Jodi Ritter, a former nonequity partner of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker sued the firm with claims that she was subjected to harassment and discrimination for her choice to have children. She left the firm in late 2012.
Ritter described the state at the firm by stating, “By contrast, women who did not have children and who availed themselves of affairs with partners were systematically rewarded and treated better than women who chose to have children and families.”
The firm, in response to the claims made in the suit, said that the allegations were baseless and lacking in any legal merit. They advised that they would be vigorously defending themselves and they were looking forward to the adjudication of the matter. The firm filed Motion to Dismiss on Friday claiming that claims are wholly without merit and precluded by the arbitration clause of her partnership agreement.
Ritter spent five years as a special narcotics prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office before joining Wilson Elser in 1997. She stated that she didn’t have any problem meeting her billable hour quota and that she received bonuses and raises consistently until she became pregnant. Ritter announced her pregnancy in 2002. The chair of the firm’s labor and employment litigation practice, Ricki Roer, allegedly pulled Ritter aside and said, “That’s why women can’t move up in this firm.” Roer continued to explain that getting pregnant could have a negative impact on any attempt Ritter had to move up as a female in the Wilson Elser firm. Roer continued by saying that women who do get pregnant in the workforce make it harder for women who want to make a career because it makes women look weak.
Ritter gave birth to twins in January 2003. After three months of maternity leave Ritter’s twins were still in intensive care. She requested additional time. She was advised that her job could not be held if she could not return after the three months. Ritter said she had to get permission to spend one more month with her twins from the regional managing partner. In May of 2003, Ritter was required to attend a Women’s Bar Association event. Her twins were having health issues. After four hours, she asked a partner at the table, Jerold Ruderman, if she could leave to care for her sick children. She claims he said no and that she couldn’t leave an empty seat at the table where Mr. Ruderman’s wife (a sitting judge) was seated.
Ritter was transferred to the firm’s White Plains office approximately one year after her children were born.
Ritter also claims:
- Roer was known to rebuff women’s requests for childcare accommodations.
- When her husband became ill, the firm’s only concern was her ability to maintain her billable hours.
- Women in the firm who made themselves available to male partners were protected.
Upon her firing in December 2012, Ritter was told that the firm had too little work to sustain her position. She argued that she had a number of open cases as well as a number of clients preparing to send her more work. At that time she had billed 1,930 hours. She was one week away from billing 1,950 hours. And her average billing from years past was 2,000 hours per year.
Ritter filed suit because, she claims, the firm affected her ability to further he career. She worked there for more than 16 years. As Ritter’s attorney said, “She gave her life there.” Ritter is seeking damages based on lost wages and pain and suffering as well as punitive damages.