Monday, February 1, 2010
It apparently wasn't a great week last week for big law firms. In addition to the race discrimination case against Howrey noted here and Covington & Burling's motion to dismiss partially lost, noted here, the EEOC is getting into the mix, suing Kelley Drye for age discrimination in what is likely to be very expensive if the firm is found liable. At issue is the firm's partnership agreement, which, according to the complaint,
requires all attorneys who reach the age of 70 and wish to continue to practice law to give up any equity interest they may have with [the firm]; relinquish their authority to manage or significantly influence the firm; and be compensated for their work performed solely on the basis of an annual "bonus" payment that is wholly discretionary with [the firm's] Executive Committee.
The complaint also alleges that the firm retaliated against the name plaintiff by reducing his compensation to $25,000 last year for filing a charge with the EEOC. For commentary, see the ABA Journal's post, the Wall Street Journal Blog post, the National Law Journal article, and the EEOC press release. You may recall the Sidley & Austin suit by the EEOC, in which the Seventh Circuit held that partners might sometimes be employees. De-equitizing them and removing their governance of the firm sounds like a good way to turn a partner into an employee.