Facebook Atty Opts In To $200M Jones Day Sex Bias Suit

Posted June 10th, 2019.

As It Appeared On
Law360

By Braden Campbell

Law360 (June 10, 2019, 5:17 PM EDT) — An in-house Facebook attorney and former Jones Day associate has opted in to a $200 million proposed class and collective action alleging the firm discriminates against women, becoming the third woman to publicly attach her name to the suit.

Jessica Jardine Wilkes, whose LinkedIn profile indicates she left Jones Day for cybersecurity firm Symantec in September 2016, filed a notice opting in to the suit Sunday. She has worked for Facebook since September 2018, according to her profile.

Wilkes joins a suit alleging Jones Day violates federal discrimination law by stifling women’s advancement and paying them less than men. She joins named plaintiffs Nilab Rahyar Tolton and Andrea Mazingo — who both worked as associates in the firm’s Irvine, California, office until last year — and four anonymous attorneys who recently beat the firm’s bid to unmask them.

The suit, which was filed in April, accuses the firm of maintaining a fraternity-like culture in which men climb the ladder while women languish. The women also allege the firm operates with a presumption that female lawyers who have kids “have chosen family over work,” sidelining or pushing them out along with women who complain internally about firm practices.

The plaintiffs’ pay discrimination claims are largely centered around the firm’s so-called black box compensation system, in which managing partner Stephen J. Brogan personally signs off on all associates’ compensation decisions. That practice gives him a great amount of autonomy over how much money they earn and whether they are elevated to the partner ranks, they alleged.

The suit includes federal claims of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and pay bias under the Equal Pay Act, as well as state and local claims. Under the EPA, collective members must opt in to press their claims. Wilkes is the first opt-in after the named plaintiffs, but more will likely follow as the case progresses.

Wilkes worked in Jones Day’s health care transactional and data privacy/cybersecurity groups, according to her LinkedIn profile.

A representative for the law firm representing the women, Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP, declined to comment Monday. The firm represents women in a handful of suits against BigLaw firms, including Morrison & Foerster LLP and Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart PC.

A Jones Day representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The plaintiffs are represented by Deborah K. Marcuse, David W. Sanford and Russell L. Kornblith of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP.

Jones Day is represented by Mary Ellen Powers and Terri L. Chase of Jones Day.

The case is Tolton et al. v. Jones Day, case number 1:19-cv-00945, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

–Editing by Marygrace Murphy.

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