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Three Plaintiffs Join Ogletree Gender Bias Suit

May 14, 2018, 8:42 PM

Three former Ogletree Deakins shareholders have joined a putative class and collective action alleging the firm systematically underpays its female attorneys.

In an amended complaint filed Friday, Dawn Knepper was joined by former shareholders Jocelyn Campanaro, Alicia Voltmer, and Angelica Ochoa, all of whom opted in to the collective action in February.

Knepper alleged in the $300 million gender discrimination suit filed in California federal court in January that the firm routinely denies women origination credit and excludes them from business development.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, David Sanford, said he expects to file a second amended complaint with more names in the near future.

“Many current and former shareholders have reached out to our firm to discuss their experiences while at Ogletree,” Sanford said in a statement.

Campanaro and Ochoa now work as partners at Fisher Phillips and Voltmer is a member at the Dallas firm Lillard Wise Szygenda.

Knepper was an Ogletree shareholder when she first filed the lawsuit but has since left for the law firm Buchalter.

None of the three new plaintiffs responded to a request for comment.

In their amended complaint, the plaintiffs also added two individual defendants, Ogletree managing shareholder Charles Matthew Keen and his predecessor Kim Ebert.

The former shareholders accuse the two of breaching their fiduciary duty by “discriminating against them on the basis of their gender” through bias in salary, matter assignment, credit allocation and promotion.

An Ogletree firm spokesman said the firm does “not tolerate discrimination of any kind – gender or otherwise.”

“We take the allegations filed by former shareholders very seriously,” he wrote in a statement to Bloomberg Law. “However, the decision-making process that governs our compensation system is both fair and equitable.

“In fact, we are proud of our ‘open compensation’ system under which all shareholders in the firm know what every other shareholder earns – and the factors that support those determinations.”

The plaintiffs allege that the pay discrimination stems from the firm’s “predominantly male leadership.”

Three of the nine members of Ogletree’s board of directors are women, and two of Ogletree’s six officers are women, according to firm’s website. Women hold approximately 20 percent of equity shareholder positions, and approximately 43 percent of non-equity shareholder positions, according to the complaint.

The Ogletree spokesman said women make up more than half the firm and that the majority of new shareholder promotions over the past four years have gone to women.