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A former Kaye Scholer associate who was hired to support business development has sued the law firm, alleging at least $21 million in damages, claiming she was treated differently because of her gender, her sexual orientation and her advocacy in the LGBT community.
Bari Zahn, in Zahn v. Kaye Scholer, 152625-2015, claims that her job duties as a senior associate were to develop business across all practice areas. According to the complaint, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Zahn met or exceeded her business development goals, bringing in close to $2 million in revenue and millions of dollars in future work to Kaye Scholer from clients she developed and originated, including Kenneth Cole, Toyota Financial Services and Merisant.
She said her base salary was $75,000 from 2009 through 2013, and while Kaye Scholer increased her pay to $175,000 for 2014, the firm simultaneously eliminated her potential commissions for collections under $1 million.
Zahn alleges that, although she performed the same or similar job functions as many straight, male counterparts, she was not given the same support, payment or respect. She says the base salaries of the firm’s male employees who perform similar jobs ranged from $500,000 to more than $1 million a year.
Zahn, represented by Erica Kagan of the Kurland Group, is suing for discrimination, wrongful termination, unlawful retaliation, unequal pay, negligent supervision and training and breach of contract.
In a statement, Kaye Scholer said it is “a law firm of choice for LGBTQ attorneys and professional staff. The allegations of discrimination and all other allegations of wrongdoing by Bari Zahn are without merit, and we will take all necessary steps to have these claims dismissed.”
By Ben James 360Law.com
Law360, New York (March 25, 2015, 10:22 AM ET) — The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Fourth Circuit decision Wednesday that nixed a pregnancy bias case against United Parcel Service Inc., reviving a lawsuit brought by a UPS employee who was denied light duty work while pregnant.
The high court opted, 6-3, to vacate a Fourth Circuit decision that had affirmed a summary judgment grant for UPS in the suit, which was filed in 2008 by former delivery driver Peggy Young. Young had taken leave for in vitro fertilization and, when she attempted to return to work, she was deemed unable to perform the essential functions of her job because of a lifting restriction and ineligible for light duty.
Justice Stephen Breyer’s majority opinion — joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan — said that both UPS and Young’s interpretations of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act were unpersuasive and sent the dispute back to the intermediate appeals court.
“Viewing the record in the light most favorable to Young, there is a genuine dispute as to whether UPS provided more favorable treatment to at least some employees whose situation cannot reasonably be distinguished from Young’s,” Justice Breyer wrote.
Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion, while Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Clarence Thomas, penned a dissent that backed affirming the Fourth Circuit.
The high court granted Young’s petition for review despite the U.S. solicitor general’s objection in June. Review wasn’t warranted in Young’s case, the solicitor argued in a May brief, in part because anticipated guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission could clarify the anti-bias watchdog’s take on the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as the PDA.
The parties’ views on the relevant language in the PDA were almost polar opposites, the high court said. The PDA, which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in 1978, says that “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes … as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.”
Young’s approach seems to say that the law gives pregnant workers “most favored nation” status, according to the majority ruling, which added that lower courts had concluded that wasn’t what Congress intended when it passed the PDA.
“We agree with UPS to this extent: We doubt that Congress intended to grant pregnant workers an unconditional most-favored-nation status,” said the majority. But it’s “similarly difficult” to accept the opposite interpretation of the PDA, the high court said.
UPS maintained that its denial of Young’s light duty request in 2006 didn’t run afoul of the PDA. Federal law doesn’t require accommodations or special treatment for pregnant employees, the company argued, adding that it had simply treated Young the same as other workers with similar lifting restrictions stemming from an “off-the-job injury or condition.”
The EEOC issued new pregnancy discrimination guidance on July 14, two weeks after the Supreme Court’s July 1 decision to review Young’s case. The EEOC said that an employer cannot deny light duty to a worker based on a policy that limits light-duty work to employees with on-the-job injuries.
While the majority breathed new life into Young’s PDA claim, it said the 2014 EEOC guidance’s “power to persuade” was severely limited. The agency didn’t explain the basis for its latest guidance, which took a position that was inconsistent with prior arguments from the government, said Tuesday’s opinion.
A UPS spokeswoman said in an email Tuesday that the package delivery company was confident that the lower court would find that find that the company hadn’t discriminated under the “newly announced standard” in the Young decision.
