Law Firms

Sidley Austin will provide scholarships, internships to law students to settle Labor Department diversity probe

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Sidley Austin has agreed to improve its tracking of demographic statistics on summer associate applicants, associate bonuses and staff member promotions to settle allegations that it failed to adequately collect the data.

Sidley has also agreed to provide more scholarships and internships for law students as part of the conciliation agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

Bloomberg Law and Law360 have coverage.

Sidley did not admit wrongdoing in the Sept. 3 agreement, which was released Tuesday.

Sidley is the second law firm that recently reached a settlement after a review of compliance with federal anti-discrimination requirements for government contractors. Locke Lord agreed to pay $150,000 to resolve allegations that a predecessor law firm discriminated against 22 female associates by paying them lower bonuses than their male colleagues.

Sidley is not currently a federal contractor, but it must comply with equal employment opportunity requirements if it accepts government contracts in the future, the agreement says.

The agreement settles allegations stemming from a compliance review of Sidley’s New York and Los Angeles offices.

The agreement provides that Sidley will improve data collection and will:

• Increase the number of diversity and inclusion scholarships that it had intended to offer by three in its New York office and by two in its Los Angeles office. The total cost of the additional scholarships, to be awarded in 2021 or 2022, is $125,000.

• Offer eight paid internships, divided between the New York and Los Angeles offices, to diverse first-year law students. The estimated total cost is $24,000.

• Offer new programs to Los Angeles staff members to help them enhance their skills, develop new skills or further develop their careers. The estimated cost of the programs is $25,000. Sidley will also post job openings with organizations serving diverse communities.

• Investigate and remedy disparities in associate bonuses that can’t be explained by legitimate factors.

The agreement alleges these deficiencies:

• Sidley’s New York and Los Angeles offices failed to collect race, ethnicity and gender data on applicants for summer associate positions. The failure occurred March 1, 2011, through May 2, 2012, in the New York office, and Jan. 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015, in the Los Angeles office.

• Sidley failed to consistently maintain accurate promotion records for nonlawyer staff members at its Los Angeles office from Jan. 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015.

• Sidley failed to evaluate whether there were disparities in its associate bonus program based on race, gender and ethnicity. The failure occurred in 2012 in New York and in 2014 in Los Angeles.

Sidley Austin gave this statement to the ABA Journal: “We are pleased to have reached a resolution of all issues raised after a compliance review conducted by the OFCCP. OFCCP made no findings of discrimination. OFCCP cites technical and other alleged record-keeping issues that allegedly occurred in 2012 and 2014. We dispute the record-keeping issues but agreed to resolve them by offering to enhance our existing, robust programs supporting diversity and inclusion. Sidley is deeply committed to diversity and will continue its initiatives to further enhance our efforts to promote diversity in our firm and in the legal profession at large.”

Updated Oct. 8 at 3:45 p.m. to include the statement from Sidley Austin.

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