LeClairRyan and its joint venture with UnitedLex are being sued by a former marketing specialist for gender pay discrimination as the firm grapples with a deluge of partner departures and uncertainty about its next steps.

An attorney for Marci Keatts, a former marketing coordinator and manager at LeClairRyan told Bloomberg Law that the suit was filed Friday in the Eastern District of Virginia.

The suit alleges that LeClairRyan and ULX Partners paid her “significantly less” than a male subordinate which was a part of a broader discriminatory compensation scheme at the firm.

Rather than correct the disparity, Keatts alleges that she and other staff were “rebadged” to ULX Partners, which continued to implement the system of discriminatory pay.

LeClairRyan did not immediately respond to request for comment on the suit.

The claim comes at a challenging time for the firm as it is contemplating its future amid a flurry of lateral partner departures this year. Earlier this week 15 lawyers in its aviation practice decamped for Fox Rothschild and on Thursday its co-founder and named partner Gary LeClair exited the firm.

According to the newly filed complaint, Keatts was employed by LeClairRyan as a marketing communications coordinator from August 2010 until January 2018 when she was promoted to marketing communications manager.

While working at the firm Keatts said she learned that she was being paid significantly less than a male employee in her department who had a shorter tenure there. Keatts claims that she objected to the disparity but alleges that the firm took no action to correct it and did not initiate an investigation into the issue.

In early April of 2018, Keatts claims that she filed a charge of gender-based discrimination against the firm. She said on April 19, she received a letter from ULX Partners offering to continue her employment as a ULX employee at the same compensation rate that she received at LeClairRyan, which was still less than her male subordinate.

In June LeClairRyan publicly announced its joint venture with UnitedLex where more than 300 administrative and legal support professionals from the firm were rebadged to ULX Partners. These administrative personnel would “then be ‘leased back’ to LeClairRyan,” the complaint stated.

Keatts accepted a position at ULX on May 10 but was “placed in the position of continuing under a known scheme of gender based pay discrimination.” She resigned from LeClairRyan and ULX in May 2018, the complaint stated.

Keatts is being represented by Harris Butler of Richmond, Virginia-based Butler Royals.

Butler is also representing former LeClairRyan partner Michelle Craddock who filed suit against the firm for gender discrimination in 2016. Craddock was awarded $1 million by an arbitration panel in October 2018, but is awaiting final confirmation of the judgment.

Keatts v. LeClairRyan, PLLC et al, E.D. Va., No. 3:19-cv-00535-REP