Thursday, January 28, 2010

$30 Million Race Discrimination Suit Filed against Howrey

CourtroomThe Blog of the Legal Times has a story about a lawsuit filed yesterday by a former associate at Howrey, a large global law firm. The associate, a black woman, was heavily recruited away from another firm, and sent to Howrey's office in Brussels. From the BLT story,

At some point after moving to Brussels, Menns says in her complaint, she began being removed from projects despite receiving compliments on her work from several partners. She says her workplace was shifted to a different floor from that of other lawyers. When she reached out to the office’s managing partner, Trevor Soames, the complaint alleges, Menns was told “that because she was an ‘impressive woman’ Ms. Menns made Howrey’s white employees feel uncomfortable.” The complaint alleges that Soames also told her that because she was the first black associate to work in the office, the office staff’s treatment of her might be influenced by the fact that “they had never before been forced to be in a ‘subordinate position’ to a black person.”

The complaint goes on to allege that the situation only got worse when she reached out to firm leaders, including the Washington-based diversity committee and CEO Robert Ruyak. In a June 2, 2009, meeting, a day after Menns sent an e-mail to Ruyak and eight members of the diversity committee outlining the allegedly discriminatory treatment, Menns was fired.

Yikes. The complaint seeks relief under the DC Human Rights Act and tort theories of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Not great for a firm that ranked number 13 among the top 200 grossing law firms in the US in the Minority Law Journal's Diversity Scorecard last year.


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