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Maryland woman sues law firm for discrimination

A former female attorney is accusing a prominent law firm of discriminating against her based on her gender. The law firm terminated her after she adopted a daughter from China. The Maryland-based plaintiff seeks punitive and compensatory damages of $5 million in addition to legal fees and back pay. Officials with the law firm, which employs over 1,000 attorneys worldwide, have denied the claims in the employment discrimination lawsuit, calling them "completely without merit." A co-managing partner suggested that the firm would defend itself in court.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff's supervisors cut her bonus pay by a significant percentage and submitted their first negative evaluation of her performance shortly after she adopted her daughter. The woman says the law firm terminated her employment after she went on protected adoption leave and then returned to the United States with the child. Her head attorney accuses the firm of violating her rights under a number of laws and causing her "clear economic harm, as well as substantial emotional damage."

The woman was one of the firm's older female workers at the time of her firing. The woman's legal team has also suggested that the firm may have been engaging in a larger practice of systemic discrimination against older female attorneys. The plaintiff alleges that there was only one female above the age of 50 that was named a partner during her seven years with the company, contending that most of the company's partners are age 40 or less.

Maryland companies that have been found to have engaged in discrimination against employees for reasons such as gender, religion, race or similar factors typically face severe fines and other penalties. Businesses that have been targeted by discrimination lawsuits or similar types of business litigation should obtain quality legal representation to ensure their interests are appropriately represented.

Source: Boston Business Journal, "WilmerHale slapped with $5M gender discriminaton lawsuit," Lisa van der Pool, Jan. 28, 2013

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