A female partner suing Proskauer Rose for gender discrimination is urging a Washington, D.C. federal judge not to toss her complaint, arguing she should be classified as an employee of the firm.
The plaintiff, a D.C. partner who sued Proskauer anonymously under the name ‘Jane Doe’ in May, alleges she was objectified by male partners at the firm, paid less than male partners who were less productive than her, and excluded from projects once she began complaining.
In a June motion to dismiss the case, Proskauer argued her claims should be tossed because she is a co-owner of the firm. In order to be protected by the federal and state anti-discrimination laws at issue in the case, the plaintiff must be classified as an employee, the firm argued.
But the plaintiff argued Monday that she does not operate as an owner of the firm because all of Proskauer’sfinances, operations, management, personnel, and administration are conducted by its executive committee.
“Partners who are not on the executive committee have no influence over or involvement in the management of the firm,” the plaintiff wrote in a declaration to the court. “Partners who are not on the executive committee are effectively shut out of meaningful participation in the firm’s governance.”
The plaintiff said she and other partners are supervised by and required to report to the executive committee, which sets required billable hours, approves reduced-hour work arrangements, and provides partners with the tools they use to do their work, like computers, cell phones and software programs.
The plaintiff’s lawyers, of Sanford Heisler Sharp, have asked the court to allow full discovery before ruling on the employee question.
Proskauer is represented by several of its own litigators, including Colin Cass and Kathleen M. McKenna.
A spokesperson for Proskauer said the plaintiff’s court filings included “false statements” and reiterated the firm’s position that she is “a business owner who is not covered by the laws she seeks to invoke.”
“Ms. Doe was fairly rewarded for what she contributed and treated properly at every turn,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We expect that her baseless claims will be dismissed.”
The dispute over the Proskauer partner’s relationship to the firm is also central to a separate, pending gender discrimination suit in Manhattan against Chadbourne & Parke.
In June, the judge in that case said discovery was needed before he could weigh in on a slew of motions, including Chadbourne’s bid for dismissal and summary judgment and the plaintiffs’ motion for conditional collective action certification under the Equal Pay Act. The plaintiffs, three women who are all former Chadbourne partners, allege the firm systematically paid them less than their male counterparts.