In early 1977, Bruce A. Fredrickson had been a lawyer for all of two months when one of the partners at the small, Washington, D.C., litigation firm where he worked called him to the conference room to attend his first interview of a new client.

A woman was claiming that she’d been rejected for a job with the U.S. Information Agency because — and she alleged she was actually told this — agency officials wanted to fill the slot with a man.

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