Ex-MoFo associates push to keep bias claims alive in ‘mommy track’ lawsuit

Posted November 10th, 2020.

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(Reuters) – Two former Morrison & Foerster associates who accuse the firm of discriminating against pregnant women and mothers are doubling down on their claims as a judge weighs whether to toss their lawsuit.

In separate opposition motions filed in San Francisco federal court on Monday, plaintiffs Sherry William and Joshua Ashley Klayman reiterated allegations that Morrison & Foerster placed them on the “mommy track” after they had children and took maternity leave. The case was originally filed in April 2018 as a proposed class action, with the plaintiffs seeking $100 million.

Klayman argued that Morrison & Foerster’s motion for summary judgment, filed last month, was “based on a skewed presentation of the evidence.” She said the firm was “cherry picking” negative comments about her in order to justify her failure to make partner at the firm.

William also argued that the firm’s reasoning for terminating her in December 2019 was pretextual.

The pair’s experience at the firm is “powerful evidence of the insidious ways in which gender stereotypes hinder the advancement of women, and of mothers in particular, in Big Law,” said David Sanford, chairman of Sanford Heisler Sharp and one of the attorneys representing William and Klayman, in a statement.

Sanford said they look forward to a trial. U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley is set to consider the competing summary judgment motions at a Dec. 10 hearing. The case is tentatively scheduled for trial next March.

Klayman founded MoFo’s blockchain and smart contracts practice group while William was an associate in the firm’s project finance group. They were part of a group of associates that sued the firm in April 2018; the others agreed to withdraw their claims in December 2019, indicating a possible settlement.

Klayman is currently a senior counsel at Linklaters, where she is the U.S. head of fintech and head of blockchain and digital assets. William is the principal and founder of the Pacific Ivy Law Group.

A Morrison & Foerster spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Sherry A. William, et al., v. Morrison & Foerster LLP, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, 3:18-cv-02452

For plaintiffs: Deborah Marcuse, Andrew Melzer, Carolin Guentert, Danielle Fuschetti, David Sanford, Edward Chapin and Jill Sanford, of Sanford Heisler Sharp.

For defendants: Catherine Conway, Michele Maryott, Rachel Brass, Amanda Machin and Ronald Gomez, of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

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