Bloomberg Law
Oct. 25, 2019, 3:42 PM

Jones Day Women Point to Managing Partner’s ‘Totalitarian Grip’

Patrick Dorrian
Patrick Dorrian

Jones Day’s “hypercentralized,” subjective decision-making process is the type of specific employment practice needed to prove classwide bias, six female former lawyers told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

That process places final control over pay, promotion, and other significant decisions “unchecked in the hands of one man,” Managing Partner Stephen J. Brogan, Nilab Tolton and the five other lead plaintiffs said Oct. 24 in a supplemental memorandum opposing Jones Day’s motion for partial judgment on the pleadings in their proposed class action, filed in April.

Brogan backs his “totalitarian grip” on Jones Day with a “no whining policy” under which women aren’t allowed to raise sex-based inequities, they say.

“Earnest questions about policies for women trigger retaliatory ire,” the lawyers say. The “no whining” policy, like the pay secrecy policy the firm enforces as part of its “black box” compensation system, heightens sex-based disparities, whether intentional or unconscious, “by punishing those who would bring them to light.”

The result is sex bias being baked into pay, promotion, and other key personnel decisions, the women say.

The allegations bolster those the women made in their July 29 initial response to Jones Day’s motion.

The women’s third amended complaint fails to point to a single act of discrimination by Brogan, Jones Day had said in a supplemental brief supporting its motion. Their class allegations are lacking because the women fail to explain how Jones Day’s employment policies and culture result in systemic sex bias, the firm said.

Brogan’s role in fostering the sex-based inequities highlights the hazards of putting final decision-making authority “in the hands of a single individual under a shroud of secrecy,” Tolton and the others say. Their third amended complaint adds new facts showing how women lawyers are harmed by Jones Day’s discriminatory evaluation and pay systems, they say.

Jones Day also misses the mark in seeking to nix their request for injunctive relief on the grounds that none of the women could plausibly desire to get their old jobs back, they say. They might want to return if the systemic sex discrimination at the firm is eliminated, the women say.

Sanford Heisler Sharp represents the women. Jones Day represents itself.

The case is Tolton v. Jones Day, D.D.C., No. 1:19-cv-00945, plaintiffs’ supplemental memo in opposition to motion for partial judgment on pleadings 10/24/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Laura D. Francis at; Jo-el J. Meyer at