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Female shareholders sue law firm for systemic discrimination

A group of female lawyers who have worked for a large national law firm are suing the firm for what they say is systemic gender discrimination. According to the complaint, female shareholders at the firm were paid less, given fewer promotional opportunities, and were excluded almost entirely from high-level managerial positions.

The lead plaintiff (the person bringing the claim on behalf of the whole group) is a former shareholder from the firm's Philadelphia, Pennsylvania office. She says that she was wrongfully terminated after she complained about the discrimination.

A recent EEOC determination supports the woman's allegations. In a statement released earlier this year, the EEOC found that the firm discriminated in clear violation of the Equal Pay Act and other federal equal protection laws. This finding is very significant, since the EEOC has made similar determinations in only 3.8 percent of all investigations.

In fact, the Pennsylvania office where the lead plaintiff worked apparently exemplified the pattern of discrimination against female shareholders. The EEOC found that the "broad-based and engrained sexism" in that office is also present in the firm as whole.

According to the lawsuit, the decision to compensate men more than women is openly based on the assumption that men have a family to support and women will work less because of parenting obligations. It is shocking to read allegations like this, particularly since these stereotypes are outdated and long disproven.

The lawsuit seeks to compensate current and former female shareholders for past and future lost pay, for non-economic damages related to the discrimination and retaliation, and demands that the illegal discrimination be stopped.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Class of Female Attorneys Sues Greenberg Trauig for $200 M," Iulia Flip, Dec. 4, 2012.

To learn more about women's rights in the workplace, visit our Pittsburgh employment law site.

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