Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) July 6, 2016 - Boston’s Mintz law firm is facing yet another discrimination lawsuit filed by one of its former lawyers.
The case is set to move forward after a lower court judge threw out discrimination claims and the case was appealed. Massachusetts Supreme Court justices indicated that the existing evidence in support of the former associate’s allegations was substantial enough to go to a jury trial. The allegations revolved around sexism and double standards for firm members and associates.
This particular case is also important for other employment discrimination cases due to the Supreme Court’s position on employers, in some circumstances, being banned from retaliating against employees who search for, find, copy and share confidential information belonging to the company that assists the worker to prove a discrimination claim. This practice is referred to as self-help discovery.
The case involves former Mintz Levin associate attorney Kamee Verdrager, who filed a lawsuit against he firm’s chairman Robert Popeo, several other attorneys and the firm itself. Her suit alleges that discrimination was the reason for her unfair demotion in 2007 because she had taken maternity leave twice, and because she was a woman.
Verdrager was terminated in 2008, and, her lawsuit further alleges, her firing was in retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint against her supervisor, a complaint filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination against Mintz Levin.
“The Supreme Court justices indicated that the claims needed to be heard due because there was evidence that women at Mintz Levin were subjected to discriminatory treatment,” said Timothy Coffey, a Chicago employment attorney, who is not involved in the case.
The court pointed to a 2005 report the law firm had commissioned, in response to a gender discrimination lawsuit, which stated non-white and female lawyers faced “disparate treatment” in comparison to the firm’s white male peers.
The law firm countersued alleging that Verdrager committed fraud and breach of contract and was fired because she downloaded documents from the firm’s files to use as evidence in her discrimination lawsuit. Interestingly, the state Board of Bar Overseers saw nothing wrong with Verdrager downloading such information as anyone in the firm could access it. The case will return to the lower court for a jury trial.
“Situations such as this one do happen in many workplaces across the nation. Discrimination is still alive and well despite laws in place to prevent it from happening. If you find yourself in a similar bind like this, you can talk to me,” said Coffey.
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