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Kelley Drye Settles EEOC Suit Over Attorney Age Bias Claim

Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, a New York law firm, agreed not to fire lawyers because of their age as part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The law firm entered into a consent decree on April 3 with the EEOC to resolve the agency’s 2010 lawsuit, according to a judgment filed today in federal court in Manhattan. The EEOC enforces U.S. anti-bias laws.

The agency claimed that the firm, which has 350 lawyers and other professionals in offices in the U.S., discriminates against attorneys who continue to work there after they turn 70. The agency also said the firm retaliated against a lawyer, Eugene D’Ablemont, who complained to the EEOC.

Kelley Drye, while denying allegations of bias, agreed not to terminate any employee or to maintain “any formal or informal policy or practice requiring involuntary retirement of a partner” because of age, according to the consent decree.

James Kirk, managing partner of Kelley Drye, said in a statement that the firm changed its retirement policies “long ago” and that it settled because “continuing the case would have far exceeded the cost of settlement.”

“We were surprised that this case was continued by the EEOC for the benefit of a single partner,” Kirk said in the statement. “The firm has not discriminated or done anything wrong.”

‘Very Happy’

Jeffrey Burstein, an EEOC attorney, said in an interview that the agency is “very happy” with the accord. “They changed their policy a while ago, after the litigation started, but it wasn’t until recently that we reached a settlement,” he said.

D’Ablemont didn’t immediately return a message left at his office after business hours. U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Dolinger in Manhattan today signed the accord.

According to the agency, Kelley Drye required partners age 70 and older who continued to practice at the firm to relinquish their ownership interest, surrender most authority over firm affairs, and to be compensated solely through a discretionary annual bonus.

As part of the settlement, Kelley Drye said it wouldn’t reduce partner pay due to age and would require partners to sit for two hours of training on the requirements of the U.S. Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The firm agreed to pay D’Ablemont more than $570,000, according to court records.

The EEOC claimed in its lawsuit that the firm “significantly undercompensated” attorneys “solely on the basis of their age,” according to the complaint.

The case is EEOC v. Kelley Drye, 10-cv-655, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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