Jones Day Women ‘Rebuke’ Sanctions Bid, Say Firm Hides Pay Data

Posted January 8th, 2020.

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Patrick Dorrian
Reporter

  • Women say at least six bases exist for inferring women paid less than men
  • Firm’s sanctions motion cherry-picks facts; discovery should proceed

Six women suing Jones Day for systemic discrimination against female associates have “good reason to believe” the bias extends to pay. The firm’s motion seeking sanctions that argues otherwise is based on “cherry-picked” facts and “misleading caricatures,” they told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Jones Day’s motion is based on suggestion and ignores the fact that associate pay data is “jealously guarded” by the firm, the women said Jan. 7.

The court should deny Jones Day’s motion and instead allow the women to conduct discovery on the firm’s compensation system, they said. Sanctions under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are an “extreme punishment” for when litigants pursue clearly baseless claims, and Jones Day’s effort to seek them “warrants rebuke,” they said.

The firm cited text messages between one of the named plaintiffs and a male associate and other examples it said show the women know some of them make more money than their male counterparts. The women said they have “at least six independent bases for believing” the firm systematically pays women less than men based on sex.

The named plaintiffs have all observed and experienced widespread gender bias and hostility to women at Jones Day and have witnessed and experienced bias in the firm’s performance evaluation process, they said.

They also know Jones Day promotes men to partner roughly twice as often as women, that the firm doesn’t pay female “high-performing associates” at the market rate despite paying their male counterparts the market rate, and that its pay-secrecy policy violates multiple state laws guaranteeing workers the right to discuss their pay with co-workers.

The “limited data” so far available further shows they and other women are paid unequally, the women said.

Those bases permit a reasonable inference that female associates experience widespread sex discrimination in pay and “easily satisfy all that Rule 11 requires,” they said.

The women’s June proposed class lawsuit also alleges Jones Day women face narrowed career opportunities.

The discrimination is largely fueled by the firm’s “hypercentralized,” subjective decision-making process that results in Managing Partner Stephen J. Brogan having a “totalitarian grip” on Jones Day that precludes women from raising sex-based inequities, according to the women.

Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP represents the women. Jones Day represents itself.

The case is Tolton v. Jones Day, D.D.C., No. 1:19-cv-00945, response to motion seeking sanctions 1/7/20.

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