Law Firms

Fired NY Associate Sues Firm, Claims ‘Hostile and Demeaning’ Environment

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A Canadian woman who worked as an associate in the New York office of a Toronto law firm claims in a lawsuit that the partner who supervised her encouraged a “hostile and demeaning” environment for women.

The suit by Jaime Laskis, 34, claims that she was fired from Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt as a result of her complaints, the Toronto Star reports.

Laskis says she had good performance reviews from the time she began work at the firm in 2003, but that changed in 2008 when partner Kevin Cramer was appointed to review New York associates. According to the suit (PDF posted by the Star), Cramer allegedly:

• Told Laskis he didn’t think she wanted to be a partner, she “must be more than a pretty face” and she’s not helping herself “coming to work looking well put together.”

• When Laskis asked Cramer how she could improve, he advised her to “stop acting like a child that’s been taken to the woodshed and spanked.”

• Told an associate taking maternity leave that it would take her off of partnership track, and told another woman, “That’s why I hate working with women, because they just get pregnant and leave. Out of every three years, you only get one good year out of them.”

• Told an associate attending Harvard law school that it was great he was going there because “you might meet some pretty women pretending to get a legal education.”

The law firm gave a statement to the Star saying it investigated Laskis’ allegations, it regrets she felt it was in her interest to sue, and it will be defending itself. According to Above the Law, Laskis is now an associate at Pepper Hamilton, which has offices In New York one floor above Osler.

Laskis told the Star it’s “a horrible situation” and taking on the law firm has been a difficult process. “I’m not this kind of person,” she said. “I’m not a troublemaker. I’m not even a loud voice. I just keep my head down and do my job.”

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