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Women in the Law

Young Ex-Associate Sues Aussie BigLaw, Says She Was Fired After Involvement with Firm Solicitor

Posted Jun 8, 2011 1:07 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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In a case that is making waves in Australia, a former female associate is going head-to-head with one of the country's major law firms, contending that she was harassed and fired after becoming "romantically involved" with a Clayton Utz solicitor.

In an ongoing lawsuit against the firm, Bridgette Styles alleges that a defamatory note to file concerning her claimed workplace conduct was circulated both with and outside the firm. She also alleges that a workplace environment hostile to women targeted her for retaliation after she threatened to complain to Clayton Utz management about the solicitor's confuct after the romance ended, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Soon after the solicitor penned the note to file, she was investigated and terminated for 'performance issues," Styles told the New South Wales Supreme Court.

The firm notes that Styles didn't complain at the time about the alleged sexual harassment (she says she didn't do so for fear of harming her career). Attorney Bruce Hodgkinson represents Clayton Utz and says the firm isn't a hostile workplace. ''The claims are often about conversations and altercations late at night in bars. It's not the same as a piece of material spread around the office,'' he says of Styles' allegations.

Additional coverage:

Sydney Morning Herald: "Life in the firm still no picnic for women"

Lawyers Weekly: "Clutz partnership loses first round in defamation action"

Firm Spy: "Savage Garden; Clayton Utz v Bridgette Styles Litigation Crisis Deepens"

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