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Law Firm Partner May Not Sue for Sex Discrimination, 3rd Circuit Rules

Posted Jul 20, 2010 7:22 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal appeals court has affirmed the dismissal of a sex discrimination suit filed by a partner in a Pennsylvania law firm, holding that she does not qualify as an employee who is covered by discrimination laws.

The court ruled against Alyson Kirleis, a shareholder and director with Pittsburgh law firm Dickie McCamey & Chilcote, the Legal Intelligencer reports. Kirleis had argued she should be considered an employee because she was subject to the control of the firm’s executive committee.

“We cannot agree that Kirleis is a mere employee of DMC,” the appeals court said in its nonprecedential ruling (PDF). “As a class A shareholder-director of DMC, Kirleis has the ability to participate in DMC’s governance, the right not to be terminated without a three-fourths vote of the board of directors for cause, and the entitlement to a percentage of DMC’s profits, losses and liabilities.”

The decision means that "Kirleis' four-year court battle with the firm has ended with a fizzle," the Intelligencer says. Her lawyer, Edward Friedman, said he does not intend to seek an en banc rehearing.

Kirleis had alleged the firm paid female lawyers less than male lawyers. She also had claimed that male partners told her that women with children should give up partnership and work part-time, and that the role of women lawyers was to prepare lawsuits for trials to be handled by male lawyers.

Kirleis’ appeal had been supported by an amicus brief from the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia, the National Women’s Law Center and the National Partnership for Women and Families, the Intelligencer says.

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