Law Firms

Fired legal assistant at Kirkland & Ellis claims firm restructuring was motivated by age bias

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A former legal assistant at Kirkland & Ellis alleges that the law firm discriminated based on age when it fired a group of older litigation support workers and made them reapply for new positions in a “sham process.”

Former legal assistant Nancy Lynn Perkins, 60, says the firm attributed the firings to a reduction in force, but all the fired workers were older than age 55, report Bloomberg Law, Law360 and Law.com.

Perkins’ Aug. 14 amended complaint, filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, is here.

Perkins was fired in August 2019 and given one hour to vacate the premises after working at Kirkland & Ellis for nearly 30 years, the suit says.

Perkins also alleges discrimination based on disability because she was fired “mere months” after she returned to work following brain surgery for a cerebral spinal fluid leak, with no offer of accommodation on her return. She was told that the leak was caused by stress. Perkins had notified the firm when she returned that she would likely need new surgeries in the future for the spinal condition and others.

Perkins says the reduction in force was pretextual because the firm hired new workers in newly created positions that were nearly identical to the job that Perkins was forced to leave. The number of litigation support positions actually grew. “This was not a reduction in force, it was a growth in force,” the lawsuit alleges.

Perkins had been hired in 1990 to help prepare cases for trial. She “was particularly adept at using new technologies,” and her “job evaluations were consistently outstanding,” the lawsuit says.

After her firing, Perkins was told that she would have to complete an online application, take an online course in advanced data analytics, obtain a Brainspace Analyst certification, participate in a video interview, and take a timed test.

Perkins obtained the certification and completed the other requirements, but she was fired after the timed test. There had been no offer of accommodation for more time to take the test, the suit says.

The video interview “could only be characterized as a Stepford interview,” the suit says. “The interviewers read from a list of prepared questions, there were no follow-up questions, and after each response from Ms. Perkins, the interviewers would simply state, in a robotic manner, ‘Thank You,’ as if the response did not matter at all.”

When Perkins was given paperwork about the ages of terminated employees, the ages were listed “as of July 15, 2019,” before the timed test was administered.

“In other words, Kirkland & Ellis knew before the timed relativity test was even administered, which candidates would not be offered positions,” the suit says. “Again, this was a sham process from Day One.”

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