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February 1, 2010 10:53 AM

Bias Suit Against Covington Proceeds

Posted by Zach Lowe

It seems as if lately we've written about a discrimination or harassment case filed against a law firm every week, and the start of this week brings news in one such case about which much has already been written: Yolanda Young's lawsuit against Covington & Burling. Young, a former Covington staff attorney, has accused the Washington, D.C.,nn powerhouse of discriminatory hiring and promotion practices. 

The news: A federal judge dismissed one of Young's claims against Covington, but let another survive--for now, according to The National Law Journal, an Am Law Daily sibling publication. Predictably, both parties in the dispute claimed a measure of victory after the ruling late last week in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the NLJ reports.

Judge Reggie Walton dismissed Young's claim that Covington's policy of not promoting its staff lawyers--a disproportionate number to whom are black, Young argued—to associate status amounts to racial discrimination. Walton ruled that Young waited too long to file that claim; the firm instituted its no-promotion policy in 2006, and Young filed suit in 2008, the NLJ says.

The surviving claim: That the firm's job-assignment and evaluation policies are allegedly discriminatory, since they result in lawyers being placed in certain ranks and assigned the work that goes with those ranks, the NLJ reports. Walton ruled that the window hasn't closed on that claim, since such assignments happen every year. Even so, Walton made it clear that Young had a very low burden to meet in order for the claim to survive, since "the plaintiff is entitled to the benefit of [the] doubt" at the early stages of the case.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld is representing Covington.  Young is represented by Latif Doman of Washington, D.C., firm Doman Davis.

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