The Firms

January 28, 2010 11:29 AM

Howrey Hit with $30M Racial Discrimination Suit

Posted by Zach Lowe

A former Howrey associate has filed a $30 million lawsuit against the firm, accusing higher-ups of firing her after she complained about racial discrimination in Howrey's Brussels office, according to The National Law Journal, an Am Law Daily sibling publication. 

Howrey did not comment on the merits of the suit but released a statement touting its diversity record, the NLJ says. About 11.5 percent of Howrey's Washington, D.C., partnership consists of minorities, the NLJ reports.

The ex-associate, Kamisha Menns, a black woman born in Jamaica, says the discriminatory treatment started shortly after she chose Howrey over Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and started work in January 2009, the story says. Other Howrey staffers began removing her from projects despite positive reviews, and the firm moved her workplace to a different floor from other lawyers, the suit says. When she inquired as to why, the office's managing partner, Trevor Soames, allegedly told her that "because she was an 'impressive woman,'" she made "Howrey's white employees feel uncomfortable," the suit says. Soames also claimed that Menns was the first black associate to work in the Brussels office, and that staffers there "had never been forced to be in a 'subordinate position' to a black person," the complaint states, according to the NLJ. 

She e-mailed the firm's diversity committee and its CEO, Robert Ruyak, about the problems in early June and was fired the next day, the suit states. Menns claims she has been unable to land another job, in part because Howrey accused her of taking confidential documents from the firm, the NLJ reports.

Menns filed the complaint Wednesday in Washington, D.C., trial court. She is represented by David Sanford of the employment boutique Sanford, Wittels & Heisler, the NLJ says.

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"About 11.5 percent of Howrey's Washington partnership consists of minorities" v "Menns was the first black associate to work in the Brussels office" says it all.

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