Law Firms

Firm denies bias claims by lawyer who said he was treated as 'token black associate'

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Ropes & Gray is responding to bias and retaliation allegations made in an August 2011 lawsuit filed by one of its former lawyers who claimed the law firm treated him as a “token black associate.”

In partially redacted court filings, Ropes says the plaintiff, John Ray III, filed a May 2009 claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after the firm refused to pay him $8.5 million to settle discrimination claims, the Am Law Daily reports.

The firm says it had told Ray in in December 2008 that he would not be promoted to ninth-year associate and he could continue to call himself an associate for the next six months while he looked for another job. Ropes has previously said it fired Ray in part because his work was “well below our partnership standards.”

According to Ropes, Ray had essentially been fired in December 2008 so there was no retaliation in May 2009 when it deactivated Ray’s key card and told him not to return to his office, the story says.

When Ray was told to look for a job, the firm says, he told firm partner Randall Bodner in an email that the fit was never great at the law firm but he enjoyed working with him. After Ray filed the EEOC complaint, Bodner refused to write a recommendation letter for Ray to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Bodner told Ray in an email that he had made the decision because he believed Ray had filed “a groundless claim for your own personal benefit,” according to the Am Law Daily story.

Given the evidence, Ropes said in the court filings, “The inference that plaintiff’s discrimination case was a post-hoc invention aimed at securing a large sum of money from Ropes & Gray follows inescapably.”

The EEOC had determined in January 2011 that Ropes did not retaliate or discriminate against Ray, the story says. The agency later amended its finding, concluding that the firm had retaliated against Ray for filing the EEOC complaint.

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