Straight, white female alleges BigLaw firm’s job ad for diversity program violated Title VII

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King & Spalding is the latest law firm targeted for a diversity fellowship alleged to discriminate against white heterosexual candidates.

In a May 9 lawsuit, plaintiff Sarah Spitalnick alleges she was deterred from applying for a summer-associate diversity fellowship at King & Spalding in February 2021 because of a job ad that restricted applicants.

The ad said candidates “must have an ethnically or culturally diverse background or be a member of the LGBT community,” according to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Maryland.

At the time, Spitalnick was a first-year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She is white and heterosexual. The summer internship paid $4,135 a week.

Law360 and Bloomberg Law have coverage of Spitalnick’s lawsuit.

Spitalnick alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

Previous lawsuits targeting law firms for diversity programs were filed under Section 1981. Unlike suits filed under Title VII, Section 1981 suits don’t require plaintiffs to first file a complaint with state or federal civil rights agencies, Law360 explains.

Spitalnick sued after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found reasonable cause to believe King & Spalding violated the law. That only occurs in about 2% of complaints, said Jonathan S. Gross of the Law Office of Jonathan S. Gross in an interview with Law360. Spitalnick is represented by Gross and Eden Quainton.

The diversity program still exists at King & Spalding, Law360 says, “but its current description on the firm’s website appears to have scrubbed the language Spitalnick is suing over.”

A King & Spalding spokesperson indicated she would follow up on the ABA Journal’s request for comment, but she did not have a statement immediately available.

See also:

Law firms are getting a wake-up call as division over diversity roils America’s cultural debate

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