A former female shareholder in Greenberg Traurig's Philadelphia office has sued the firm in a putative gender-discrimination class action after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found "reasonable cause to believe" the firm discriminated against women attorneys by compensating them less than their male counterparts, according to the complaint.
Francine Friedman Griesing, who worked at the firm from April 2007 through January 2010, alleged she was told to look for other employment after complaining about Greenberg Traurig's compensation policies, which she said created a "boys club of origination" that stifled women's ability to generate business and bill as many hours as men.
Griesing now has her own firm, Griesing Law, with eight attorneys in Philadelphia. David Sanford of Sanford Heisler is representing her in this suit, Griesing v. Greenberg Traurig, filed Monday in the Southern District of New York.
Sanford said that while Griesing is the only member of the suit currently, the class is expected to be near 215 members dating back to 2007. He said they are seeking $200 million in damages, one-quarter of which is for back and front pay, one-quarter toward compensatory damages and half of which is for punitive damages.
Sanford said it is very rare for the EEOC to find reasonable cause, with only 3.8 percent of single-plaintiff and class cases combined receiving that determination, according to EEOC statistics.
Greenberg Traurig executive committee member Hilarie Bass said in a statement that Griesing's lawsuit paints a false picture of the work environment at the firm.
"The lawsuit filed today by Francine Griesing and her attorneys is an affront to the accomplished, talented women of Greenberg Traurig, who, like all of our lawyers, are compensated based on merit," Bass said in the statement Monday. "It is nothing more than a financially motivated publicity stunt without merit, backed by neither fact nor law."
Bass continued that the complaint misrepresents the EEOC investigation, which she said included only a small number of women in one office of the firm and in which Griesing was the only complainant.
"The firm intends to vigorously defend our practices against her lawsuit and we fully expect to prevail," Bass said.
Bass said Griesing "refused" to submit this matter to arbitration as required by the firm's shareholder agreement. Greenberg Traurig filed a petition in federal court in Philadelphia on Monday to compel arbitration, Bass said. Greenberg Traurig is represented in that matter by Baker Botts in Washington and Freemann Law Offices in Philadelphia.