Francine Friedman Griesing, the former Greenberg Traurig shareholder suing the firm in New York for gender discrimination in a proposed $200 million class action, has asked a Pennsylvania federal court to dismiss the law firm's motion to compel arbitration or, at the least, change the venue.
On the same day Griesing filed her proposed class action against Greenberg Traurig in the Southern District of New York, the law firm filed a petition in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to compel arbitration, which it said was required under the firm's partnership agreement.
Now, Griesing said, the Pennsylvania court should dismiss the petition or transfer it to the Southern District of New York.
"To do otherwise would deprive Ms. Griesing the right to litigate her civil rights claims in the forum of her choice and would send a message to employers that they can dictate an employee's choice of forum simply by filing a related case elsewhere," Griesing said in her motion.
Griesing is represented in the Southern District case by David Sanford and a team of attorneys at Sanford Heisler. Sanford also signed onto Griesing's motion in the Pennsylvania case, in which Neil J. Hamburg and Jodi S. Wilenzik of Hamburg & Golden also entered their appearance on behalf of Griesing.
Griesing said Title VII cases like the one she filed in New York are governed by specific venue provisions and allow for an action to be brought in any judicial district in which the alleged unlawful employment practices occurred. She said she filed her action in New York because that is where Greenberg Traurig's chief executive officer, Richard Rosenbaum, works.
Griesing further noted a district court can dismiss any action in favor of a related pending action in another jurisdiction. She said the pre-emptive filing of the Pennsylvania action before Griesing filed her New York action was "blatant forum shopping."
In its motion to compel arbitration filed in Pennsylvania on Dec. 3, Greenberg Traurig said the shareholder agreement Griesing signed included an arbitration clause which said the arbitration would be held either in Miami, where the firm is headquartered, or in the city where the shareholder is employed. Greenberg Traurig also added that any of the shareholders who would potentially be members of the putative class are also bound by the arbitration clause.
Greenberg Traurig is represented in the arbitration matter by Baker Botts in Washington and Freemann Law Offices in Philadelphia.
"Francine Griesing refused to submit her claim to arbitration as required by the firm's shareholder agreement and instead filed in federal court," Greenberg Traurig said in a statement Wednesday. "Accordingly, the firm filed a petition in federal court in Philadelphia to compel arbitration."