Jones Day has been hit with a proposed class action lawsuit filed by six former associates who claim the firm discriminates against female employees based on gender, pregnancy, and maternity.
The lawsuit decries Jones Day’s alleged “fraternity culture” that rewards male associates with mentors, preferential assignments, access to clients, and leadership opportunities while denying female associates access to advancement and paying them less for equal work.
Employees’ compensation, the suit alleges, is determined by the firm’s managing partner, Stephen J. Brogan. Describing Jones Day as a “brotherhood ruled by one man,” the lawsuit explains that Brogan maintains “nearly absolute control” over the firm, including compensation decisions. Jones Day, the case says, boasts of its “black box” compensation system that allegedly allows Brogan to confidentially determine each associate’s pay based on subjective factors. The case argues that the system’s lack of transparency and democracy allows the firm to pay female associates less than their male counterparts and below market rates.
Female associates, the case goes on, are also not afforded the same opportunities for career advancement or promotion as male associates. Though the firm generally employs a relatively equal number of males and females, women are significantly underrepresented in leadership positions, the suit says. According to the complaint, men “dominate” Jones Day’s partnership and leadership ranks, making up 80 percent of its Partner Review Committee and holding leadership roles in 34 of the firm’s 39 practice groups. Male partners also supposedly outnumber female partners three to one. The apparent disparity, the case says, is due to Jones Day’s discriminatory evaluation processes and failure to provide female associates with the same resources as men, including opportunities for mentorship and client development.
The plaintiffs in the case, four of whom have filed under pseudonyms, further claim that Jones Day discriminates and retaliates against attorneys who become pregnant. One of the named plaintiffs, who the suit says was a “superstar” Harvard Law graduate on track for success, was allegedly forced out of the firm after becoming pregnant with her second child, an experience mirrored by one of the pseudonymous plaintiffs. While viewing associates with children as “deadline challenged” and lacking “commitment,” the firm conversely criticizes childless female associates as “intense” and unable to relate to clients, the lawsuit attests.
The widespread discrimination at Jones Day, the case argues, is fueled by the firm’s overall “misogynistic” culture. The complaint cites several examples during which male associates were allegedly allowed and encouraged to “harass and humiliate” female attorneys. One plaintiff, the suit says, was continuously told that she looked “prettier than usual” and should wear heels, while another plaintiff says she was referred to as “eye candy” by a male partner. The case also describes an incident at a social event during which a female summer associate was allegedly pushed into a swimming pool by a male summer associate while she was wearing a white dress. The action was applauded and praised by those in leadership positions, the suit says.
According to the plaintiffs, female associates at Jones Day must choose between participating in a culture “that is at best inhospitable to women and at worst openly misogynistic” or forfeit “any hope of success” at the firm. Women who speak up about the alleged discrimination are retaliated against and pushed out, according to the plaintiffs. As the complaint puts it, any attempt to address the abuse or “other manifestations of gender discrimination” at Jones Day is “a one-way ticket out the door.”