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Big Law Hit With A Gender, Pregnancy, And Maternity Discrimination Class Action

This week, three female associates at Morrison & Foerster (“MoFo”) filed a nine-count gender, pregnancy, and maternity (“sex-plus”) discrimination class and collective action against their employer in the Northern District of California. The putative class includes all female attorneys at MoFo and other national and California subclasses of female attorneys who have been or will be employed by MoFo and who have been or will be pregnant, have children, and/or take maternity leave.

The Complaint describes a purportedly male-dominated hierarchy and “old boys’ club” environment that is said to create and perpetuate systematic discrimination against female attorneys who are pregnant or have children. According to the Complaint, despite MoFo’s “family-friendly façade,”female attorneys who are pregnant or have children are subjected to lower pay, delayed advancement, and less substantive work.

The Plaintiffs claim that after returning from maternity leave their salaries did not advance in lockstep with their peers even though the firm initially increased their billing rates. According to the Complaint, a “standard operating procedure” of “hold[ing] back women who take maternity leave, regardless of their performance before or after leave” leads to the “dead end of the mommy track” as returning female attorneys fall behind their male counterparts in pay and opportunity and are perceived as less committed to and less capable at their jobs.

The Complaint also alleges that, after returning from maternity leave, female employees face higher standards and are provided less meaningful work and more limited access to partners and clients. Plaintiffs allege that this practice prevents female attorneys from progressing and results in the underrepresentation of women in senior and leadership positions.

The Complaint is broad-based and seeks compensatory and punitive damages upwards of $100M for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Equal Pay Act, and similar California statutes (the Fair Employment and Housing Act, the California Family Rights Act, the California Equal Pay Act, and the Unfair Competition Law).

© 2020 Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 123
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About this Author

Kate Gold, Labor and Employment Attorney, Drinker Biddle
Partner

Kate S. Gold defends clients in employment and other business disputes in state and federal courts, arbitrations, and before agencies. She is Co-Chair of the Labor and Employment Group's Fair Pay Act Obligations Team.

Kate’s practice includes defense of individual, collective and class actions and focuses on business and employment litigation and counseling. She handles matters involving wrongful termination, retaliation, whistle blower, sexual harassment, race, age, family leave, pregnancy and disability discrimination; defends actions for...

310-203-4029
Irene Rizzi, employment litigation lawyer, Drinker Biddle
Associate

Irene M. Rizzi represents clients in a variety of employment-related disputes including discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and wage and hour compliance. In addition, Irene counsels employers on pre-litigation matters, conducts trainings and presentations, and assists clients draft, review, and revise employee handbooks, human resources policies, and employee contracts. Irene also advises clients on labor and employment due diligence matters and potential exposure analyses in connection with corporate transactions and acquisitions.

Irene has represented employers in single-plaintiff actions, class actions, and representative actions, and has extensive experience in all phases of litigation in both federal and state courts.

415-591-7578
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