Two married former associates suing Jones Day for employment retaliation and discrimination must wait until later in the case before taking discovery about the firm’s partnership promotion and pay practices, a Washington, D.C., federal judge ruled Thursday.
Mark Savignac and Julia Sheketoff said the information is relevant to their claim that Savignac would have made partner at Jones Day if the firm hadn’t fired him three days after he complained about gender inequities in its parental leave policies. A finding of retaliation would entitle Savignac to front pay and other equitable relief, and they will need to prove he would have made partner, what his pay as a Jones Day partner would have been, and how long lawyers generally remain at the firm after being named partner, they said.
But Judge Randolph D. Moss of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with Jones Day that discovery in the case should be “bifurcated,” with discovery on the merits continuing to proceed first.
“I’m going to suspend” discovery on damages, the judge said during a dial-in hearing.
It might be helpful and expeditious to pose some preliminary questions about damages during merits discovery, but that’s up to the parties, Moss said.
The judge left open when discovery on damages—for which the couple seek what Jones Day says is “highly confidential” information on which associates have been denied elevation to partner and why and how it compensates its partners—might resume.
“I’m going to wait until I get the parties pre-motion statements” on summary judgment before deciding whether to lift the pause , Moss said.
The schedule for merits-based discovery remains in place, “for now,” the judge said.
Jones Day argued, in seeking to delay discovery on damages, that Savignac’s contention that he would have made partner by now or in the near future was based on speculation.
And his contention that he’ll be entitled for years going forward to the difference between what his Jones Day partner pay would have been and what he might make if made a partner at his new firm was similarly “wildly out of step,” the firm said in pre-hearing briefing.
The scope of the couple’s damages discovery demands were also overly broad, as they seek an “enormous volume of information” for hundreds of Jones Day current and former attorneys, the firm said.
Moss seemed to agree on that point as well.
It may be more efficient for Savignac and Sheketoff to target potential damages discovery requests toward the core of the case, the judge said.
Bifurcating discovery may also put the parties in a position to later stipulate on some damages issues, the court said.
Moss said he will decide when damages discovery might resume after getting a sense of whether there will be a motion for summary judgment that “looks compelling.”
Savignac and Sheketoff sued Jones Day in August 2019, challenging its policy of permitting male employees eight weeks less parental leave for the birth of a child than female employees are permitted. They also accused the firm of other discrimination and retaliation, including sex-based pay bias against Sheketoff.
The couple are former U.S. Supreme Court clerks and worked together as associates in Jones Day’s issues & appeals group.
Savignac and Sheketoff represent themselves. Jones Day represents itself.
The case is Savignac v. Jones Day, D.D.C., No. 1:19-cv-02443, ruling on partnership discovery 9/9/21.