Morrison & Foerster Faces $100M Pregnancy Bias Lawsuit

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Three associates out of California allege that Morrison & Foerster LLP delays payment and promotion opportunities to female attorneys that schedule maternity leave or use the working mother benefits provided by the firm. The $100 million proposed class action was filed in May 2018. According to citations online, claims are based on the allegation that the firm has an “old boys’ club” culture (Law360).

The three associates sued under a pseudonym (J. Doe) in San Francisco federal court. The plaintiffs claim that expected promotions and pay increases were held at bay when they took (and returned from) maternity leave yet the attorneys’ hourly billing rates were increased as they would be if they received the expected promotion.

Other claims include:

·      Male attorneys and female attorneys who are not pregnant/have no children are offered more access to partners and mentoring allowing them to stay on track for partnership.

·      The practice noted above means that women are vastly underrepresented amongst senior levels at the firm.

·      Standard procedure at the firm when an associate is pregnant is to hold her back from advancement with her peers and deny opportunities for progression and/or pay increases.

·      The firm is aware of the problems and has not taken the necessary remedial measures to current problems or prevent future infractions.  

Each of the three associates that filed the complaint work at one of Morrison & Foerster LLP’s California offices, but the firm has four California locations and the document did not specify which one employed the women.

The firm does offer a number of benefits and programs that are designed to improve the situation for working mothers: parental leave, adoption leave, parental transition time upon returning from leave, backup caregiving, flexible work options, a reduced hours program, etc. The existence of the various programs seems to support and encourage female employees to take up to six months off for maternity leave.

In reality, the associates claim that women who take advantage of maternity leave or are working mothers advance through the firm’s ranks at a significantly slower rate than their peers. They are also paid less than the male associates.

If you have questions about pregnancy bias in the workplace or if you have experienced gender discrimination on the job, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.