Release: Female Attorney, Promised Family-Friendly Workplace, Sues Large NY Firm for Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation

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Female Attorney, Promised Family-Friendly Workplace, Sues Large New York Firm for Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation

Former Goldberg Segalla lawyer and mother punished for following firm practices, fired after protesting firm partner’s discrimination and harassment campaign

August 31, 2016, New York, NY – Today, New York City-based law firm Reavis Parent Lehrer LLP filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York on behalf of a former associate attorney of defendant Goldberg Segalla LLP, an international law firm headquartered in New York State that employs almost 300 lawyers. The complaint alleges that plaintiff Marissa T. Jones, who was recruited to the firm on the basis of its family-friendly culture and practices, was later subjected to months of systematic gender discrimination and harassment, including for her childcare responsibilities, from a supervising partner, defendant Frederick J. Pomerantz. 

As set out in the lawsuit, Ms. Jones was fired just days after lodging a complaint of discrimination with Goldberg Segalla’s human resources department in accordance with the firm’s own protocol. Ms. Jones’ complaint to HR detailed how she was subjected to persistent gender stereotyping, differential treatment and sexually inappropriate behavior from Mr. Pomerantz. The complaint to HR also cites an otherwise laudatory performance review in which Mr. Pomerantz stated: “We understand that she had a newborn not too long ago. However, we all have our personal challenges…and sacrifices to make. We all need to juggle. I do not believe she wants to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve the next level.”

“What happened to me is clear—as stated in my lawsuit, I was punished simply for utilizing the firm’s supposedly family-friendly policies, then terminated when I complained about that punishment,” said Ms. Jones, plaintiff in the lawsuit. “I was subjected to treatment and behavior to which no person should be exposed. I am shocked that a law firm that publicly brands itself as valuing family, diversity and workplace protections acted in clear violation of the law. I hope to be fully vindicated by the courts and that Goldberg Segalla will be made to practice what it preaches.”

“Ms. Jones, as set out in the lawsuit, is a well-respected and hardworking attorney who was punished for following firm policies and reporting Mr. Pomerantz’ hostile and discriminatory treatment,” said Mark H. Moore, Reavis Parent Lehrer LLP Partner and lead attorney on the case. “Like many working parents, Ms. Jones brought her talents and dedication to Goldberg Segalla for its stated commitment to diversity and promises of a flexible, family-friendly culture and practices. Instead, Ms. Jones was summarily fired on the flimsiest of pretexts because she is a woman and a parent who was held to a double standard. This is a case of naked retaliation, and we plan to work tirelessly until Mr. Pomerantz and his firm are held accountable for their actions.”

As detailed in the lawsuit, Ms. Jones was recruited to Goldberg Segalla’s Global Insurance Services Practice Group in 2013, with both firm partners and the legal recruiter selling the firm’s telecommuting culture, flexible work schedule and “work-family life balance.” According to the lawsuit, Ms. Jones worked effectively with her colleagues to build the firm’s regulatory practice, regularly representing the firm at client meetings and industry events. Then, after returning from a brief maternity leave after the birth of her second child, Ms. Jones was assigned to work with Mr. Pomerantz who had recently joined the firm.

In the ensuing months, as the lawsuit relates, Ms. Jones was subjected to constant gender-based comments regarding her family and home life, acute gender stereotyping about her work, exclusion from business trips and professional meetings and an environment rife with hostility, monitoring, humiliation, groundless criticism and discouragement of her professional development.

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Jones made a detailed oral complaint to human resources regarding Mr. Pomerantz’ conduct on March 16, 2015, after a conversation during which he suggested to Ms. Jones that she had made the wrong life choice by having children. Three days later, on March 19, 2015, after emailing a written complaint to the co-head of her practice group, Ms. Jones was informed that she was being terminated without notice and told to collect her belongings and leave the firm that very same day. When asked for details, the Goldberg Segalla partner relied on an inaccurate claim of a conference call she had allegedly missed a year earlier. Prior to her oral and written complaints, Ms. Jones had been strongly praised in written performance reviews.

The lawsuit asserts claims against Goldberg Segalla LLP and Mr. Pomerantz under Title VII and under New York State and New York City anti-discrimination laws based on sex discrimination, “gender plus” discrimination in which women with childcare responsibilities are treated differently than men, a hostile work environment and retaliation for Ms. Jones’ complaints to the firm regarding Mr. Pomerantz’ conduct. To read the complaint, click here.

The case is Marissa T. Jones, Esq. v. Goldberg Segalla LLP and Frederick J. Pomerantz, Esq., Case Number 1:16-cv-06843, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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