Morrison & Foerster started the week in a bitter-sweet mood. MoFo barely had the ink dried on its lead counsel role for the much-vaunted $59 billion T-Mobile, Sprint merger on Sunday, when the firm was slapped on Monday with a $100 million proposed class action from three California-based associates. The women allege the firm delays pay and advancement opportunities for female attorneys who take maternity leave or avail themselves of benefits the firm offers working mothers. The associates said in their pregnancy bias class action filed yesterday that the firm has an “old boys’ club” culture.
Three Jane Does
All three associates sued under pseudonyms Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2, and Jane Doe 3. They claim the firm discriminated against them and held them back in their careers after they became pregnant, and were cut out of their practice groups following maternity leave. The suit is being pursued on behalf of a putative class of female attorneys at the firm. In the complaint filed at the US District Court for the Northern District of California, the women allege 'At MoFo, the mommy track is a dead end.' Claims include bars to promotions, lower salaries, denial of flexible hours, less assignments and a preference for working with male lawyers.
While many Big Law firms have been hit with allegations of gender discrimination in recent years, this is the first suit to focus on maternity discrimination. Many firms, including MoFo, have been expanding their parental leave and flexible work policies in response to perceptions that too many women leave the profession after having children. Disputing the claim, a spokesman for the firm told Bloomberg Law in a statement that 'Morrison & Foerster has a long and proven track record of supporting and advancing our associates as they return from maternity leave.'