The gender discrimination and “actual or perceived” disability lawsuit recently filed against the management law firm of Proskauer Rose by its longtime CFO should be a warning to all employers -- no one is immune from a discrimination suit. Just as a medical specialist is just as likely to suffer from the malady she treats, an employment lawyer, or law firm, is similarly at risk. This is not to say that such suits have any merit, only that such suits may be brought by anyone from the mailroom to the boardroom, or by a disgruntled applicant or an employee of long tenure.
Elly Rosenthal sued in New York state court under the relevant New York State and New York City anti-discrimination laws claiming that she never received a bad review in her 16 years as firm CFO, but after returning to work from a medical leave she was nevertheless demoted and replaced by a man. She claims also that males in the firm attempted to marginalize her and force her to quit, and then ultimately fired her.
Today’s New York Law Journal reports that the firm has responded through a spokesperson that the firm “was disappointed” that the suit was filed, but that it was “meritless” and that the firm “would be vindicated.”
No employer should be complacent or naïve enough to think that “it couldn’t happen to me” because (pick one or more): I’m so nice; I don’t discriminate; I treat everyone fairly; I'm an "employee's employer"; I'm a liberal; my employees love me; it never happened before; I was only joking; I have an anti-discrimination policy in place; I have a diverse workforce; I’m also in a protected class; my fortune teller predicted only good things for me.
It takes only one disgruntled employee to sue (indeed, who is not “disgruntled?”), and in this dire economy, where hiring is limited and layoffs are the norm, the pool of potential disgruntled employees is large.