(Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ)
A Foley & Lardner partner who sued his firm for paying him less than female, minority and younger partners was rebuked by a federal appellate court Monday.
Raymond Carey, a founding partner of Foley’s Detroit office who is now retired, claimed the firm had paid him less per hour than lawyers who did work similar to him. The court, however, said Carey failed to prove that his work and skills were comparable to colleagues.
Carey had originally filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2010. It then went to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, which ruled in a summary judgment and denied Carey’s complaints. The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling.
The case illuminated the ongoing discussion of a lack of pay equity in the legal profession—typically a struggle that female and minority lawyers face—and asked whether a white, male, almost-60-year-old lawyer was underpaid and discriminated against. The case was also notable for its detailed description of Foley’s compensation structure and for its publication of a version of the firm’s partnership agreement.
Foley used a holistic compensation program that asked committees to reward partners for billable hours and other factors, like mentoring associates, sharing work with others and “acting beyond his/her self-interest for the benefit of the firm,” a firm memo said. Carey said he was told the “compensation decisions were highly subjective,” according to the Sixth Circuit ruling.
After his department chair noted his work wasn’t leveraged down and that he operated without associates, the compensation committee agreed he “needed to pay a heavy tax.”
Carey complained to the firm’s managing partner and chairman in 2009, the appeals court said. He cited two female partners as earning more per hour than him—Ann Marie Uetz, who chaired Detroit’s litigation department, and Nicole Lamb-Hale, who was the office managing partner and left the firm to serve as an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Commerce. Uetz is at Foley, and Lamb-Hale now is a leader at Albright Stonebridge Group.
From fiscal year 2008 until 2012, Carey earned on average $430,000 annually and billed between 1,200 and 2,400 hours each year. He said he earned “among the lowest” sums among partners in the Detroit office.
Carey, represented by Sam Morgan of Gasiorek, Morgan, Greco & McCauley, argued that he and his colleagues performed similar work, and thus, the firm had violated the Equal Pay Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act when it paid him less. (Read Carey’s opening brief here.)
The appeals court disagreed, saying he had not proved he did similar work.
Carey had given as evidence of specific job duties lawyer biographies from the firm’s website. He also showed the court an internal memo that encouraged lawyers to help retain female lawyers.
The court pointed out that the memo’s concerns negated Carey’s.
“No reasonable jury could infer from a memorandum recognizing that specific initiatives were needed to encourage women to stay at Foley that it was an ‘unusual employer’ that discriminated against men in compensation decisions,” Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote for the three-judge panel. “To the contrary, the white male partners were almost uniformly the highest compensated partners in Foley’s Detroit office.”
Carey’s professional biography, calling him a retired partner, is still on Foley’s website. He did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.