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January 28, 2010 3:58 PM

Kelley Drye Sued By EEOC for Age Discrimination

Posted by Brian Baxter

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued Kelley Drye & Warren, claiming that the New York firm's compensation system discriminates against partners based on their age, reports sibling publication the New York Law Journal.

EugeneD'Ablemont

The civil complaint was filed in U.S. district court in Manhattan on behalf of 79-year-old labor and employment partner Eugene D'Ablemont (pictured at right) and a call of "similarly situated employees," reports the NYLJ.

According to the complaint, the EEOC claims that Kelley Drye discriminated against D'Ablemont and other attorneys by forcing them to give up their equity stakes once they turned 70, therefore making them earn less than younger Kelley Drye lawyers with similar collections and billings.

"Law firms that single out older attorneys for adverse treatment simply because of their age run great risk of violating the federal prohibition on age discrimination," said EEOC acting chairman Stuart Ishimaru in a statement. "This lawsuit should serve as a wake-up call for law firms to examine their own practices to ensure they comport with federal law."

Kelley Drye managing partner James Kirk told the NYLJ that the EEOC's suit was without merit and that "we intend to vigorously defend the firm."

D'Ablemont remains employed by the firm in its New York office. The EEOC claims that D'Ablemont routinely brought in more than $1 million in fees from clients, but in 2008 his annual bonus was reduced from $75,000 to $25,000. He filed his complaint with the EEOC in February 2008.

Ishimaru, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the civil rights division at Main Justice during the Clinton administration, was named acting chair of the EEOC by President Barack Obama a year ago. Ishimaru is married to Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll partner Agnieszka Fryszman.

Two years ago Sidley Austin agreed to pay $27.5 million to settle a similar EEOC suit accusing the firm of age discrimination against 32 partners. Most of those partners were in their 50s and 60s when they were demoted to counsel status in 1999. The firm, which did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement, claimed that the demotions were based on performance.

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