December 21, 2009 3:15 PM
Ex-Fried Frank Associate Sues Firm, Claiming Harassment, Phony Reviews
Posted by Zach Lowe
A former associate plans to file a wide-ranging $50 million lawsuit against Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, accusing the firm of denying her a promotion to partner because she is a lesbian and of doing nothing to stop higher-ups from harassing her, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by The Am Law Daily.
The former associate, Julie Kamps, plans to file the lawsuit this week in federal court in Manhattan. Kamps, who previously filed a less detailed complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claims that a female partner at Fried Frank sexually harassed her. She also alleges that the firm instructs lawyers to write exaggerated negative performance reviews about associates the firm wants out.
A firm spokeswoman did not immediately provide a comment in response to the suit. Kamps, a graduate of Harvard Law School, worked at Fried Frank from 1998 until January of this year, when the firm terminated her in the middle of an arbitration hearing.
In the complaint, to be filed this week, Kamps claims that Janice Mac Avoy, a litigation partner, "knowingly made unwelcome sexual advances and sexual comments to Kamps, both alone and in the presence of others." Mac Avoy allegedly "told Kamps it was 'the biggest regret of her life' that she had not slept with Kamps 'when she had the chance,'" and discussed various sexual acts with Kamps, the complaint states. Kamps also alleges that Mac Avoy encouraged her to "wear women's clothes," because William McGuinness, chair of the firm's litigation department, believed Kamps's preference for men's shirts could "make clients uncomfortable."
The complaint names both Mac Avoy and McGuinness as defendants. It also names David Hennes, a litigation partner who, Kamps alleges, asked her to write a negative review of an attorney that the firm was "trying to get rid of," the complaint says. Kamps refused to write the review; she claims Hennes began harassing her as a result of her refusal. She claims Hennes laughed at her after assigning an underperforming associate to one of her matters, and she alleges Hennes indicated he was "watching" Kamps by "pointing to his eyes and then at Kamps."
As we've previously reported, Fried Frank terminated Kamps in the middle of an arbitration session in January, during which Bettina Plevan, a well-known employment attorney at Proskauer Rose, represented Fried Frank. It is unclear why Kamps was fired at that time, and Kamps claims in her lawsuit that she has never received a negative performance evaluation or a solid reason for her dismissal. Kamps claims the firm's alleged mistreatment of her got worse in late 2007, when she complained about the firm's failure to promote her. The firm responded to the complaint by hiring an outside consultant to conduct an internal investigation. In her complaint, Kamps calls the investigation "woefully inadequate." She says the investigator asked partners to verify her allegations and considered the investigation over after the partners denied Kamps's initial claims. She also says the firm began removing her from billable matters and assigning her nonbillable work.
In addition to $50 million, Kamps is seeking to be reinstated to Fried Frank as a partner. Kamps is representing herself in the matter. The complaint also names Justin Spendlove, the firm's managing partner, and 100 other John Doe defendants. Kamps declined to comment, other than to say she has not yet decided whether she will represent herself in the case. The complaint does not list an attorney other than Kamps.
In a separate proceeding, the EEOC issued Kamps a notice of right to sue in November.Make a comment