Bloomberg Law
Free Newsletter Sign Up
Bloomberg Law
Welcome
Go
Free Newsletter Sign Up

Jones Day Avoids Fact That Press Release Malicious, Couple Says

July 16, 2020, 4:02 PM

A Jones Day court filing “scrupulously avoids quoting” the knowingly false and harmful statements in a “malicious” press release it issued after being sued for parental leave and other sex discrimination, and the firm should face an additional claim for its post-suit retaliation, the married couple who filed the suit told a D.C. federal court.

The firm instead tries to hide behind the “strawman” that the couple spoke to the media about their August 2019 lawsuit under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and various other laws before filing it and “then called Jones Day a lawbreaker for doing the same,” husband and wife lawyers and ex-Jones Day associates Mark Savignac and Julia Sheketoff said in a reply supporting their June 30 motion for leave to file a supplemental complaint.

“There is nothing untoward about the notion that Plaintiffs may speak about the case yet Jones Day is forbidden to lie about it,” the couple said.

That’s why Jones Day avoids quoting from “its press release or the proposed supplemental complaint,” they said.

Savignac and Sheketoff sued when Savignac was fired two weeks after their son was born and three business days after the couple sent Jones Day an email complaining about gender inequity in its parental leave policy. The policy illegally allows male employees to take eight weeks less leave for the birth of a child than female employees, they said.

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, and she also faced sex-based pay bias while still with Jones Day, according to the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Their motion seeking to supplement their lawsuit with a retaliation claim based on Jones Day’s post-suit press release says Savignac was falsely labeled as having displayed poor judgment, immaturity, and discourtesy while a Jones Day associate and Sheketoff was smeared as having willfully lied to the court by making allegations she knew were untrue.

The press release is still posted on the firm’s website and meets the U.S. Supreme Court’s standard for retaliatory employment action because it could dissuade a reasonable employee from seeking to protect his or her job rights, they said in their reply brief.

“No one who trusts Jones Day will be inclined to hire, retain, or promote” them, Savignac and Sheketoff said.

Jones Day opposed the motion to supplement July 8, calling it the “apex of absurdity.” Responding to a lawsuit isn’t retaliation under workplace discrimination laws, the firm said.

That’s just a “fanciful” attempt to “sneak around” the fact that the press release meets the federal definition of job retaliation, Savignac and Sheketoff said in their reply. “Jones Day likens its press release to ‘the routine filing of an answer’” to a lawsuit when it isn’t, they said.

The false statements contained in the firm’s press release were made out of court, beyond the litigation safeguards that may be imposed by a judge and proper practice, they say. And even statements made in court can be illegal job retaliation if knowingly false, they said.

That they haven’t been dissuaded from pursuing their suit doesn’t mean the press release wasn’t retaliatory, the couple 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, reply in support of motion for leave to file supplemental complaint 7/15/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com