Business of Law

Partner, 66, Balks at BigLaw Retirement, May Be an Employee Under Civil Rights Statute

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A 66-year-old partner in one of Canada’s biggest corporate law firms is fighting a policy that ordinarily would have forced him to retire at 65.

Mitch McCormick won a key preliminary victory late last year in his age-discrimination case against Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, when a British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal held that he could be considered an employee under human rights legislation protecting him from mandatory retirement, reports the Globe and Mail.

The managing partner of the Vancouver office, where McCormick practices, William Westeringh, said in a written statement that the firm is disappointed by the ruling and notes that Fasken Martineau partners sign agreements referencing the retirement policy.

Now it is up to the B.C. Supreme Court to decide whether, as the firm contends, the civil rights law doesn’t apply to partners, the newspaper reports.

“Every lawyer I know has read this case,” says attorney Murray Tevlin, who represents McCormick. “I’m 60 myself. And a lot of my friends are 65, and everybody’s interested in it.”

Additional and related coverage:

ABA Journal (2005): “Who is a Partner?”

ABA Journal (2008): “Retiring Mandatory Retirement” (Oct. 2007): “Sidley to Pay $27.5 M in EEOC Partner Case” (Nov. 2007): “BigLaw Firms End Mandatory Retirement” (Jan. 2010): “EEOC Sues Kelley Drye, Says Pay Policy for Older Lawyers Discriminates & Seeks Sweeping Relief” (June 2010): “Law Firm Mandatory Retirement Policies Bring Lawsuits, Defections”

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