SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A former Jones Day partner filed on Thursday her second lawsuit in a week in a bid to have her gender discrimination claims against the powerhouse legal firm heard in state court instead of by an arbitrator.
Wendy Moore claims that the largest law firm in the country sabotaged women to keep them from reaching top partnership ranks and kept secret how compensation decisions are made. Her suit filed Tuesday in Superior Court cites California's Private Attorneys General Act, which allows employees to claim civil penalties for themselves and other employees for business violations of the state’s labor laws.
The same day, in response to a motion for emergency relief from Jones Day, an arbitrator in Washington, D.C. ordered both Moore and Jones Day not to file any lawsuits, and to withdraw any they had already filed.
The arbitrator also found that he has jurisdiction to decide whether Moore's claims must be arbitrated. He said that provisions in the partnership agreement between Moore and Jones Day had "explicitly assigned to the arbitrator the very questions that [Moore] proposed to raise in California state court and thus preclude [Moore] from filing such a state court action."
He then ordered both sides to prepare briefs that answer whether the partnership agreement precluded lawsuits under California’s Private Attorneys General Act.
Two days later, back in San Francisco and in a new filing, Moore's attorneys asked the court to rule that no arbitration provision can take away her rights under the law.
"It is well established under California law that [Private Attorneys General Act] claims are not subject to forced arbitration," it states.
A representative for Jones Day in San Francisco did not respond to a request for comment by Thursday evening.
Russell Kornblith of Sanford Heisler Sharp, an attorney working on Moore's behalf, said in a phone interview, "We believe these decisions should be made by a court of the state of California, not in arbitration shrouded in secrecy."
"This is a California statute at issue," Kornblith said.
He added that the state's courts have been clear that claims under the law belong there.
Moore is asking that the court reject the arbitration provision in the partnership agreement and rule that the arbitrator's interim orders are not final or binding.
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