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Jones Day Couple Must Reveal Contacts on Paternal Leave Law

Feb. 22, 2022, 6:48 PM

Two married former associates suing Jones Day for job bias must reveal the name of everyone they consulted prior to telling the firm they believed its denial of the same parental leave to male employees it gives to female employees violates the law, a D.C. federal judge ruled.

Jones Day’s discovery demand on Mark Savignac and Julia Sheketoff is relevant to the former Supreme Court clerks’ employment discrimination and retaliation lawsuit, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said.

When the firm denied Savignac’s leave request the couple objected that the firm’s parental and disability leave policies violates federal and local law because they afford male employees eight weeks less leave for the birth of a child than female employees can use.

They stated in an email that they drew that conclusion after closely reviewing applicable case law and discussing the issue with “other competent attorneys,” the court said.

Jones Day was correct that the couples’ statement made those lawyers—and whoever else they spoke with in forming their impression that the firm’s policies are sex discriminatory—potential witnesses regarding a key fact and Savignac’s claim that he was illegally fired for sending the email, the court said Feb. 20.

To prove retaliation for opposing workplace bias, a worker must show a reasonable, good-faith belief the conduct complained of was indeed unlawful, Judge Randolph D. Moss said.

That’s a two-part showing, with “reasonable” going to whether the belief was objectively sound and “good faith” going to whether it was subjectively sound, the judge said.

By saying they consulted “other competent attorneys,” the couple implies those lawyers agreed that Jones Day’s policies are discriminatory and thus the email was sent in good faith, Moss said.

Jones Day is entitled to investigate those alleged consultations in testing whether good faith really existed, the judge said.

It would tend to make the couple’s good faith claim less probable if Savignac and Sheketoff didn’t consult other individuals or if those people didn’t really say they believed Jones Day’s policies were unlawful, he said rejecting their attempt to shield the discovery as attorney work product.

The couple didn’t contend they have or had an attorney-client relationship with any of the “other competent lawyers,” the judge said.

Savignac and Sheketoff represent themselves. Jones Day represents itself.

The case is Savignac v. Jones Day, 2022 BL 57342, D.D.C., No. 1:19-cv-02443, 2/20/22.

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; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com