“UPS is pleased that the Supreme Court rejected the argument that UPS’s pregnancy-neutral policy was inherently discriminatory. Instead, the Supreme Court adopted a new standard for evaluating pregnancy discrimination claims without ruling for either party, and sent the case back to the lower courts for further consideration under the new standard,” the company said.
UPS told the high court in an October brief that it was voluntarily changing its approach to pregnancy accommodations and would make temporary light duty work available to pregnant workers with medically certified restrictions, starting in January.
Though Young’s lawsuit originally involved other claims, the Supreme Court’s review was limited to the PDA.
Young is represented by Samuel R. Bagenstos of the University of Michigan Clinical Law Program and Virginia attorney Sharon Fast Gustafson. Bagenstos argued for Young.
UPS is represented by Mark A. Perry, Rachel S. Brass, Marisa C. Maleck, Kellam M. Conover and Caitlin J. Halligan ofGibson Dunn and Emmett F. McGee Jr. and Jill S. Distler of Jackson Lewis PC. Halligan argued for UPS.
The case is Young v. United Parcel Service Inc., case number 12-1226, in the Supreme Court of the United States.
–Editing by Edrienne Su and Sarah Golin.
By Aaron Vehling 360Law.com
Patterson-UTI Drilling agreed to set up a fund to compensate all minority workers it employed at any time from Jan. 1, 2006, to the date a Colorado federal judge signs off on the deal, according to the consent decree the parties jointly filed.“This decree is the product of collaboration between EEOC and Patterson-UTI on programmatic initiatives to reach a negotiated resolution of outstanding claims,” the proposed settlement says.Up to 10 percent of the settlement could be allocated to lost wages and benefits, according to the settlement, which gives Patterson-UTI Drilling 20 days to turn over a list of eligible employees. Also within that time, the settlement administrator will set up a website to advertise the agreement, according to the filing.
For its part, the EEOC must work with the company to create a settlement notice and claim form, according to the agreement.
There are also nonmonetary components of the settlement. Patterson-UTI Drilling is barred from further discriminatory practices, must create and fill a new vice president position that focuses on equal employment opportunities in the company and has to establish an anti-discrimination training program for its employees, the settlement says.
Patterson-UTI Drilling also has to file progress reports for both the four-year duration of the consent decree and another year after it terminates, according to the settlement.
The proposed settlement was filed the same day as the EEOC’s complaint, which is the result of the agency’s prior investigation of three different charges filed by Patterson-UTI Drilling workers accusing the company of a nationwide pattern or practice of setting up a hostile work environment based on race, color or national origin, disparate treatment and retaliation, according to the agreement.
Patterson-UTI denies the EEOC’s allegations and says it did not engage in any unlawful action or retaliation, according to the decree.
“This decree is a compromise of disputed claims, entered into to avoid further disruption, costs, delay and expense of protracted litigation, and any payments or undertakings made hereunder are not and should not be construed as an admission of liability on the part of Patterson-UTI,” the decree says.
However, the EEOC has alleged that the hostile work environment Patterson-UTI fostered spanned from racial and ethnic comments to verbal and physical harassment and intimidation of minority employees, as well as “relegating minority employees to lower-level positions” and denying training or on-the-job experience.
The agency’s complaint also accused the company of disparate treatment in its employment practices and retaliating against employees who complained about discrimination or harassment.
Both the EEOC and Patterson-UTI on Wednesday declined to comment until the court approves the settlement.
The EEOC is represented by Stephanie Struble and Rita Byrnes Kittle of the agency.
Patterson-UTI is represented by Nancy L. Abell of Paul Hastings LLP.
The case is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Patterson-UTI Drilling Company LLC, case number 1:15-cv-00600, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
–Editing by Rebecca Flanagan.
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It is important to consult an attorney to review your severance agreement not only because it can be advantageous to negotiate the terms of the agreement, but because severance agreements can contain limits on your ability to work such as non-compete agreements and can restrict your right to sue your employer in the future. To protect your rights, you should contact an attorney in your area. If you live and/or work in New York or New Jersey and require guidance with negotiating or reviewing a severance agreement, contact The Clancy Law Firm at (212) 747-1744.