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Chadbourne gave bonuses to 44% of male and only 28% of female partners in 2015, says equal pay suit

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Male partners at Chadbourne & Parke on average earned 40 percent more than their female counterparts in 2013, according to information filed in an Equal Pay Act lawsuit against the firm.

The memorandum of law (PDF) filing supporting plaintiffs’ request for collective action includes information that previously was redacted. In 2016, the March 2 filing states, the average base pay for women partners was 21 percent less than their male counterparts. There were also discrepancies in merit bonuses, according to the filing. It claims that in 2015, 44 percent of the male partners and 28 percent of the female partners received bonuses.

The Southern District of New York lawsuit (PDF), filed in August 2016, also alleges gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The three plaintiffs, Kerry Campbell, Jaroslawa Z. Johnson and Mary Yelenick, claim that female partners at Chadbourne have been “systematically disparately underpaid, systematically shut out of firm leadership, demoted, de-equitized and terminated.” The lawsuit seeks $100 million in damages

A points system, used for compensation decisions until 2016, is detailed in the recent filing. The memo states that compensation policies were set by “a five-person, historically all-male management committee” that “routinely used the system to favor male partners over female partners.” The system allegedly awarded women partners low points, while male partners who were less productive got “substantially higher point values.” In 2015, according to document, points given to male partners ranged up to 2,100; female partner points only ranged up to 1,000.

“During their tenure at the firm, plaintiffs’ revenue collection substantially surpassed that of their male counterparts, yet the all-male management committee consistently allocated them a low number of points, translating to lower compensation,” the memo states. “Likewise, the committee disfavored plaintiffs in the allocation of merit bonuses.”

Kathleen McKenna, Chadbourne’s lawyer, was not available for comment at press time. In September, 14 women partners at Chadbourne sent a letter, which was made public, to plaintiff counsel David W. Sanford. They wrote that they wanted no part in the litigation. In November, the law firm filed a counterclaim, alleging that Campbell, the first plaintiff who brought the case, breached her fiduciary duty by revealing confidential financial information and engaging in “a nationwide smear campaign” against the firm.

In February, a merger was announced between Norton Rose Fulbright and Chadbourne & Parke. It’s expected to take place in the second quarter of 2017, and the firm will be known as Norton Rose Fulbright.

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