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Jones Day Sued for Parental Leave Bias Against Men (1)

Aug. 14, 2019, 4:58 PMUpdated: Aug. 14, 2019, 6:50 PM

Jones Day’s parental leave policy for its attorneys and other employees discriminates based on sex, a new lawsuit says.

Husband and wife lawyers Mark Savignac and Julia Sheketoff make that claim in a complaint filed in federal court in Washington Aug. 14.

The couple met while clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer and worked together in Jones Day’s Supreme Court and appellate practice group, the suit says. Sheketoff left the firm shortly before their son was born and Savignac was fired, they say.

Savignac’s discharge came two weeks after their son was born and three business days after he and Sheketoff sent the firm an email complaining about the gender inequity in its allowing male employees to take eight weeks less leave for the birth of a child than female employees may use, according to the lawsuit.

The couple say they planned to share child-care duties equally, in contrast to the stereotypes underlying Jones Day’s parental leave policy. Sheketoff had to take more parental leave than she would have liked from her new job as an appellate public defender because of the policy, the suit says.

The email also complained about bias in Jones Day’s use of a “black box” compensation system. Sheketoff had received raises of $60,000 and $65,000 in her first two years with Jones Day but got just $15,000 in her third year while working under a male partners who favored male attorneys, the suit says. She received an $85,000 raise in her fourth and final year but her pay was still held down by the discriminatory pay she received in her third year, they allege.

Jones Day’s compensation scheme is central to a separate sex discrimination class action that female associates brought against the firm in April. Like that suit, Savignac and Sheketoff blame the sexist pay scheme on the “autocratic” authority managing partner Stephen J. Brogan wields at the firm.

The firm also blocked Savignac from receiving the customary employment references from partners when he sought new job after being fired, the new suit alleges. And it doctored the photograph of the biracial Sheketoff on the firm’s website to make her skin look lighter and her nose less broad, the suit says.

Jones Day reacted to the suit by posting a response from Brogan on its website. The firm “intends to try this case in court, not in the media, and will have no further comment beyond the pleadings and proofs in the case,” it said.

Causes of Action: Sex discrimination against Savignac and Sheketoff in provision of parental leave in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act; sex-based pay discrimination against Savignac in provision of parental leave benefits in violation of the Equal Pay Act; sex-based pay discrimination against Sheketoff in setting salary increase in violation of Title VII, the Equal Pay Act, and the DCHRA; retaliation against Savignac and Sheketoff in violation of Title VII, the Equal Pay Act and the DCHRA; and interference with Savignac’s rights to job-protected family leave in violation of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the District of columbia Family and Medical Leave Act.

Relief: Declaratory judgments that parental leave policy is illegal and that Jones Day violated various laws cited in suit; reinstatement or front pay in lieu of reinstatement; back pay and other lost compensation and employment benefits; Compensatory, liquidated, and punitive damages; attorneys’ fees and costs.

Attorneys: Savignac and Sheketoff are representing themselves.

The case is Savignac v. Jones Day, D.D.C., No. 1:19-cv-02443, complaint filed 8/13/19.

(Updated with additional reporting)

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at