DALLAS (CN) - A Dallas attorney sued her law firm, claiming it enforced an illegal policy prohibiting male and female employees from being "alone together" - in or out of the workplace.
Kimberly A. Elkjer sued Scheef & Stone LLP in Dallas County Court.
The complaint states: "Scheef & Stone L.L.P. for a period of time during Ms. Elkjer's employment maintained a 'closed door' policy that prohibited males and females - including but not limited to male attorneys and female attorneys - from being alone together at work. The firm also for a period of time during Ms. Elkjer's employment maintained a 'fraternization' policy that prohibited males and females - including but not limited to male attorneys and female attorneys - from being alone together outside of the workplace.
"Although the firm formally revoked and/or amended the policies a few years ago, these policies have expanded in practice to create a largely segregated workplace in which most male attorneys at the firm primarily work and socialize with other male attorneys at the firm, at least in the Dallas location where Ms. Elkjer works.
"Scheef & Stone LLP has fostered a culture that generally encourages sex-based stereotypes, impedes female attorneys' ability to develop professional relationships with male attorneys at the firm, promotes greater income and business opportunities for male attorneys at the firm as compared to female attorneys at the firm, and undermines female attorneys' perceived and actual ability to perform work."
Elkjer claims the culture stems from the firm's managing equity partners. She claims the only exceptions are female attorneys who conform to the firm's stereotypes, who "accept the firm's marginalization of female attorneys."
Elkjer says some attorneys have tried to correct the disparities in recent months, but the firm as a whole has chosen not to correct its conduct.
"Indeed, the firm has met opposition to unlawful employment practices with expressed hostility and/or unwarranted threats," the complaint states.
Elkjer says that shortly before she sued, defendant's counsel cited her confidentiality agreement without specifying what aspects of its conduct or other factual matters at issue are actually confidential.
"The firm was long ago made aware of the nature of the problems at the firm that are now at issue in this case, and the firm did not previously raise such a concern," the complaint states. "In light of conduct to date, the firm appears likely to take an overly broad view of what is 'confidential.'"
With additional offices in Frisco, Texas, and Scottsdale, Ariz., Scheef & Stone's areas of practice include corporate, banking, bankruptcy, energy, intellectual property, labor, litigation, securities and tax, according to its website.
Elkjer seeks an injunction and compensatory and punitive damages, of $200,000 to $1 million, for gender discrimination.
She is represented by Amy Gibson with Gibson Wiley in Dallas.
Scheef Stone flatly denied Elkjer's claims on Monday, saying there is no evidence to support them.
"In fact, objective evidence and our business records will clearly show that Ms. Elkjer's disagrees with legitimate business decisions based on objective non-discriminatory criteria by the firm's management that have nothing to do with gender and apply to all attorneys in the firm," the firm said in a statement. "No other female attorneys at the firm supports Ms. Elkjer's false claims. We are fully prepared to defend this case."
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