Summary: San Francisco-based law firm Sedgwick has been slammed with a gender discrimination lawsuit from a former female attorney.
Every lawyer is pretty clear on the fact that gender discrimination exists within law firms. Some firms may have worse conditions than others, but the fact remains that males dominate the management and partnership ranks at law firms. A lawsuit filed against Sedgwick LLP highlighted this problem.
The lawsuit points out that no woman has served on the executive committee at the firm until this year and only nine of the 54 equity partners are women. Traci Ribeiro, an insurance coverage lawyer from Chicago, alleged that women are denied equal opportunities for promotions and earn less than their male colleagues at Sedgwick, where the environment is fueled by a “male-dominated culture that systematically excludes women from positions of power.”
Ribeiro filed the lawsuit as a proposed class action in San Francisco, five months after she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She joined the firm in 2011 and became a non-equity partner the year after. She had been pushing to become an equity partner, but was denied a promotion even though she had a multi-million dollar book of business.
Chairman Michael Healy said, “We are confident there has been absolutely no discrimination or retaliation in the partner compensation process or otherwise, and we will defend the firm against these baseless allegations.” The firm is currently in arbitration with Ribeiro, but she is opposing it. The firm claims she is compensated in the top 10 percent of all partners at the firm.
A few specific instances are detailed in the lawsuit such as a time when a partner during a Sedgwick equity partner meeting said she “needed to learn to behave.” She also complained about a meeting with the firm’s chairman. He suggested “she could do better” but failed to “identify a single category in which she had not excelled or in which she could improve.”