Sidley Austin to Boost Summer Associate Diversity in DOL Pact

Oct. 6, 2020, 9:38 PM

Sidley Austin LLP will offer more diversity and inclusion scholarships for summer associates and paid internships in Los Angeles and New York, as part of a settlement with the U.S. Labor Department.

The DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs alleged that Sidley Austin violated equal employment opportunity laws by failing to track the race, sex, and ethnicity of summer associate applicants from March 2011 through May 2012, and from January 2014 through June 2015, according to the Sept. 3 settlement, made public Tuesday. Without that data, the agency said it couldn’t complete a statistical analysis of the firm’s hiring practices to flag potential discrimination.

Law firms have recently been scrutinized for applauding calls for racial equity, without examining their own lack of diversity. Black women accounted for less than 1% of partners among law firms, according to a survey conducted by the National Association for Law Placement.

As part of its Labor Department settlement, Sidley Austin will offer three additional diversity and inclusion scholarships for summer associates in New York, and two more in Los Angeles, at a “total cost of $125,000.” It will also offer eight paid internships to “diverse first-year law students using criteria similar to that used for its Diversity & Inclusion Scholarships,” the document said. Those scholarships, which will be equally split between New York and Los Angeles, have an approximate total cost of $24,000.

The firm will also increase its “already robust outreach” to historically Black colleges and universities, and other diverse law students.

Additionally, the OFCCP claimed that Sidley Austin failed to maintain accurate records of employee promotions, and the firm will offer training programs to “enhance their existing skills,” valued at $25,000.

Sidley Austin in 2012 and 2014 also failed to analyze its bonus program for associates to determine whether there were pay disparities based on race, gender, or ethnicity, the agency alleged. The firm said in the settlement that it will continue to evaluate its compensation systems.

International law firm Locke Lord recently agreed to pay $150,000 to settle DOL allegations that it shorted female associates on bonuses and wages.

Sidley Austin didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The settlement notes that the firm didn’t admit liability on the agency’s claims.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at psmith@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com; Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com

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