Kirkland Sued by Ex-Staffer for Age, Disability Discrimination

Aug. 14, 2020, 5:27 PM

A former legal assistant for Kirkland & Ellis who says she was laid off shortly after returning from brain surgery is accusing the law firm of age and disability discrimination in a new lawsuit filed in California.

Nancy Lynn Perkins alleges she was let go in August 2019 after nearly three decades with the country’s largest law firm because of her age and a medical condition. The firm said the move was part of a “reduction-in-force,” but Perkins said the handful of employees who lost their jobs were all over the age of 55 and the decision came just months after she returned from the medical procedure.

“Ms. Perkins’ job evaluations were consistently outstanding, with attorneys offering glowing praise for her work, and she was given raises and promotions throughout her career,” Perkins said in an amended complaint filed Friday. “There can be no claim in this case that Ms. Perkins was not meeting, or exceeding, the lofty expectations set by the Firm.”

Kirkland & Ellis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Perkins filed an amended complaint in the Superior Court in Los Angeles. She alleges that the firm violated a variety of state laws by refusing to reasonably accommodate her for her medical condition and instead ending her employment.

In an interview with Bloomberg Law, Perkins said she was reluctant to bring the lawsuit against a place that she had spent her entire career.

“I didn’t want to do it because I don’t want to be adversarial to some place I spent 30 years of my life,” Perkins said.

“I don’t want to do it, but on the other hand I want to hold my head up high, I did nothing wrong. I gave my best, I worked my hardest, even after brain surgery I came back and never complained,” she said.

Perkins initially filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which was closed after an “unsuccessful mediation,” according to the complaint.

Addition by Reduction

Perkins said she began her career at the firm in 1990 as a legal assistant in its Los Angeles office.

She underwent surgery in February 2019 to repair a cerebrospinal fluid leak and returned to work two months later. However, a day or two after returning to work, Perkins said was informed that Kirkland would be restructuring its litigation support department and that she would need to reapply for her job.

After several months of what she called “a sham process” that included an online application, mandatory online course in data analytics, and a timed test in an eDiscovery database application, she was brought in to a meeting with two other legal assistants and told they did not qualify for the new positions in litigation support and was given one hour to leave.

“It was quite the end to what I felt was an honorable career,” Perkins said. “I had worked hard, I had done everything that was asked of me.”

According the to complaint, Kirkland’s stated reason for her termination was that it was a part of a “reduction-in-force.” The firm laid off three employees in its Los Angeles office and one in its New York office in the summer of 2019, according to Perkins and her lawyer.

Perkins’ complaint alleges that all the employees affected by the “reduction in force” were over 55 years old and among the oldest workers in the department.

At the same time, the firm posted job listing on its website for positions “nearly identical” to Perkins’ role. There were “more people working in the department, not less” after the reduction in force, according to Perkins’ complaint.

Perkins is represented in the case by Robert Matz of the Matz Law Group.

The case is Nancy Lynn Perkins v. Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Cal. Super. Ct., 20STCV25461, amended complaint filed 8/14/2020.

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at mtribe@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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