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May 18, 2010 12:18 PM

McDermott Hit with Layoff-Related Age Bias Suit

Posted by Zach Lowe

McDermott, Will & Emery is the latest law firm to face a lawsuit connected to recession-related layoffs, with a former billing specialist claiming the firm fired her because of her age, according to a complaint filed late Monday in federal court in Chicago. 

In her suit, plaintiff Barbara Badakshanian says McDermott laid her off in February 2009 as part of broader staff cuts. But Badakshanian, who was 50 and had worked at the firm for eight years when she lost her job, claims the firm soon hired younger employees at a lower cost to do billing work she had been doing, and that McDermott's stated reasons for terminating her were "false." A firm spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the suit.

Robert Sweeney, a Chicago-based lawyer representing Badakshanian, says his firm often represents employees suing former employers, but that he has rarely sued a law firm. "You generally hope they do it right," Sweeney says about law firms and layoffs. Sweeney is not representing any other former McDermott employees, saying other potential cases against the firm "are not for us." He says Badakshanian's case "has legs." 

Badakshanian, according to her suit, filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year, and the EEOC issued a notice in April indicating the agency believes Badakshanian has the right to sue McDermott.

McDermott is not the first law firm to face lawsuits related to employment decisions made during the recession. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson is facing at least three employment-related suits; separate claims have been filed against Covington & Burling, Turocy & Watson and several other firms, according to our prior reporting. 

Nate Raymond of sibling publication the New York Law Journal contributed reporting Make a comment

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