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Attorney Firm Facing Gender Discrimination Lawsuit Will Enter Mediation

Tuesday, January, 19, 2016

The gender discrimination suit that has been plaguing Greenberg Traurig will avoid arbitration and will now be settled in mediation.  Francine Griesing, a former shareholder in the company, filed the lawsuit last year in an attempt to sue Greenberg Traurig for $200 million.  Although the company had originally requested that the court move the case to arbitration, as enforced in its shareholder agreement, Griesing alleges that arbitration should not be mandatory.  The firm has also stated that the former shareholder’s lawsuit is a “financially motivated publicity stunt without merit, backed by neither fact nor law.”

Now, after a motion to stay the case was filed and granted by the court, both parties have agreed to enter mediation with a neutral, third-party mediator to reach a resolution.  They have also agreed upon a timeframe of 70 days for the mediation to be conducted and finalized. 

The original lawsuit was filed in December by Griesing after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found reasonable cause to believe that Greenberg Traurig practiced discrimination against the company’s female attorneys by unfairly compensating them less than the male attorneys on staff.  According to her claims, after working for the attorney firm from 2007 through 2010, it was suggested that she find employment elsewhere after she submitted a complaint about the unfair compensation practices.  In her own words, the firm upheld a “boys’ club of origination” that kept women from generating as much business as the men on staff. 

The attorney firm used three levels of shareholder compensation: the 300 level, the 500 level and the 1,000 level.  According to the data, at the 1,000 level, which is the highest compensated of the three, only 10% of the members were women.  Additionally, this level maintained exclusive access to the retreats offered by the firm in which new business was generated and the firm’s most significant networking occurred.  As a result, attorneys at the 1,000 level earned approximately $1 million more annually than attorneys at the other levels. 

An additional complaint stemmed from the fact that Griesing was placed at the 300 level when she was originally hired—the level at which most female attorneys were placed when hired by the firm.  However, she alleges that when male attorneys with equal or lesser qualifications were hired by the firm, they were placed at the 500 level.  “By assigning women to lower levels and delaying their promotion, the firm denies its female shareholders compensation and opportunities to which they are otherwise entitled,” she said.