Posted January 28th, 2019.
MoFo Chair: “Everything about what’s in this complaint goes against the facts of who we are, our values and what we do. … Lumping us in with generalizations about big law firms is not only unfair, it’s unsound.”
By Ross Todd
Three female lawyers who worked at Morrison & Foerster are joining an ongoing lawsuit accusing the firm of gender discrimination, with claims the firm routinely holds back mothers and pregnant women and gives them less pay and promotion opportunities than their male peers.
The three new plaintiffs—proceeding anonymously as Jane Doe 4, Jane Doe 5 and Jane Doe 6 in an amended complaint filed Jan. 25 by lawyers at Sanford Heisler Sharp—join three others who previously sued the firm in a proposed $100 million class action filed in April 2018.
“Female lawyers who have endured career-damaging discrimination at MoFo continue to come forward,” said Sanford Heisler chair David Sanford, in a prepared statement. “The experiences of the three new plaintiffs echo and amplify those of the original three—the ‘mommy track’ at MoFo is a dead end.”
In a phone interview Monday morning, firm chair Larren Nashelsky, said that the firm has investigated the allegations and found them to be untrue. Nashelsky said the complaint is “inconsistent with the facts, and our values, policies and practices.”
All three of the plaintiffs in the initial complaint, filed in April 2018 in San Francisco federal court, worked for the firm in California, where MoFo has offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Palo Alto. The amended complaint adds two plaintiffs who worked outside California: Jane Doe 5, who lived in Maryland and worked in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office, claims she was fired six months after returning from leave following a high-risk pregnancy. Jane Doe 6, an of counsel who lived in New Jersey and worked in the firm’s New York office, claims she was repeatedly denied a partnership promotion after taken several maternity leaves.
The other new plaintiff, Jane Doe 4, claims she was informed that she was being terminated less than two months prior to her due date. She claims that she had to sign full release of claims in order to take her leave as planned.
“No one should have to choose between losing her maternity leave and losing her right to fight back in court against discrimination,” said Sanford Heisler’s Deborah Marcuse in a statement.
Morrison & Foerster’s Nashelsky responded Monday by pointing out that the firm has been included on Working Mother magazine’s “Best Law Firms for Women” list for nine times, including every year since 2014.
“Everything about what’s in this complaint goes against the facts of who we are, our values and what we do,” said Nashelsky, saying the firm plans to fight the lawsuit. Attorneys from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher have appeared on the docket for the firm in the case.
“Lumping us in with generalizations about big law firms is not only unfair, it’s unsound,” Nashelsky said.
Anna Erickson White, a member of the firm’s executive committee based in MoFo’s San Francisco office, said that about 50 percent of the firm’s newly made partners over the past five years have been women, and a quarter of its promoted lawyers at all levels have worked some sort of reduced-hour schedule. White also said that women make up 40 percent of the firm’s board, 20 women serve as practice group chair or co-chair, and that the chair of the firm’s compensation committee is a woman.
“It’s not something where we just have the policies,” White said. “We actually take a lot of pride in the fact that we do what we set out to do.”