Women lawyers filed a lawsuit in April against the Jones Day law firm, claiming gender discrimination and unequal pay. This week, Jones Day filed a 115-page response.
The complaint filed in April alleged a “fraternity culture” at the firm. The seven women who brought the suit said they were underpaid in comparison to male lawyers with similar responsibilities. They used the industry-standard compensation guide, the Cravath Scale, to prove they were underpaid. However, Jones Day said these women did not deserve to be paid on the scale, claiming the firm’s geographic market and the women’s alleged sub-par performances as its defenses.
“Plaintiffs’ pay discrimination claims are based on the misconceived and legally baseless notion that all lawyers in all geographic markets have, at all times over the past decade, been entitled to so-called ‘Cravath scale’ regardless of the quality of their performance or their productivity,” the response said.
Jones Day’s defense also called out two of the plaintiffs, saying they “struggled with basic tasks,” “received below-average reviews” and did the “minimum,” and thus were not deserving of Cravath pay.
The response takes an unexpected turn when Jones Day says the women’s claim that they endured fraternity culture positioned women as “weak, powerless, and incapable of making their own choices or taking responsibility for their own actions,” and thus was “offensive” in its own right.
The lawsuit cited senior male partners mentoring sometimes less-qualified young male associates, giving them preferential treatment and grooming them for leadership as an example of this “fraternity culture.”
These kind of gendered inequalities in mentorship and treatment are real — and common — issues for women in corporate America. The recently-released 2018 Women in the Workplace report by LeanIn.org and McKinzey & Company highlights that overall, women report receiving less support from higher-ups than their male counterparts. One respondent of the report said she observed men tend to be “hand-held” through their careers and “groomed” for success, whereas women have to work harder for recognition.
Another claim Jones Day made that puzzled journalists who had experience reporting on the company was that their compensation system isn’t a “black box,” meaning they publish information on its compensation and evaluation processes online and internally.
An earlier, eventually dropped, gender discrimination lawsuit against the company accused its compensatory policies as being part of a “black box.”
The complaint the women filed seeks $200 million in damages.