Two married former Jones Day associates suing for alleged parental leave and other job bias are off-base, or at least premature, in seeking information on partnership pay and promotions, the firm told a D.C. federal judge.
Jones Day filed the brief at the request of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which on July 20 asked the firm and former Supreme Court clerks and Jones Day Issues & Appeals group lawyers Mark Savignac and Julia Sheketoff to explain why discovery on Savignac’s damages for wrongful discharge should or shouldn’t wait until later in the case.
Requiring the firm to sift through pay information relating to nearly 1,000 current and former partners should wait until after the court has had a chance to consider the merits of Savignac’s Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act retaliation claim, Jones Day said Tuesday.
Courts within the D.C. Circuit and elsewhere frequently bifurcate discovery in this way in Title VII cases to avoid unnecessary litigation expenses and the needless disclosure of private or sensitive information, the firm said.
That’s especially so considering the nature of the pay information Savignac and Sheketoff seek, all of which is highly confidential and “much of which is not even available to partners in the Firm,” Jones Day said.
The information sought also includes general policies regarding partner retirements and de-equitization, the firm said.
Savignac and Sheketoff won’t be harmed by the court’s waiting to see whether Savignac’s claim that he was fired in retaliation for complaining about gender inequities in Jones Day’s parental leave policies has merit before allowing them to probe any data on how it pays and has paid its partners, the firm said.
The partner pay data the couple seeks, moreover, is of “dubious relevance” and isn’t even discoverable in the first place, in addition to any potential production being premature, Jones Day said.
The request is based on Savignac’s unprovable and speculative assertion that he would have become a Jones Day partner if he hadn’t been terminated, despite his “slim record” of just 18 months as an associate at the time of his discharge and his admission that he was still at least two years away from even being considered for partnership, the firm said.
“Partners aren’t fungible widgets,” and whether Savignac would have made the grade at some future date that never occurred isn’t ascertainable, Jones Day said.
He also was soon hired into the same type of associate position at Steptoe & Johnson and thus didn’t suffer the kind of never-ending front-pay damages for which such forward-looking discovery is sometimes—but rarely—granted, the firm said.
Discovery thus far in the case has shown that Savignac’s Steptoe pay is comparable to his Jones Day pay, the firm said. But even if it wasn’t, he could have pursued a better-paying job elsewhere given his resume, Supreme Court clerkship, and self-professed “talents,” Jones Day said.
“The speculative nature of Savignac’s claim for partner compensation precludes those damages as a matter of law,” it said.
His request for information regarding partnership promotion of both attorneys in the Issues & Appeal group and more broadly is likewise too speculative, the firm said.
The discovery sought would also be highly burdensome in a case where the court has characterized the information disclosed already by the firm as “strikingly excessive,” and allowing the couple access to the requested partnership data could open the door to production demands aimed at his current and prior employers as well as other firms he sought employment with, Jones Day said.
Discovery on Savignac’s lost pay if he can prove he was wrongly fired should be limited to the associate pay information the firm has produced or is producing, it said.
The court should also deny Savignac and Sheketoff discovery into Jones Day’s financial wealth, the firm said.
Such discovery is only relevant where an employer defends against potential punitive damages based on an alleged inability to pay, and it hasn’t and won’t raise such as a defense, Jones Day said.
Savignac and Sheketoff represent themselves. Jones Day represents itself.
The case is Savignac v. Jones Day, D.D.C., No. 1:19-cv-02443, memo opposing partnership discovery 8/3/21.