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Jones Day Says Couple’s Sex Bias Suit Meant to ‘Grab Headlines’

Sept. 21, 2020, 5:38 PM

A female lawyer suing Jones Day for alleged sex discrimination raised her pay bias claim in bad faith and her husband’s family-leave-bias claims “are equally meritless,” the firm says in a new filing in a District of Columbia federal court.

The August 2019 lawsuit was commenced “with the stated intention of trying this case in the court of public opinion,” Jones Day says in the suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Julia Sheketoff and Mark Savignac contacted the media and launched a public relations campaign, “complete with photo shoots,” before even suing and their complaint is chock full of baseless, salacious allegations designed to “grab headlines,” the firm says.

Sheketoff’s claim that she was paid less because she is a woman lacks good faith because it’s based on a job review by a male partner that was partly positive and not motivated at all by her sex, the firm says in its answer to the suit.

That partner has submitted 15 evaluations of female associates’ work and only Sheketoff’s review was negative, it says. He has also criticized the performance of male associates when warranted, according to Jones Day.

Another allegation by Sheketoff, that the firm doctored her website photo to make her look more White, is “sensationalist” and “ridiculous,” Jones Day says.

She picked and approved the photograph herself, and diversity is celebrated at Jones Day, the firm says.

Savignac’s allegations demonstrate the “immaturity and poor judgment” for which he was fired, Jones Day also says. That includes his claim that Jones Day provides new moms with more family leave than new dads based solely on sex.

He admitted birth mothers are rightly eligible for at least some disability leave and that he was never similarly disabled by the birth of his and Sheketoff’s son, the firm argues.

Savignac nevertheless demanded “more leave than similarly situated female associates or else he would sue Jones Day,” the firm says. The leave policy he advocated for likely would violate federal pregnancy bias law, it says.

Jones Day also disputes Savignac’s contention that his firing after making his “extortionate demand” spoiled his “bright future” and path to partnership at the firm.

He worked at the firm less than two years, which is too short a period to reliably assess his career prospects, Jones Day says.

The Sept. 18 filing came after Judge Randolph D. Moss mostly denied earlier this month the firm’s motion to dismiss.

Sheketoff has since asked the judge to reconsider the dismissal of her Equal Pay Act, arguing he misread the law.

She also received permission to advance the same argument in a sex bias lawsuit other female lawyers are pursuing against Jones Day.

Savignac and Sheketoff represent themselves. Jones Day represents itself.

The case is Savignac v. Jones Day, D.D.C., No. 1:19-cv-02443, answer filed 9/18/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com