Three female associates at the law firm Morrison & Foerster are suing the firm in federal court in San Francisco. The complaint alleges that when women employees arrive back at work from maternity leave, Morrison & Foerster fails to promote them with the rest of their associate class, which means they end up with lower pay. The plaintiffs contend that this, in effect, discriminates against them, specifically as mothers. Moreover, they also argue that the firm creates work expectations that cannot possibly be met by lawyers who are also mothers, while also not providing them with enough work or opportunities to actually meet those expectations to rise in the firm’s ranks. The lawsuit is a $100 million class action suit.
What is the Law The Mothers Are Suing Under?
The suit is based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Equal Pay Act, and California-specific laws covering equal pay, fair employment and family rights. This combination of laws enables the women – as mothers – to bring their suit because the firm failed to sufficiently provide leave and the ability to return to their job, inhibiting them from advancing while those who did not have children did, as a discrimination lawyer Atlanta, GA trusts can explain.
Calling Into Question the Firm’s “Commitment” to Being Family-Friendly
Some companies might market themselves as being family-friendly, which means they have good work-life balance and maternity or parental leave policies. This suit questions the fact that Morrison & Foerster regards itself as such. To the complainants, it is a “family-friendly façade,” because, while the firm has an official maternity leave policy, the firm actually impedes those mothers from climbing the corporate ladder, which is exactly what these policies are meant to prevent under the law.
The plaintiffs all contend that when they returned to work at Morrison & Foerster from maternity leave, they found that their “associate class” – the group that they worked with and should have been promoted with if not for their pregnancies – had been promoted, while they had been left behind. One of the plaintiffs also says that a “supervising partner” – as her boss – told her that “parents tend not to do well in this group” and that they did not know she was a parent when they offered her the job. The lawsuit argues that this partner who made the comments offered the plaintiff fewer opportunities for advancement than other lawyers who did not have children. Finally, while women are around 46% of associates at the firm, they only account for about 22% of partners, demonstrating a clear gender gap.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Barrett & Farahany, LLP for their insight into discrimination law.