A seventh woman has signed onto a proposed $100 million class action accusing Morrison & Foerster of holding back the careers of mothers and pregnant women through unequal pay and promotion opportunities.
Lawyers at Sanford Heisler Sharp, led by chairman David Sanford, filed a second amended complaint Friday in San Francisco federal court, adding further allegations to the gender and pregnancy discrimination case that their clients first brought nearly a year ago. The lawsuit, which alleges that “the mommy track is a dead end” at the firm, came as one of several gender-related discrimination lawsuits brought by Sanford Heisler against large law firms.
The new complaint adds a new plaintiff—an unnamed former associate at the firm identified Jane Doe 7—and brings to seven the number of current and former Morrison & Foerster lawyers who have accused the law firm of placing mothers and pregnant women at a disadvantage.
The amended complaint also adds gender bias and pregnancy discrimination claims under the New York City Human Rights Law and proposes a subclass of women who worked at Morrison & Foerster in New York.
The suit now includes claims from three current female associates based in California, as well as four former firm lawyers based in California, Washington, D.C., and New York. Three of the plaintiffs joined the lawsuit earlier this year in a first amended complaint that laid out the alleged challenges they faced at the firm either before or after taking maternity leave.
All of the women have sued under “Jane Doe” pseudonyms.
Morrison & Foerster has strongly denied the suit’s allegations, which the firm says are baseless and run counter to its actual track record in hiring, supporting and promoting women and working parents. In court filings last month, Morrison & Foerster’s defense lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher also argued that each of the plaintiffs involved in the litigation were subject to “highly individualized” personnel decisions that make the case unsuitable as a class action.
“Morrison is consistent in its commitment to fair and equal treatment of associates and others, without regard to sex, gender or parenting status. It is dedicated to working with each individual associate on his or her unique career path,” the firm’s lawyers wrote Feb. 8 in an answer to the lawsuit.
Monday’s updated complaint says Jane Doe 7 worked as an associate in New York until September 2016. The suit says she “excelled in her job duties” and consistently earned positive feedback during her annual reviews prior to taking maternity leave.
Jane Doe 7 ended up taking two periods of maternity leave, according to the suit. After the first, she returned on a reduced-hours schedule and encountered her first negative performance review, allegedly being told that “she did not seem ‘committed enough’ to the firm.”
Following her second leave period, the suit alleges that Jane Doe 7 saw partners on her team divert chances to do meaningful work to male associates. About three months after she returned, Morrison & Foerster allegedly informed her that it was time for her to move on. The firm offered her a choice between a two-month probation period in which she could prove her commitment or ultimately be fired, or a three-month window in which she could look for other employment before resigning from the firm.
A representative for Morrison & Foerster issued a statement Monday reiterating the firm’s view that the lawsuit has no merit.
“Nothing in plaintiffs’ filing of an amended complaint changes the fact that their allegations are baseless. We are confident in our defense,” the statement said. “We will continue to be one of the top family-friendly law firms, and our diversity and inclusion remains one of our proudest achievements and greatest priorities.”