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Female Partner at Sedgwick Law Suing for Gender Bias and Pay Discrimination

Emanuel Shirazi

Tracy Ribeiro, an insurance partner at Chicago law office Sedgwick Law, recently filed a class action lawsuit against her employer for gender bias and pay discrimination.

Ribeiro claims that the male-dominated culture at her workplace prevented women lawyers from being paid equally and receiving equal opportunities for promotions. Despite the fact that Ribeiro generated the third highest amount of revenue for the firm, she was unable to crack the “glass ceiling of quite partnership at Sedgwick.” Some examples of the male-dominated culture exhibited at the firm include:

  1. A female associate was receiving $50,000 less than her male colleague despite the fact that she as more profitable.
  2. Another female associate was paid $40,000 less.
  3. After Ribeiro complained about the discrepancies in pay amongst male and female associates, a partner suggested that she should receive a pay cut and “learn how to behave.”
  4. During a meeting about Ribeiro’s role in the firm, she was told not to worry because she would not be “taken out to the woodshed” — an idiom implying that Ribeiro was in trouble but would not be punished.

The San Francisco based firm has more than 300 lawyers (26 in Chicago), is one of the 200 largest firms in the US, and earned $183 million in revenue last year. Sedgwick’s chairman denies her claims and is confident that she experienced no discrimination while employed at the firm. The firm maintains that they “do not engage in or tolerate discriminatory or retaliatory conduct of any kind.”

Unfortunately for Ribeiro, the case will not go to court because of an arbitration clause in her partnership agreement.  More and more employers force their employees to sign arbitration agreements so that they cannot be sued in court or face a jury.  Instead, the claims are sent to a private court (arbitration) which is usually grossly unfair to the employee for many reasons.

Despite the news, Ribeiro promises to keep fighting for equal pay in an industry where women partners receive 44 percent less than their male counterparts.

What do you think the amount of gender/pay bias is in the legal profession?

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