 page lawsuit, they described how Jones Day’s "fraternity culture" gave men preferential treatment "even when their legal skills are notably deficient", while demeaning women and "leaving female associates to choose between capitulation and exclusion".
The complaint took aim at Steve Brogan, Jones Day's Managing Partner, alleging that every associate’s compensation was determined in a “black box” by Brogan, who operated "with essentially unchecked autonomy". Jones Day's male leadership, they said, "finds pretextually false feedback to justify passing over accomplished female associates". As a result, "men dominate Jones Day’s partnership and leadership ranks, accounting for 80% of its Partner Review Committee and leading 34 of the Firm’s 39 practice groups".
Two claimants, Nilab Tolton and a former associate identified as 'Jane Doe 2' said they received poorer quality work after they got pregnant, and were told to leave the firm when they returned from their second maternity leave. Once women at Jones Day became pregnant, said the claimants, "the presumption is that they are on their way out; the burden is on the new mother to prove that she is the exception to the rule. A second pregnancy is almost insurmountable".
Mothering horror stories included:
- a practice leader encouraging women to tell management if they were pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, "supposedly so that he could plan his budget".
- a female partner who boasted of having a fax machine brought into her delivery room during labour so that she could close a deal.
- male partners boasting that the office had once had the opportunity to include a daycare centre, but the firm decided it would be a distraction to parents - so they installed a second gym instead.
A distorted picture, yesterday.
Tolton and another claimant who worked in Jones Day's California office, Andrea Mazingo, alleged that social events regularly devolved into opportunities "to harass and humiliate female attorneys". The lawsuit claimed that:
- a partner, Cary Sullivan, told three female vacation scheme students to sing and dance to a Care Bears song if they wanted to receive verbal offers to join the firm. They protested, but Sullivan allegedly insisted and their performance was filmed.
- at a summer scheme party at a partner's house, a male summer scheme student pushed a female student wearing a white dress into the swimming pool and was then "applauded and high-fived by the firm’s summer associate committee".
- during a limo ride to another summer scheme event, male associates ran through their coworkers for a game of 'Fuck, Marry, Kill' and referred to several of them as "c**ts".
The women also described being treated like "sex objects". Mazingo said her supervisor, partner Marcus Quintanilla, called her “sweetheart” at a meeting with other Jones Day lawyers, while another partner, Eric Landau, would compliment her for looking “prettier than usual” and continually pressed her to wear high heels. At an event to honour his secretary, Landau allegedly told the office that her body looked “banging” in a bikini. The secretary complained to Jones Day but, alleged the lawsuit, was forced to resign.
On the other hand, a claimant named 'Jane Doe 3' said she was criticised by male supervisors for having a “stern face”, and was advised to “smile more”.
Female lawyers tolerated the firm's "stereotyped expectations" because to challenge them was "career suicide", said the claimants. Whereas male associates got high end work, dined at Hooters with partners and received "vast opportunities", women were given discounted probono jobs and told to participate in chocolate chip cookie baking contests. Mazingo described how women earmarked to organise the “women’s luncheon” were forced to display a 4-foot tall cardboard cut-out of a lipstick tube in their offices.
In a statement responding to the litigation, Donald Trump's favourite firm said its partnership included "approximately 240 women" who had "been supported by our inclusive culture". Citing the number of women promoted to the US partnership last year (14 out of 33), the number who took family leave ("almost three-quarters" of the 18 women out of 35 new partners promoted in 2019) and the presence of women in leadership positions (five on the 17-strong Partnership Committee), it said the statistics "belie the recent claims of six former associates (four unnamed) that women - and, in particular, women who take family leave - cannot succeed at Jones Day".
"The claims of pay discrimination", it said, "are equally without merit. The distorted picture of the Firm portrayed in the complaint is not Jones Day. We will litigate this case in court, not in the media, and are confident we will prevail".