Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is facing a complaint filed Wednesday in a Manhattan federal court by a former secretary accusing the elite trial firm of racial discrimination and retaliation.
Spencer Marin, a former floating secretary who left Quinn Emanuel in 2015, claims that he was subjected to racial slurs by a trial logistics director during the high-profile 2014 Apple v. Samsung patent trial. Marin, who is black, also claims his work was more harshly scrutinized than other secretaries and that he was passed up for a promotion after he raised alarms about a co-worker’s behavior.
“The website of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP boasts that ‘there is no firm like ours,’” according to Marin’s complaint. “That certainly appears to be the case with respect to its total apathy to the plight of its African-American staff.”
A Quinn Emanuel spokeswoman provided a statement from Peter Calamari, the firm’s New York managing partner, refuting Marin’s allegations of bias.
“This complaint is utterly without merit,” Calamari said. “It relates to a private conversation over three years ago among a small group of staff members. At no time did the firm take any adverse action against the plaintiff, and he left the firm on his own accord nearly a year later.”
Marin’s complaint asserts that the firm’s director of trial logistics, Yllen Cruz, called a black secretary “a re-nigger” after the secretary said she had second thoughts about a previous offer to share food with Cruz during the 2014 trial in San Jose, California. Marin claims he met with Cruz the next day to complain about the remark, and was sent back to New York as a result.
Marin also alleges that Cruz called him “not black enough,” and made homophobic remarks to him, asking if he was gay and calling him “a fairy.” Marin claims he was passed over for a promotion from a “floating secretary” to a permanent secretary position after the incident, and that he was never again granted permission to seek overtime pay.
The complaint alleges that Marin sent an e-mail recounting the incident to Cruz and the firm’s director of human resources, who apologized for the remark and said “this usually doesn’t happen.” It is unclear if the e-mail was sent in April 2014 or April of this year, according to the complaint. Marin states he left Quinn Emanuel in February 2015, feeling he would never be offered a permanent position at the firm.
Marin is represented by D. Maimon Kirschenbaum of New York’s Joseph, Herzfeld, Hester, & Kirschenbaum, a firm that has filed a series of suits against Big Law firms, including Quinn Emanuel, alleging that they failed to provide overtime pay to contract lawyers.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom settled an overtime case in December 2015. Days after that settlement, Quinn Emanuel won a summary judgment ruling in the Southern District of New York when a judge held that contract review lawyers were engaged in the practice of law and therefore fall under an exemption for professionals in the Fair Labor Standard Act’s overtime requirements.
In 2011, former Quinn Emanuel staff attorney Kisshia Simmons-Grant accused the firm of racial discrimination in another complaint filed in a Manhattan federal court. Quinn Emanuel won a summary judgment in early 2013 dismissing that suit, and the following year a New York appellate court trimmed similar claims filed by Simmons-Grant in state court.
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