A former Greenberg Traurig paralegal claims the firm fired her last year after she complained of being discriminated against because of her race and nationality.
In a complaint [PDF] filed Monday in federal district court in Manhattan, Jacqueline Grant, who is black and hails from Jamaica, says she worked in Greenberg’s New York office from 1998 through April 2013, first as a records clerk and later as a litigation paralegal.
In 2005, court records show, Grant was admitted to the New York bar after earning a law degree from Hofstra University, which, according to her complaint, she attended while working at Greenberg full-time.
Beginning that year, she claims, Greenberg repeatedly refused to promote her from her job as a senior paralegal into its attorney ranks. While she was being passed over, she alleges, the firm elevated six of her white colleagues, some of whom she claims were less qualified. (The suit names four of those Grant says got promotions: Jonathan Cyprys, Avi Fox, Whitney Metzler and Catherine Schorr. Of the four, Cyprys and Fox are listed on the firm’s website as associates. Metzler currently works as an attorney for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.)
Grant claims in her suit that Greenberg’s treatment of her gradually worsened as she continued to apply for attorney positions and that the firm’s New York office manager told her in October 2012 that she would “‘never be an attorney at Greenberg Traurig.’”
Grant says she was “erroneously and maliciously written up” for mistakes made by other paralegals and reprimanded for not billing enough hours. She claims other paralegals with fewer billable hours did not receive similar warnings. She also alleges that she was punished for taking a vacation as a trial date neared for a case on which she was working, despite already getting approval for the trip.
The suit describes the firm’s effort to document Grant’s performance as time passed as “a thinly veiled attempt to discredit her work and form a basis for not previously making her an offer for an attorney position.”
Grant says she filed a complaint about her treatment with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January 2013. After that, according to her complaint, she noticed a falloff in the number of assignments she was getting. When the firm let her go in April 2013, she says, her compensation was “more comparable to that of an entry-level paralegal” than someone with her level of experience. The complaint notes that Grant amended her original EEOC complaint to include the firing.
Grant asks in the suit that the court restore her to “the position she would have occupied had she not been discriminated against,” including granting her back pay, various damages and attorney fees and costs.
Contacted for comment, a Greenberg Traurig spokeswoman provided The Am Law Daily with the following statement: “We have a long and public history of commitment to diversity. The case is without merit. In December 2013, the EEOC dismissed the charge stating that it was unable to conclude that there has been a violation of statute. It is unfortunate that the plaintiff chose to not abide by that decision.”
Grant’s attorney, Katrina Jones of Gelman & Jones, did not immediately respond to The Am Law Daily’s request for comment. According to the complaint, the EEOC issued Grant a Notice of Right to Sue in December 2013. In some cases where the EEOC decides no violations were committed, plaintiffs must receive a notice from the government agency before a federal suit can be filed.