Morrison & Foerster LLP is an “industry leader” when it comes to supporting and promoting women and working parents and it didn’t discriminate against seven female attorneys who said they were mistreated after they got pregnant, the firm says.
The law firm’s efforts to advance women and working parents has drawn top marks from Working Mother magazine, Yale Law Women, and the Women in Law Empowerment Forum, MoFo said in answering the women’s suit. Its response comes in a June 4 filing with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Almost half of all partner promotions made by the firm in the last five years went to women, MoFo said. Moreover, the chair of its compensation committee is a woman and women co-chair roughly 20 of its practice groups, the firm said.
Forty percent of the firm’s board of directors also are women. Those directors work with its managing partners, MoFo’s Women Strategy Committee, and others to ensure the advancement of female lawyers is “an important strategic priority,” the filing said.
MoFo also is a founding signatory of the Mansfield Rule Initiative, a program requiring that 30% or more of all candidates for significant leadership roles in the industry are “women and attorneys of color,” the firm said. It recently received an award for reaching that goal, MoFo said.
The firm provides associates who are primary caregivers with 20 weeks of paid parental leave and up to five weeks of unpaid leave after that, MoFo said. It also cuts in half the number of billable hours those attorneys must work in the month before and after they take such leave, the firm said.
The seven women who have sued the firm, and allege “the mommy track is a dead end” at MoFo, can’t support their claims, the filing said. The women suing as Jane Does 1 and 3 were “reclassified” to remain at the same level for an additional year because they failed to meet certain hours-worked requirements, it said. Reclassification is an automatic, gender-neutral practice that affects male and female attorneys equally, MoFo said.
Jane Doe 2 was issued a “not progress” mark after years of poor performance, and Jane Does 4 and 5 were fired for their performance shortcomings, MoFo said. Jane Doe 6’s charge that sex was the reason she was denied partnership is undercut by the fact that 48% of the lawyers it made partner during the relevant period were women. Jane Doe 7 resigned rather than try to improve her performance, the firm said.
Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP represents the women. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP represents Morrison & Foerster.
The case is Doe v. Morrison & Foerster LLP, N.D. Cal., No. 3:18-cv-02542, answer filed 6/4/19.
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