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March 2, 2011 5:19 PM

Foley & Lardner Sued for Bias, Breach of Contract by Founding Detroit Partner

Posted by Tom Huddleston Jr.

A founding partner of Foley & Lardner's Detroit office sued the firm for discrimination and breach of contract on Monday in U.S. district court in the Eastern District of Michigan.

Raymond J. Carey--a labor and employment partner who joined Foley from the Detroit office of Miller Canfield in 2000--claims the firm has engaged in gender-, race-, and age-based discrimination against him. Carey also accuses Foley of breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, and other related claims. (Click here to download Carey's complaint.)

In his complaint, Carey alleges that he has been victimized as a direct result of his complaints about the firm purposefully disrupting his client relationships, misleading him about his partnership status, and failing to follow through on compensation promises over the course of his tenure with the firm.

Neither Carey--a former president of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association whose name is the only one listed on the complaint--nor representatives of Foley & Lardner responded to several requests for comment.

Carey's complaint states that he was a partner in the Detroit office of a different firm--which the complaint does not identify--when Foley first contacted him in the summer of 2000 as part of an effort to open a Detroit office. Carey claims that he rejected Foley's initial offer, but that the firm nonetheless created a profile for him on its Web site. When his superiors saw that, he says, he had no choice but to switch firms.

Once Carey joined Foley, the complaint continues, firm management promised that he would receive full partnership after four months as a contract partner, that he would be guaranteed a minimum amount of  monthly and annual compensation, and that the compensation would increase annually based on productivity.

Instead, Carey alleges that he was denied full partnership status until the end of 2003 and that firm management interfered with his client relationships by "unilaterally" reassigning and reallocating "billing and supervisory credit" that was rightfully his to other partners, according to the complaint, and by punishing him for other partners' mistakes without allowing him a chance to defend himself. 

Throughout this period, Carey claims that he complained about the alleged broken promises and requested a written copy of the firm's partnership agreement, but was denied access to one. He further claims that when he finally signed an agreement in February 2004--under what he viewed as threats of termination--he was only given the signature pages. Carey claims that a fellow Detroit partner later allowed him to photocopy the partnership agreement and, had he known the provisions within the agreement in 2000, he would never have joined Foley. (Click here to download the Foley & Lardner Partner Agreement, an attachment to Carey's complaint.)

According to the complaint, Foley does not operate as a true partnership. Instead, the document says, the firm's management committee operates as an "employer", deciding on compensation for and promotion of its employees. Members of Foley's management committee "have admitted in written communications to Plaintiff and other partners of Defendant that Defendant is an employer and partners of Defendant are employees of Defendant," the complaint says. Carey claims that the committee has engaged in ongoing "subjectively determined and arbitrary and capricious compensation practices" since he joined the firm in 2000.

As for the firm's allegedly discriminatory treatment, Carey claims that starting with the 2005 fiscal year and ending with the 2009 fiscal year his compensation was "among the lowest" sums paid out to partners in the Detroit offices.

Carey's fiscal 2010 compensation, the complaint states, represented the lowest rate among all partners and was lower than "similarly situated female, noncaucasian and younger partners of [Foley] who were no more than equally but actually less qualified" than Carey. Carey, a 57-year-old white man, claims that he would have received higher compensation had he been female, noncaucasian, and/or younger.

Carey also alleges that the disparity in compensation exists despite the fact that his personal production, as measured by billed hours, billing credit he believes he is due, and revenue generation "exceeded or was at least equal to their personal productivity." 

In Carey's estimation, the clients that he brought to Foley, and those he subsequently added, have made millions of dollars for the firm while he himself has seen his income drop because of the alleged discrimination and breach of contract. He is seeking damages in the form of  back pay dating to 2005, as well as compensation for lost investments, financial and mental distress, litigation costs, and more.

 

Contact Tom Huddleston at [email protected]

 

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