Facebook Lawyer Joins Jones Day Gender Bias Suit

June 10, 2019, 5:33 PM

Former Jones Day associate Jessica Wilkes, now a product counsel at Facebook, is the first non-named plaintiff to opt-in to a gender discrimination collective action against Jones Day.

The lawsuit was filed in early April by six former Jones Day associates who allege they were discriminated against by the firm, which they claim provided limited opportunities for female associates and paid them less than their male counterparts. Wilkes opted-in to the claims that Jones Day violated the Equal Pay Act, according to a new court filing.

Collective actions, which are common in employment cases, require plaintiffs to opt-in to claims, unlike class actions, in which covered plaintiffs are automatically included unless they opt-out. It is likely that more women will opt-in to the Equal Pay Act claims as the lawsuit against Jones Day progresses.

The suit was brought by former Jones Day attorneys Nilab Rahyar Tolton and Andrea Mazingo as well as four other unnamed plaintiffs. Jones Day has said the claims of pay discrimination are “without merit.”

Jones Day has argued that the four anonymous women should not be able to use pseudonyms, and a federal judge ruled last month that the firm may disclose their identities for the purposes of its own investigation. The women have said they fear being blacklisted from other law firms if their names are disclosed.

Wilkes worked in Jones Day’s health care transactional and data privacy/cybersecurity groups, according to her LinkedIn. She left the firm in the fall of 2016 for an in-house role at the security software company Symantec in Mountain View, Calif. and has been at Facebook in Menlo Park, Calif. since September.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys at Sanford Heisler Sharp, an employment law firm that has become the go-to for gender bias claims against Big Law. Sanford Heisler recently estimated that approximately 15 percent of its discrimination cases are against law firms.

Sanford Heisler’s New York managing partner Russell Kornblith declined to comment on the opt-in.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Russell-Kraft in New York at srussellkraft@gmail.com
To contact the editor on this story: Rebekah Mintzer in New York at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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