A lawsuit claims New Jersey law firm Brach Eichler is a “boys’ club” that falsely attributed its firing of a Hispanic woman attorney to a downturn in business.
When Regina Rodriguez was let go in January, she was told the firm didn’t have enough work, but the true reason was her gender and race, the suit claims.
At the time, Rodriguez was the only female attorney and the only attorney of color reporting to Edward Capozzi, head of the personal injury department, her suit states. Her departure left behind five other associates, all white males, in the personal injury department, and a sixth white male was hired soon thereafter, the suit says.
According to the National Law Journal’s 2022 NLJ 500 ranking of firms based on size, Brach Eichler has 74 attorneys and is ranked 490th in the United States.
Rodriguez claims that she was assigned lower-level cases and tasks, while the white male attorneys in her department were given larger, more lucrative cases and tasks. She says she was not given the chance to try cases and develop trial skills.
She also alleges the firm sent all the male attorneys in the department to a weeklong seminar in California with a trial consultant, but she was the only attorney in the department not invited.
And male attorneys in the personal injury department frequently went to strip clubs together, Rodriguez’s suit claims.
Her suit also says that Capozzi regularly referred to women as “whores” and “bitches” and called certain female paralegals in the office “hog beast” and “pig monster.”
Rodriguez filed her suit in U.S. District Court in Newark on Aug. 19. Her attorney is Daniel Orlow of Console Mattiacci Law in Moorestown.
Brach Eichler’s general counsel, Charles Gormally, and John Fanburg, the firm’s chief executive officer, said in a statement, “The allegations in the complaint are untrue. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated the matter completely and dismissed the charge of discrimination against the firm. Brach Eichler remains committed to fostering a diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace for all of our employees.”
But according to court papers, the EEOC said it “will not proceed further with the investigation,” made no determination about whether further investigation would establish violations of the law, and its decision “should not be construed as a finding of no merit in the suit.”
Rodriguez, who joined the firm in 2018, says in court papers that she was excluded from meetings and communications related to her job duties. She said she won a contest for settling the most personal injury settlements, but the monetary award she got was less than the amount that had been advertised for the winner, the suit claims.
“The discriminatory conduct of defendant, as alleged herein, was severe and/or pervasive enough to make a reasonable person believe that the conditions of employment had been altered and that a hostile work environment existed, and made plaintiff believe that the conditions of her employment had been altered and that a hostile work environment existed on account of her sex and/or race,” the suit says.
Rodriguez says she was required to take calls from the office on holidays, weekends and on vacation, but her white male colleagues were not. In addition, white male attorneys were paid for each new client lead, but she was not, the suit claims.
Orlow, Rodriguez’s attorney, did not respond to a request for comment about the case.