MoFo Settles With 5 ‘Mommy Track’ Accusers In $200M Suit

Posted December 2nd, 2019.

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By Kevin Penton

Law360 (December 2, 2019, 5:48 PM EST) — Morrison & Foerster LLP has settled with five of the seven female attorneys who alleged in a $200 million proposed class action that it placed them on a less lucrative “mommy track,” with the remaining lawyers planning to drop their pseudonyms when they amend their complaint later this month, according to court documents.

The terms of the settlement that was struck in September between the firm and the attorneys were not disclosed in a joint case management statement that was filed on Nov. 27. The remaining attorneys did not reveal any further details in the statement on why they opted to drop the use of “Jane Does” and reveal their identities as part of their pending filing.

Both Catherine Conway, an attorney representing MoFo, and Deborah Marcuse, an attorney representing the lawyers, confirmed to Law360 on Monday that five of the lawyers reached a settlement, but did not provide any further details.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in April had agreed to allow the attorneys to proceed while using pseudonyms after the lawyers argued in March that using their actual identities would open the door for MoFo to “publicly impugn their professional reputations” and cause further harm to themselves and their careers, according to court documents.

Should MoFo not sign off on the fourth amended complaint — a copy of which will be provided to the firm by Dec. 6 — the attorneys will otherwise ask the court for leave to amend, according to the joint statement.

“Plaintiffs … reserve their right to seek further amendment with leave of the court if they determine that further amendments are appropriate, and defendant reserves its right to oppose such a request,” the joint statement reads.

Originally filed last year by three California-based attorneys and most recently amended in May, the proposed class action accuses MoFo of consigning pregnant attorneys to a “mommy track” that hinders their pay and advancement prospects and sometimes leads to them losing their jobs.

The suit also alleges the firm maintains an “old boys’ club” culture that favors men and childless women by easing their paths to partnership.

The law firm has said that rather than discriminating against women, it is a leader in the industry when it comes to gender equality. It said “nearly” half of those promoted to partner in the last five years have been women, women co-chair 20 of the firm’s practice groups and a woman serves as chair of its partner compensation committee, according to its response to the May amended complaint.

Additionally, the firm said, it provides 20 weeks of paid parental leave to associates who are primary caregivers, and billable hour expectations are cut in half, without a reduction in pay, for the month before attorneys begin their leave and a month after they return.

MoFo also pushed back against the specific allegations made by the female attorneys, noting that because their performance fell short of expectations, they were rightly held back from advancing, passed by for a bonus or fired, according to the firm’s June answer.

The Does are represented by Deborah Marcuse, David Sanford, Ed Chapin, Andrew Melzer, Jill Sullivan Sanford, Danielle Fuschetti, Hannah M. Wolf and Carolin Guentert of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP.

Morrison & Foerster is represented by Catherine Conway, Michele Maryott, Rachel Brass, Amanda C. Machin and Daniel M. Bruggebrew of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

The case is Jane Doe 1 et al. v. Morrison & Foerster LLP, case number 3:18-cv-02542, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

–Additional reporting by Aebra Coe. Editing by Michael Watanabe.

Update: This article has been updated to reflect that Morrison & Foerster has reached a settlement with five of the seven attorneys in the case and that attorneys for both sides confirmed the agreement.

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