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Gender Discrimination in the Legal Field

Posted by Athena M. Herman | Jun 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

As many women know from experience, there are few workplaces which are immune to gender discrimination when it comes to compensation, hiring, firing, and promotion. Gender discrimination in the workplace occurs in large companies, and small companies. Private corporations and government jobs. In white collar jobs and blue collar jobs. Many employees are taking advantage of state and federal civil rights laws to fight for equal treatment under the law.

Government lawyers are charged with prosecuting criminals and enforcing the law. However, even an Office of Attorney General can be involved in gender discrimination. In Pennsylvania, a chief deputy attorney general filed a complaint against the Office of Attorney General for gender discrimination.

Ellen Granahan has worked in the AG's office since 2008. She was promoted to head up the child predator division. However, she claims she is the lowest paid chief deputy attorney general in the office. Even though prosecutions in her section have increased 800 percent, her salary is reportedly 17% to 37% lower than other attorneys with similar titles.

Private law firms have also been implicated for discrimination and violating civil rights laws. A large law firm in Massachusetts is facing legal claims by an ex-attorney who claims she was fired for reporting discriminatory conduct. Kamee Verdrager was an associate at Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC. She had made an internal complaint of gender discrimination, and later filed a complaint with the state's Commission against Discrimination.

During her time with the law firm, Verdrager reported that one of her supervisors had made sexual comments to her. However, the law firm's human resources office found that there was no gender discrimination. The law firm had received multiple complaints from women about the supervisor's conduct, but the firm never found any discrimination.

When the law firm discovered that she was searching for evidence to support her claims, she was fired. An appeals court held that searching for evidence of discrimination is sometimes allowed, “but only if the employee's actions are reasonable in the totality of the circumstances.”

In a Wall Street Journal article, “Female Lawyers Still Battle Gender Bias,” stark differences in billing rates were noted between male and female lawyers. On average, women bill at a rate 10% lower than men. The pay disparity begins when the new lawyers are hired, and continues to grow as the lawyers gain more experience. Even as junior lawyers, law firms bill for women at an average of $377 for a female associate compared to $404 for men, despite these lawyers being paid according to their years in practice.

The survey looked at billing data from more than 3,000 law firms across the country. While almost 1/3rd of lawyers and judges are women, they only make up 17% of equity partner positions in the top law firms. While women have increased their presence in the legal world in recent years, compensation and partnerships do not reflect equal treatment for men and women.

If you believe your supervisor or employer may have discriminated against you on the basis of your gender, your employer may be violating federal and state human rights laws. Illinois employees who are victims of employment discrimination should speak with an experienced attorney who understands Illinois and federal employment discrimination law. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients and their families the justice they deserve.

About the Author

Athena M. Herman

Athena M. Herman practices in the areas of employment discrimination law, general employment law, and civil rights law...


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Practice Areas

Workers’ Compensation
Motor Vehicle Accident
Family Law/Dissolution
Personal Injury/Nursing Home Negligence/Medical Malpractice
Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment

Practice Areas

Employment Discrimination
Retaliation claims and Whistleblower in the Workplace
Class Action Lawsuit and Multi-Plaintiff Cases
Civil Rights Litigation
Employment Law