Greenberg Traurig and Francine Griesing, the former shareholder who sued the firm in a proposed $200 million gender-discrimination class action last year, have agreed to enter mediation in an attempt to resolve their claims, the parties told a Philadelphia federal judge Wednesday.
A joint motion to stay the case for 70 days through May 6 was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania matter Greenberg Traurig v. Griesing. That case was filed by Greenberg Traurig around the same time Griesing filed her proposed class action complaint, Griesing v. Greenberg Traurig, in the Southern District of New York. Greenberg Traurig has asked the Philadelphia court to remove the case to arbitration, which it argued was required under its shareholder agreement.
Griesing has argued in both Philadelphia and New York that arbitration is not warranted and that it should be the New York judge to decide the matter. A hearing on that issue was scheduled for Thursday before U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley of the Southern District of New York. In their motion to stay the Pennsylvania matter, the parties said they were filing a similar, informal application with Pauley to stay the New York action.
According to the brief motion to stay, the parties have agreed to mediation by a third-party neutral "in an effort to resolve Ms. Griesing's claims without further litigation, either in this court or in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York."
Greenberg Traurig and Griesing said they estimated 70 days would be enough to schedule, conduct and conclude the planned mediation. The motion was silent as to who the third-party mediator would be or where the mediation would be conducted. A few hours after the motion was filed, U.S. District Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted the request and placed the case on the court's suspense docket.
Proskauer Rose's Bettina B. Plevan, one of the attorneys representing Greenberg Traurig, declined to comment beyond the motion. Greenberg Traurig also declined to comment. The firm has called Griesing's suit a "financially motivated publicity stunt without merit, backed by neither fact nor law."
David W. Sanford of Sanford Heisler is the lead attorney for Griesing. He did not return a call for comment.
Griesing has argued that Greenberg Traurig's motion to compel arbitration was an attempt to preclude Griesing and the potential class from litigating their federal anti-discrimination class claims. It's unclear what mediation would do to those class claims.
Griesing filed her lawsuit in December after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found "reasonable cause to believe" the firm discriminated against women attorneys by compensating them less than their male counterparts, according to the complaint.
Griesing, who worked at the firm from April 2007 through January 2010, alleged she was told to look for other employment after complaining about Greenberg Traurig's compensation policies, which she said created a "boys' club of origination" that stifled women's ability to generate business and bill as many hours as men.