Posted May 22nd, 2019.
By Braden Campbell
Law360 (May 22, 2019, 3:48 PM EDT) — One of seven lawyers behind a proposed class action accusing Morrison & Foerster LLP of sex discrimination says the firm sabotaged her job prospects at three BigLaw firms after firing her for getting pregnant.
Jane Doe 4 alleges Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, Goodwin Procter LLP and Baker McKenzie mysteriously withheld job offers following a series of promising interviews. In an amended complaint filed in the Northern District of California on Tuesday, she blames MoFo for her would-be employers’ sudden reversals. The latest complaint adds details to her retaliation claims, which U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley had cut from the suit earlier this month.
“While she was heavily recruited, Jane Doe 4 soon encountered a pronounced pattern of thwarted would-be job offers,” according to the new complaint. “The circumstances strongly lead her to believe that MoFo sabotaged her employment prospects by providing negative references in retaliation for her decision to pursue legal action against the firm.”
Another plaintiff, identified as Jane Doe 5, shored up claims Judge Corley had cut as untimely. She said complications from her pregnancy left her bedridden for months before and after she gave birth, asking the court to toll the limitations period for her unfair firing claim.
Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP attorney Andrew Melzer, who represents the workers, said the tweaks address the court’s concerns.
“We are confident that the case will proceed to full discovery on all claims,” he said.
The new complaint deepens a $200 million suit accusing MoFo of consigning pregnant attorneys to a “mommy track” that hampers their pay and advancement prospects and sometimes leads to them losing their jobs. The suit, filed in April 2018 by three California-based associates, alleges the firm has an “old boys’ club” culture that favors men and childless women by easing their paths to partnership.
Jane Doe 4, who joined the suit in January, on Tuesday added on to her claims that the firm had fired her because of her pregnancy in late 2017, less than two months before her due date. Doe 4 claims she interviewed with a Pillsbury practice group leader for an associate job in July 2018 and was asked back to meet the team after a strong performance. She won rave reviews in the second round per her recruiter, who told her to expect an offer, but she never received one, Doe 4 says. According to the complaint, she later learned that one of the Pillsbury attorneys had reached out to the MoFo partner who let her go, whom she claims bad-mouthed her and cost her the Pillsbury job.
Doe 4 had a similar experience with Goodwin around the same time, she says. She had a “highly positive” interview with two partners that August and was invited back to meet with partners, she says. She “hit things off very well” with Goodwin attorneys at this second interview, after which her recruiter “told her in words or in substance that an offer from Goodwin was in the bag,” she says. But “as with Pillsbury, the firm then did a complete one-eighty” and declined to extend her an offer, which Doe likewise blames on MoFo, according to the complaint.
MoFo also blocked Doe from joining Baker McKenzie, she claims. This time, she and the firm discussed terms of her joining, she says. But Baker McKenzie ultimately withheld an offer, blindsiding Doe and her recruiter, she claims.
“In light of the circumstances, Jane Doe 4 believes that the only explanation is that, during the intervening period, MoFo again conveyed negative information that derailed her candidacy,” she says. This alleged interference has blocked her from finding a comparable job, hurt her reputation and forced her to take a job offering less pay and a longer commute, she added.
Representatives for MoFo and Baker McKenzie declined comment Wednesday. Representatives for Goodwin and Pillsbury did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Does are represented by David Sanford, Deborah Marcuse, Andrew Melzer, Ed Chapin and Jill Sullivan Sanford of Sanford Heisler.
Morrison & Foerster is represented by Rachel Brass, Daniel M. Bruggebrew, Catherine Conway and Michele Maryott 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 Emma Cueto. Editing by Abbie Sarfo.