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Labor & Employment

Canadian Appeals Court Dismisses Law Partner’s Age Discrimination Case, Says He’s Not an Employee

Posted Jul 19, 2012 4:06 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Calling a lower court's decision that a longtime partner of a prominent law firm was its employee, for the purpose of applying age-discrimination rules, "legally insupportable," a Canadian appeals court has dismissed John Michael McCormick's case against Fasken Martineau DuMoulin for lack of jurisdiction.

“There can be no doubt that in Canadian law, a partnership is not a separate entity from its partners, and a partner cannot be an employee of, or employed by, a partnership of which he is a member,” writes the British Columbia Court of Appeal in its Thursday opinion (PDF)

It's not clear exactly what will happen next concerning the more than 40-year partner, who refused to retire from Fasken Martineau after he reached age 65 in 2010.

McCormick and his counsel could not immediately be reached for comment, but a managing partner in the Vancouver office said in an emailed statement hat the law firm is pleased, the Globe and Mail reports.

"We are satisfied with the decision, which reinforces our understanding of the law in British Columbia surrounding the terms of partnership agreements,” wrote William Westeringh, calling the case "an isolated issue that is unprecedented at Fasken Martineau.”

A number of major U.S. law firms have eliminated mandatory retirement policies since the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pursued a landmark age discrimination case against Sidley Austin that resulted in a $27.5 million settlement in 2007.

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Partner, 66, Balks at BigLaw Retirement, May Be an Employee Under Civil Rights Statute"

ABAJournal.com: "BigLaw Partner Scores Win in Retirement Fight; He’s an Employee, for Discrimination Law Purposes"

ABAJournal.com: "BigLaw Firms End Mandatory Retirement"

ABAJournal.com: "Kelley Drye Settlement with EEOC Offers No Guidance On When a Partner May Be Deemed an Employee"

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