Greenberg Traurig LLP was sued for $200 million by a former partner who claims that women at the law firm are paid less and given fewer opportunities for advancement than their male counterparts.
Francine Griesing, who worked as a Greenberg Traurig partner in Philadelphia from April 2007 to January 2010, filed a complaint in federal court in Manhattan today, seeking to represent a class of current and former women partners at the firm.
“GT, in short, pays women less, promotes them at lower rates than men and virtually freezes them out from high-level managerial positions,” Griesing said in her complaint.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in June found “reasonable cause to believe” that the firm violated federal law by underpaying women partners in the Philadelphia office and retaliating against Griesing when she complained about it.
In a statement, Hilarie Bass, a member of Greenberg Traurig’s executive committee, called the suit “a financially motivated publicity stunt” and said it lacks merit.
“Greenberg Traurig has an exemplary record of fairness and advancement irrespective or gender, race or creed,” Bass said. “Our history of recruiting, retaining, and promoting women and our law firm reflects that.”
Bass said the firm today filed a petition in federal court in Philadelphia to force Griesing’s complaint to arbitration.
Greenberg Traurig has about 1,750 lawyers in 35 offices throughout the world, according to the firm’s website.
According to Griesing’s complaint, all the decisions about partner promotion and pay are made by Greenberg Traurig’s male chief executive officer, with input from an all-male compensation committee. The firm assigns partners to one of three levels: the “300 level,” which is the lowest, the “500 level” and the “1,000 level,” the highest, according to the complaint.
“Shareholder level affects compensation; access to development and growth opportunities; access to resources and clients; and leadership opportunities,” she said.
According to the EEOC letter, which was obtained from a spokeswoman for the law firm representing Griesing, Sanford Heisler LLP, she received $50,000 less in base pay than a comparable male partner who had been admitted to the partnership at the 500 level. Griesing was assigned to the 300 level.
Less than 10 percent of the 1,000-level partners, who earn about $1 million more per year than the others, are women, Griesing said in her complaint.
Griesing also alleged that women “who have intimate relationships with firm leaders” are paid and treated better by the firm. She claims the firm retaliated against her for complaining about discrimination within the firm and for filing a complaint with the EEOC, according to the complaint.
The case is Griesing v. Greenberg Traurig LLP, 12-cv-8734, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).