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Jones Day Women Say Pay Act Claims Should Proceed Collectively

Dec. 5, 2019, 3:40 PM

Six women suing Jones Day for sex discrimination urged a trial court in the District of Columbia to conditionally certify their Equal Pay Act claims as a collective action, saying they’ve shown that the firm’s compensation policies apply to all female associates.

Those policies include one under which associate compensation is determined in a “black box,” with the final decisions made by managing partner Stephen J. Brogan, the women allege.

Jones Day’s firm-wide pay secrecy policy, under which associates face disciplinary action if they discuss their salaries, discourages female associates from speaking up if they suspect unfair treatment, the plaintiffs alleged.

Nilab Tolton and the others sued Jones Day in April, also raising Title VII claims and claims under state civil rights laws.

The women said in a filing they have offered evidence of common discrimination that far exceeds what’s required for conditional certification, the first step in the certification process for collective suits under the pay discrimination law.

Jones Day has publicly affirmed that compensation decisions for all associates, regardless of geographic location or practice group, are based on the same criteria, the women said.

Tolton and the others allege they worked in multiple Jones Day offices and practice groups, and each has been subjected to a compensation practice that results in women being paid less than men for substantially equal work.

Despite the pay secrecy, the plaintiffs provided evidence that they were underpaid relative to specific male associates and that their compensation was affected by a centralized and discriminatory review process, they said.

The plaintiffs’ allegations and deposition testimony show that the allegedly discriminatory compensation policy applied to all female associates at Jones Day, indicating named and potential plaintiffs were subjected to a common policy, they said.

The women asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to conditionally certify the pay bias claims as a collective action and authorize notice to all female associates employed at Jones Day since April 3, 2016, to enable them to opt into the suit.

Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP represents the plaintiffs. Jones Day represents itself.

The case is Tolton v. Jones Day, D.D.C., No. 1:19-00945, 12/4/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Steinberg in Washington at jsteinberg@bloomberglaw.com

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