Have sex discrimination lawsuits gone too far?
After Ellen Pao’s failed lawsuit against the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, accusing the firm and their partners for sexual harassment and retaliation, another female partner, Traci Ribeiro, this time at the San Francisco based law firm of Sedgwick, has sued her firm for sex discrimination claims, accusing the firm that they did not promote her to equity partner and denied her unfair compensation. She is further seeking to turn the case into a class action lawsuit on behalf of other women and associates.
The lawsuit alleges:
“Sedgwick’s male-dominated culture systematically excludes women from positions of power within the firm, which in turn leads to lower compensation for female attorneys as compared to male attorneys”
Allegations of a male dominated workplace culture have become very commonplace in sex discrimination lawsuits. Qualcomm recently paid $19.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of female employees claiming that the company discriminated against female math, science and engineering workers. Ms. Ribeiro isn’t the first woman to accuse a firm of discrimination. In January, a former partner at LeClairRyan sued in Virginia alleging unequal pay and retaliation. In 2013 Greenberg Traurig L.L.P. settled a class-action brought by female attorneys.
In fact, as the theory goes, if you are in an organization where there are more men, then as a female, you are in the minority and making less money because of systematic discrimination or some other form of discrimination which is creating pay gaps or fewer promotions.
However, isn’t it just possible that some professions, industries and specialties just draw more men, or that as a result of a merit based system, more men are rising through the ranks and making more money? Is sex discrimination against women really the problem or are firms just becoming easy targets for lawsuits because they have more men?
Moreover, don’t a lot of women actually want to have less demanding jobs and hours and spend more time with their families? Wouldn’t this also be contributing to the fact that some industries and professions have less women? These are not sexist comments, they are just rationale questions that demand rationale responses.
The irony is that Ms. Ribeiro is actually very well compensated. According to the Sedgwick Chairman Michael Healy, Ms. Ribeiro’s compensation placed her in the top 10% among the law firm’s partners.
So, in other words, Ms. Ribeiro who has alleged unfair pay, is making more than 90% of the firms partners. It’s sort of like the student suing his teacher for getting an A- instead of an A+.
The same theories of sex discrimination which are promoted in these lawsuits against men can be equally applied to female dominated industries. When is the last time you heard a man suing a hospital because there were too many female nurses that were being promoted over men, or a man bringing a class action lawsuit based on sex discrimination against Nordstrom because they hire only female employees to work the cosmetic counters?
But most men don’t bring these types of lawsuits. To even the playing field, maybe they should.