The Firms

May 5, 2011 7:10 PM

Reed Smith, Former Female Partner Reach Accord in Discrimination Suit

Posted by Brian Baxter

JoEllen Dillon, a nonequity corporate partner at Reed Smith, reached a settlement in a gender discrimination suit she filed in December. In the suit, she alleged that women partners at the firm were paid less than their male colleagues.

The Legal Intelligencer, a sibling publication, reports that Dillon filed a motion on Thursday withdrawing her suit against the firm. Dillon's lawyer, Samuel Cordes of Pittsburgh's Samuel J. Cordes & Associates, would only say that "the matter has been resolved to our mutual satisfaction."

Dillon joined Reed Smith's Pittsburgh office in February 2002 along with two male partners from Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. In her suit filed against Reed Smith last year, Dillon claimed that when she joined the firm she was offered $50,000 less than her two male colleagues. After they refused to join the firm unless she was paid equally, her pay was put on par with them.

In subsequent years both male partners achieved equity status at Reed Smith, while Dillon remained in a nonequity role despite collecting millions in fees from clients, according to her complaint against the firm. The Intelligencer reports that after taking maternity leave from September 2008 to January 2009 to have twins, Dillon returned to find that her compensation had been cut almost in half.

Dillon also made the explosive claim that not only were male partners paid more at the firm than their female counterparts, but female attorneys were given work based on their willingness to "engage in sexual relations with members of [Reed Smith's] management," according to reports at the time by The Intelligencer.

Reed Smith called Dillon's suit "wrongful" and "without merit," claiming that the percentage of women partners firmwide significantly exceeded the national average of firms comparable in size. On Thursday, Reed Smith declined to comment on the suit and would only confirm that Dillon had now left the firm after the resolution of her case.

The Intelligencer has more on the story behind Dillon's suit, which is one of many compensation-related actions filed in recent years.

In December, a former partner in Dewey & LeBoeuf's London office, Marija Danilunas, filed a suit against the firm accusing it of gender bias in its compensation system. Danilunas withdrew the suit in January.

Reuters reported Wednesday on the growing number of age discrimination suits filed by lawyers against their firms as the baby boomers in the profession reach retirement age. Last year the EEOC sued Kelley Drye & Warren on behalf of 80-year-old labor and employment partner Eugene D'Ablemont, claiming that the firm's compensation system discriminated against partners on the basis of their age.

Kelley Drye fired back in the case, but has also amended its retirement policy.

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