Former Detroit Litigation Chair of Foley & Lardner Loses Pay Discrimination Suit
Summary: Raymond J. Carey, a former Litigation Chair for the Detroit Office of Foley & Lardner lost in Sixth Circuit in a pay discrimination matter he brought against the law firm. The matter is of additional interest because the opinion provides an outstanding glimpse into the partner compensation practices of Foley, as also what a law firm partner needs to prove prima facie to allege pay discrimination. The matter is also one where the plaintiff brought reverse discrimination claims and failed.
A three-judge bench of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit gave its opinion in the matter of Carey v. Foley & Lardner LLP this week on 25th August. The panel upheld the summary judgment initially given by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and held that Carey had failed to establish even a single element of a prima facie case of discrimination against the law firm.
While the turn of events may be disconcerting to Raymond J. Carey, who is a former Litigation Chair of the Detroit office of the law firm, the opinion illustrates that Foley's compensation practices for partners is quite watertight and can pass as a good checklist when deciding partner compensation policies for law firms. The opinion also shows what a law firm partner needs to prove prima facie in order to establish pay discrimination and attract applicable federal laws.
Even though Carey proved that there were other partners in the same office who had been paid better against billable hours, he failed to prove discrimination, because discrimination could not be established unless a class of partners could be found who have similar responsibilities and perform similar duties to Carey.
The court observed, "Because the comparison focuses on the duties and responsibilities of the jobs under comparison, two jobs that bear the same title do not necessarily require "equal work" … In determining whether a comparator is appropriate for the purposes of an EPA claim, our focus is on actual job requirements and duties, rather than job classifications and titles."
The court found, "In the instant case, Carey cannot show that all partners perform substantially equal work merely because they hold the title "partner" … a partner in any practice group could serve as an appropriate comparator, but only if there is evidence that the partner performs roughly equivalent duties and functions."
To substantiate his stand Carey submitted partner profiles on website as evidence, but the Court said, "These profiles are marketing materials that list each partner's representative clients and professional accomplishments, but they do not describe the specific duties the partner performs during her representation of the client."
Carey also failed because he seems to be a 'lone wolf.' As the court pointed out, "Moreover, Carey testified that his practice was unique in comparison to other partners at Foley … Thus, Carey failed to provide evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that Foley compensated him at a lesser rate than female partners who perform "equal work" in violation of the EPA."
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