Partner Suing Proskauer Reveals Identity, Alleges Retaliation

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By Gayle Cinquegrani

Connie Bertram , head of Proskauer Rose LLP’s labor and employment law practice in Washington and co-head of its whistleblowing and retaliation group, revealed she is the partner suing the firm for sex discrimination and retaliation.

“At this point, we’re preparing for trial, and you can’t have an anonymous Jane Doe at trial,” David Sanford of Sanford Heisler Sharp, who represents Bertram, told Bloomberg Law April 26. “We believe that the chances of resolving this case in settlement are slim at this point,” he said.

Sanford amended court documents in the case April 25 to identify Bertram as the plaintiff and to add allegations that the firm ratcheted up its mistreatment of her after she filed suit.

Bertram originally sued under the pseudonym Jane Doe because she feared the lawsuit could damage her career. Her initial complaint, filed in May 2017, alleged male partners made inappropriate comments about her physical appearance and that the firm paid her less than male partners who were similarly or less productive than she was.

From 2014 to 2016, Bertram ranked sixth among the firm’s 180 equity partners in the number of billable hours and 18th for client originations, or brining in business, but her compensation ranked only 32nd among equity partners, the lawsuit says.

Reduced Pay for 2017 Alleged

The firm defamed Bertram and reduced her compensation for 2017, she alleges in the new court papers filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In addition, Proskauer limited her access to firm files and databases, monitored her email and work product, removed her from firm committees, excluded her from client pitches and firm presentations, and excluded her from the annual partners’ retreat, she says.

Bertram is seeking damages “in excess of $50 million,” according to court documents.

Proskauer said in a statement that Bertram’s “amended complaint presents no new evidence on the threshold legal issue in this case–whether she is a business owner or an employee.” Her compensation consisted of “enormous sums for her contributions,” the firm said, adding that its compensation system “has resulted in the median compensation of our male and female equity partners being identical.”

In a related development April 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to privately review notes from a mediation session held before the lawsuit was filed to determine whether they must be made available to Bertram.

“We remain confident that with the limited discovery the Judge has ordered, it will soon become evident that the Plaintiff is a business owner, and that her claims to the contrary are without merit,” Proskauer said of the appellate ruling.

Kathleen McKenna of Proskauer is the lead attorney for Proskauer.

The case is Doe v. Proskauer Rose LLP, D.D.C., No. 1:17-cv-00901-ABJ, amended complaint filed 4/25/18.

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