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A former partner of US firm Greenberg Traurig has filed a proposed $200m class action lawsuit against the firm claiming that it encourages a “boys club” in which female lawyers are underpaid and treated “less favorably” than male counterparts in a similar role.
According to the 52-page complaint name plaintiff Francine Friedman Griesing, who worked at Greenberg’s Philadelphia office between 2007 and 2010, is seeking to represent a proposed class number of 215 current and former female partners to sue the firm in violation of the Equal Pay Act.
“GT, in short, pays women less, promotes them at lower rates than men and virtually freezes them out from high-level managerial positions,” said Griesing, who is being represented by class-action boutique Sanford Heisler, in her complaint to the New York federal court.
The litigator, who now runs Philadelphia-based Griesing Law, alleges that she was told to leave Greenberg after questioning the firm’s compensation policies, adding that the firm “commonly and openly makes compensation decisions based on archaic assumptions that men were responsible for financially supporting a family”.
According to the suit, the firm’s regional operating shareholder Michael Lehr told Griesing she did not “need the money” after she raised concerns that her bonus was short by $200,000 in 2009.
“Mr Lehr explained that the firm had chosen to decrease Ms Griesing’s bonus so that the firm could offer higher bonuses to male shareholders who had ‘families to support’,” the claim states. “Mr Lehr also told her that male shareholders ‘needed the money more’ than she did (disregarding the fact that these male shareholders were absent from work routinely and shirked their client responsibilities) and that she was ‘lucky to have a job’.”
If the 215 expected class members are approved by the court, damages could exceed $200m, according to Griesing’s lawyers. It is understood that Greenberg Traurig has already disputed the allegations.
In the UK female partners remain a minority at top firms, with just 23.5 per cent of all partners and 9.4 per cent of all equity partners across the UK’s largest 100 law firms by revenue being female, The Lawyer revealed earlier this year (24 October 2012).