Law Firms

Ex-DLA Piper Partner Tells UK Tribunal She Was Fired for Being Pregnant

A former partner at DLA Piper told a United Kingdom employment tribunal yesterday that the law firm was “an old boys’ club” that fired her because she was pregnant.

Former real estate partner Sarah Sweeney alleged that the managing partner of the firm’s Liverpool office, Philip Rooney, said women who have children should not return to work, according to the Liverpool Daily Post and the Daily Mail. She was fired in November 2008 when she was three months pregnant.

Sweeney also claimed that another DLA Piper lawyer, Paul Firth, slapped her on the bottom during a law firm function after she rebuffed his advances, the stories say. A December 2008 article in the Star said Firth was managing partner for DLA’s U.K. regions, but he was leaving in January 2009 as part of a restructuring. He continues to work as a consultant for the firm, according to DLA’s website.

DLA Piper claims Sweeney was fired as part of a cost-cutting effort during the economic downturn. Gavin Mansfield, representing DLA before the tribunal, said Sweeney lost her job because she was the “most dispensable.”

A DLA Piper statement said, “We strongly contest the allegations that have been made by Sarah in this case and will be calling evidence to rebut all aspects of her claim.”

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