Discrimination, Family Leave, Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave, Women And Girls, Parenting, Motherhood, Fatherhood, Lawsuits, Jones Day, Lawyers

Discrimination, Family Leave

Couple Sues Law Firm Over Parental Leave, Wages and a Firing

In a new challenge to its workplace culture, Jones Day is accused of unlawfully dismissing a lawyer who questioned a gender disparity in its policies.

14.8.2019

A couple formerly employed at Jones Day has filed a federal lawsuit charging that the firm discriminated in its parental-leave policies and that the husband was fired after he questioned the practice.

In a new challenge to its workplace culture, Jones Day is accused of unlawfully dismissing a lawyer who questioned a gender disparity in its policies.

The complaint, filed Tuesday, maintains that the firm and some of its partners promoted crude stereotypes about gender roles, with a prominent male partner asking rhetorically, “What would a man do on parental leave — watch his wife unload the dishwasher?” The same partner, the suit claims, teased a male associate for taking parental leave to care for a child.

Under the firm’s policy, biological mothers who seek to be a primary caregiver receive 10 weeks of paid family leave plus eight weeks of disability leave, while biological fathers who seek to be a primary caregiver receive 10 weeks of family leave. The firm also awards new adoptive parents of either gender 18 weeks of paid leave if they seek to be a primary caregiver.

that employers can award biological mothers eight weeks more paid leave than biological fathers if the additional time is tied to their recovery from the physical toll of childbirth.

Cynthia Thomas Calvert, who advises employers about family-leave policies, said the claim’s fate would hinge on determining whether the policy was intended to provide greater accommodation to recovering mothers, or more time for bonding with a child. If meant to foster bonding, the time is supposed to be equal for fathers and mothers. Advocates argue that policies making it easier for fathers to assume domestic responsibilities help overcome an assumption that mothers are less devoted to their careers.

Jones Day defended its policy, saying it grants birth mothers eight weeks of paid disability leave to avoid having to ask for medical evidence that they are still recovering from childbirth. The firm said the firing of Mr. Savignac had not been in retaliation for criticizing the leave policy, which it said he and Ms. Sheketoff had done in 2018 without repercussions. Rather, it said, it fired him because he had shown a “lack of courtesy” to colleagues and an “open hostility to the firm,” citing his email.

Jones Day denied that it had discriminated against Ms. Sheketoff and said that “her reviews from multiple partners were mixed.”

Both lawsuits describe a “black box” compensation system in which the firm’s managing partner, Stephen J. Brogan, sets pay for associates. The complaints argue that this system enables pay discrimination against women.

The firm said two plaintiffs in the earlier lawsuit had been asked to leave the firm after the birth of a second child because of “performance issues.”

Read more: The New York Times
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