Law Firms

Suit by former firm partner alleges cash-flow problems, gay and racial bias

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A former nonequity partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres in San Francisco filed a lawsuit last Thursday alleging that the firm treated him differently because he is black and gay.

The lawsuit by David Fermino says the firm failed to provide him with the same business opportunities, support and professional courtesies that it provided to white and straight partners.

In addition, the suit says, Kasowitz Benson reduced Fermino’s salary and then fired him “without any notice, let alone a prior conversation about his work, clients, billable hours or his performance.”

The suit claims that the law firm owes Fermino “more than $190,000 in unpaid salary” for 2017 and 2018. It is the second lawsuit filed this year alleging that Kasowitz Benson failed to pay promised money to one of its partners, report the Recorder and Law360.

The other suit was filed by former Houston bankruptcy partner Kyung Lee, who said the firm owes him at least $185,000 in unpaid compensation, as well as his $50,000 capital contribution, the Texas Lawyer previously reported.

The law firm said the allegations by both plaintiffs are false. In statements to the Recorder and Law360, Kasowitz Benson said Fermino misrepresented the amount of work he would bring to the firm and took vacation when he was offered work on client matters. The firm also denied discrimination of any kind.

Fermino’s lawyer, Jennifer Schwartz, told Law360 that her firm disputes the law firm’s assertions and “is exploring whether they give rise to other claims.”

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