Law Firms

Partner's equal-pay suit claims Sedgwick has a 'male-dominated culture' that hinders women

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A nonequity partner at Sedgwick has filed a suit on behalf of women at the firm that contends they are denied equal pay and equal opportunities for advancement because of a “male-dominated culture” at the firm.

Traci Ribeiro, who works in the firm’s Chicago office, filed the would-be class action on Tuesday in state court in San Francisco, report (sub. req.) and Crain’s Chicago Business. The suit claims Ribeiro has not been promoted to equity partner even though she generates the third-highest amount of revenue among the firm’s lawyers.

“Sedgwick’s male-dominated culture systematically excludes women from positions of power within the firm, which in turn leads to lower compensation for female attorneys as compared to male attorneys,” the suit says.

Ribeiro says that, after she became a nonequity partner in 2012, she sought raises for female associates in her department who were making less than men with similar experience. One female associate was underpaid by $50,000 and another by $40,000, the suit says. The firm eventually raised pay to equitable levels for both associates, according to the suit.

Ribeiro claims retaliation in response to her fight for equal pay. One partner allegedly suggested a cut in pay for Ribeiro at a November 2012 meeting and told his colleagues she “needed to learn how to behave.”

Ribeiro also has a complaint pending with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Sedgwick chairman Michael Healy said in a statement that the firm is “confident there has been absolutely no discrimination or retaliation in the partner compensation process or otherwise, and we will defend the firm against these baseless allegations.”

Healy said Ribeiro’s compensation puts her in the top 10 percent of all Sedgwick partners. “Sedgwick takes a fair, open and consensus-driven approach to partner compensation and other partnership issues, and we do not engage in or tolerate discriminatory or retaliatory conduct of any kind,” he said. “In fact, Sedgwick is proud to be widely recognized as a leader in initiating and promoting diversity in all aspects of the firm and in our communities.”

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