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The law firm of Dessen Moses & Sheinoff in Philadelphia has been sued in federal court for discrimination after allegedly terminating two of its employees in retaliation for complaining about the firm to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint alleges that when Dessen Moses found out two of its employees, Latasha Brown and Rashida A. Bizzell, went to the EEOC to file a complaint, the firm fired them. “The commission alleges that the law firm of Dessen, Moses & Sheinoff, discriminated against Ms. Brown and Ms. Bizzell by terminating their employment as file clerks immediately upon learning of their attempt to file a complaint of unlawful employment discrimination and in retaliation for engaging in protected activity,” the complaint says. Managing partner of the firm, David S. Dessen, had not received the complaint as of late Wednesday afternoon and therefore had no comment. The complaint alleges violations of Title VII and Title I of the Civil Rights Act. The employees first contacted the EEOC to complain of race and color discrimination with respect to a pay raise, according to EEOC attorney Iris Santiago-Flores. Santiago-Flores also said the employees alleged supervisors did not address Brown and Bizzell by their names but rather with terms such as “that girl.” According to a recent survey, Dessen currently has 15 attorneys in Pennsylvania, five of whom are minorities. The complaint says that on May 9, Brown and Bizzell visited the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office. On their way out of Dessen Moses, they informed the receptionist, “as was the practice,” that they would be late back from lunch. The next day, the complaint says the firm’s office manager asked its employees to produce an excuse note for their lateness the day before if they “wanted to keep their jobs.” The women then went back to the EEOC and obtained a copy of the EEOC document they filed and gave the document to the office manager, according to the complaint. Then, the complaint says, the office manager told Brown and Bizzell that she “could not believe [they] did this” and that they should not have “brought a complaint against the firm.” The complaint says the office manager then left to “get support.” When she returned, the office manager told Brown and Bizzell they were being terminated because of a violation of “office rules.” Brown and Bizzell then received a termination notice in the mail. The complaint also said that Dessen Moses had a practice of warning employees before resorting to termination. “Defendant could not identify other employees with a record of lateness or absence similar to or worst [sic] than Ms. Brown and Ms. Bizzell, who were similarly terminated without first receiving some form of progressive discipline, such as a warning, and or probation,” the complaint says. The complaint seeks a permanent injunction enjoining the firm from “continuing to wrongfully terminate” employees. The EEOC is asking the court for back pay with prejudgment interest and other “affirmative relief for Brown and Bizzell.” The EEOC is also asking for past and future nonpecuniary losses, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees and costs. Philadelphia attorney Judith A. O’Boyle is also listed as counsel on the case for the EEOC, as is Washington, D.C., attorney Gwendolyn Young Reams.

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