Posted December 2nd, 2019.
News of the deals with five of the seven plaintiffs bringing gender discrimination claims against the firm comes as the remaining two Jane Doe plaintiffs prepare to lift their pseudonyms in a Dec. 10 amended complaint in the case.
By Ross Todd
A handful of the attorneys who sued Morrison & Foerster claiming that the law firm discriminates against pregnant women and mothers have reached settlements with the firm.
The claims of Jane Does 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7—five of the seven pseudonymous plaintiffs who sued the firm for gender discrimination—were “resolved” after a mediation session in September according to a joint Nov. 27 filing from the firm’s lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and the plaintiffs’ lawyers at Sanford Heisler Sharp.
News of the settlements comes as plaintiffs prepare to file their latest amended complaint in the high profile lawsuit Dec. 10—a complaint that will lift the pseudonyms for the remaining two plaintiffs. The remaining plaintiffs face a potential fight over class certification in the case, where plaintiffs are seeking at least $50 million in back-pay, at least $50 million in nominal, liquidated and compensatory damages, and at least $100 million in punitive damages, according to the Nov. 27 filing.
Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Gibson Dunn’s Catherine Conway confirmed that the firm had settled with five of the plaintiffs, but declined to provide any further details on the deals. Sanford Heisler’s Deborah Marcuse said the matter has been resolved with regard to Jane Does 2-5 and 7, and the legal team had no further comment.
Marcuse filed the initial complaint in the case in April 2018 on behalf of three female Morrison & Foerster associates in California. The plaintiffs accused the firm of routinely holding back mothers and pregnant women and giving them lower pay and promotion opportunities compared to their male peers. Three additional plaintiffs—Jane Doe 4, Jane Doe 5 and Jane Doe 6—signed onto the case in January. Jane Doe 7, a former associate who had worked in Morrison & Foerster’s New York office, was added to the case in March.
The firm, in its defense, has repeatedly during the course of the litigation pointed to its record of hiring, promoting and supporting women and working parents.
The joint filing from the parties indicated that they believe “that further discovery is necessary to negotiate a resolution, if any, to the claims of Jane Does 1 and 6.” According to court filings, Jane Doe 1 is a former associate in one of the firm’s California offices who claims that she was held back from her associate class after returning from maternity leave, before being unfairly evaluated and encouraged to leave the firm. 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 promotion to the partnership after taking several maternity leaves.