Posted May 29th, 2019.
Plaintiffs think Jones Day is changing its tune now that they’ve been sued.
By KATHRYN RUBINO
Have you been closely following the gender discrimination case(s) filed against Jones Day? Because we sure have, and it’s been a lot of fun so far.
If you’ll recall, last month, a lawsuit was filed against the firm by six former associates, alleging that the firm’s notorious “black box” compensation system is used to pay women less than men at the firm, and further alleges there’s a “fraternity culture” at the firm. Of the six plaintiffs, two were named — Nilab Rahyar Tolton and Andrea Mazingo — while four remained anonymous.
Last week, Jones Day filed a motion to force the Jane Doe plaintiffs to reveal themselves. The firm argued they were unable to “fully evaluat[e]” the claims and credibility of the anonymous plaintiffs… while also taking a crack at the plaintiffs’ PR strategy. Plaintiffs’ attorneys at Sanford Heisler Sharp — who have built a veritable cottage industry suing Biglaw firms for gender discrimination — responded before the long weekend, and they went all “rule”-y on the Biglaw giant.
In their filing, plaintiffs pointed to a local rule requiring a meet and confer to reach an agreement or at least narrow the scope of the issue before filing a non-dispositive motion… which, shocker, Jones Day failed to do:
“Had Jones Day not flouted its threshold obligation to meet and confer with plaintiffs, many if not all of its concerns about plaintiffs’ pseudonymity might have been alleviated. Jones Day’s failure to even acknowledge, let alone fulfill this basic requirement is, by itself, sufficient basis to deny its motion,” they said in a motion filed late Thursday night in Washington, D.C., federal court.
As reported by Law.com, Sanford Heisler also provided an affirmative defense of the desire these Jane Doe plaintiffs have to remain anonymous:
“The filing also addressed the merits of the four women’s desire to remain anonymous. The attorneys emphasized that their position in the early stages of their legal career raised the stakes over the public disclosure of their identities, and that the alternative of a protective order would not be able to ensure that “relevant but sensitive facts,” such as one of the plaintiff’s miscarriage, would remain under wraps.”
Consequently, the women could conceivably be branded with a “scarlet letter” that would result in them being blacklisted from other firms, according to the filing.
The plaintiffs also went for a fair amount of shade in rebutting Jones Day’s contention that “Secrecy Is Prejudicial to Jones Day.” Given how notoriously closed-lipped the firm is about compensation, pleading for transparency in their filing, well, that seems entirely out of character for the firm:
They quoted the firm’s website: ”[W]hat is sometimes critically referred to by those outside Jones Day as a ‘lack of transparency’ is almost universally viewed inside Jones Day as one of its great strengths.”
“It’s newfound interest in transparency thus smacks of an ulterior motive; how consistently it abides by this battlefield conversion will likely become apparent as this case moves into the discovery phase,” the women said.
U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss’s position on transparency remains to be seen.