MANHATTAN (CN) - Female attorneys demand $200 million from Greenberg Traurig in a federal class action, claiming it engages in "systematic, firm-wide discriminatory treatment of its female shareholders on the basis of their gender."
Francine Friedman Griesing, a former Greenberg Traurig attorney, sued the firm on behalf of a class of current and former female shareholders.
"Shareholder" is Greenberg Traurig's equivalent to "partner" at other law firms, according to the complaint.
Griesing, who was a low-ranking shareholder at the firm's Philadelphia office from April 2007 to January 2010, claims Greenberg Traurig fired her in retaliation for complaints of discriminatory employment practices.
She says the firm "pays women less, promotes them at lower rates than men and virtually freezes them out from high-level managerial positions," and that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agrees.
"In a June 28, 2012 determination, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ('EEOC') found 'reasonable cause to believe' that GT discriminated against its women attorneys in violation of Title VII and the Equal Pay Act by compensating women - including plaintiff Griesing - less than similarly situated male counterparts and treating Ms. Griesing and class members less favorably than similarly situated male shareholders," the complaint states.
"Such a finding is extremely rare. For example, in 2011, the EEOC found reasonable cause in only 3.8 percent of all investigations, including both individual and class charges.
"Moreover, the EEOC also found that GT retaliated against Ms. Griesing because she raised concerns about GT's discrimination."
Griesing says that Greenberg Traurig stands out even though discrimination against women is pervasive at large law firms, which, according to recent national surveys, compensate male partners on average $237,000 more per year than female partners, and deny female attorneys client-origination credit and other opportunities.
"Yet even in a field dominated by archaic gender stereotypes, GT stands out for its culture of discrimination against female attorneys," the complaint states. "While the firm advertises a commitment to equal opportunity for female attorneys, the reality is far different.
"The firm ranked 193 out of 221 top law firms in the number of female equity partners, according to the National Law Journal, 'Women in the Equity Partnership: How Firms Fare.' Indeed, women represent only 9.62 percent of GT's equity shareholders, well below the national average of 15 percent for AMLaw 200 and National Law Journal 250 firms.
"GT's Philadelphia office, where plaintiff Griesing worked, exemplifies the firm's broad-based and engrained sexism. As the EEOC recognized, male shareholders in GT's Philadelphia office receive (a) more compensation than similarly situated female shareholders; (b) greater business-generating opportunities and internal referrals from other male shareholders; and (c) higher titles than similarly situated female shareholders. GT, in short, pays women less, promotes them at lower rates than men and virtually freezes them out from high-level managerial positions.
"GT's gender disparities are neither coincidental nor limited to its Philadelphia office. One man, CEO Richard Rosenbaum ('CEO Rosenbaum'), makes all promotion and compensation decisions for each and every GT shareholder nationwide. CEO Rosenbaum consults with only four other high-ranking male GT shareholders on shareholder compensation: the executive chairman, the president, the chairman of the board and a regional operating shareholder. Together, these five men make up GT's compensation committee, a centralized brotherhood controlling who gets paid what at all times.
"Greenberg Traurig has never had a female CEO, and, upon information and belief, has never had a female member of the compensation committee.