Lawyer Pay

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Jones Day has filed a motion seeking sanctions against plaintiffs who filed a $200 million lawsuit alleging that the law firm discriminates based on gender and motherhood.

The Dec. 6 sanctions motion alleges that the plaintiffs made up the lawsuit’s pay-bias claims “out of whole cloth” and seeks their dismissal. The motion also seeks an order for the plaintiffs’ lawyers to pay fees and costs that Jones Day spent to litigate the motion.

Law.com, Law360 and Bloomberg Law have coverage.

The plaintiffs are represented by Sanford Heisler Sharp, the same firm that has sued several other large law firms for alleged gender bias.

According to the motion, the plaintiffs wrongly assumed that Jones Day paid a “Cravath base” throughout all its offices. Since female associates made less than the Cravath scale, men must be paid more, the lawsuit and amended complaints had assumed. The plaintiffs had based this assumption on alleged promises by Jones Day to pay market compensation and more for top performers, the sanctions motion says.

All the plaintiffs outside New York admitted in discovery that they didn’t know any men in their offices who made the Cravath scale, according to the motion. Some plaintiffs were even aware of facts that contradicted their pay-bias allegations, the motion said.

The lawsuit described the Cravath scale to include base salaries plus bonuses. Jones Day doesn’t pay annual performance bonuses, although it takes into account salaries and bonus practices in local geographic markets in setting salaries, the motion said.

Jones Day also says the plaintiffs got it wrong when one of their amended complaints alleged that certain male associates made more than their female counterparts. The plaintiffs didn’t have a good-faith factual basis to support the allegation and were aware of facts that undercut the theory, the motion alleges.

Sanford Heisler refused to drop the pay-bias claim when Jones Day provided it with advance notice of its sanctions motion.

“You have provided no evidence that would discredit plaintiffs’ allegations of systemic, firmwide pay discrimination at Jones Day,” said the letter from Sanford Heisler, which was attached to Jones Day’s sanctions motion. “Indeed, defendant’s persistent refusal to produce the very data that could prove or disprove those allegations merely heightens our confidence that plaintiffs’ pay claims will prevail at trial.”

The letter asserts that “a wealth of circumstantial evidence” supports the pay-bias claim, including a pattern of discrimination that includes unequal treatment in work assignments and discriminatory performance evaluations. In addition, the letter says, the “overwhelming majority of lawyers promoted to partner at Jones Day are men.”

Sanford Heisler partner Russell Kornblith told Bloomberg Law and Law.com that his firm looks forward to responding to the sanctions motion in court.

“Jones Day’s sanctions motion is a groundless procedural ploy designed to distract from its facially unlawful ‘black box’ pay-secrecy policy,” he said.