Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP | 20th Anniversary 2004 - 2024
Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP | 20th Anniversary 2004 - 2024

Former Litigation Counsel Sues WilmerHale for $5 Million

Posted January 24th, 2013.

Sanford Heisler Files DC Superior Court ComplaintFemale Attorney Fired for Taking Adoption Leave

For more information, contact Jamie Moss, newsPRos, 646-791-4848,

(January 24, 2013, Washington, DC) – Sanford Heisler, LLP filed suit today in Superior Court for the District of Columbia against Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, LLP (WilmerHale). The complaint asserts WilmerHale terminated Pamela Levinson while she was on adoption leave, and denied her the salary increases and bonuses she had earned as an attorney at the multinational law firm.

A resident of Bethesda, Ms. Levinson worked at WilmerHale for seven years before the firm fired her in February 2012. During her time at the firm, she was a member of the Intellectual Property Litigation group, the Business Litigation group and the Investigations and Criminal Litigation group. Prior to joining WilmerHale, Ms. Levinson graduated first in her class at the University of Miami Law School in 2001. After graduation, she clerked for a federal judge for a year and became an associate in the Miami offices of Akerman Senterfitt LLP in 2002.

“WilmerHale fired Ms. Levinson—one of the Firm’s older female employees—because she exercised her right to take protected adoption leave shortly after bringing a new child into her family. The Firm’s actions caused her clear economic harm, as well as substantial emotional damage,” said David Sanford, Chairman of Sanford Heisler, who heads the plaintiff’s legal team.

The Complaint asserts Ms. Levinson’s rights under the District of Columbia’s Family and Medical Leave Act, and Human Rights Act and common law were violated by WilmerHale’s actions. It asks for a declaration that the firm’s conduct was unlawful, as well as back pay with interest, reinstatement or front pay, and five million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs and other relief found appropriate.

Ms. Levinson transitioned to WilmerHale in September 2004 as a 45-year old fourth year associate, where she consistently earned positive performance reviews for her work. In recognition of her contributions to the firm, she was promoted from associate to counsel in January 2008.

However, Ms. Levinson’s promotion prospects dimmed in subsequent years at the firm. Although WilmerHale continued to evaluate Ms. Levinson’s work as exemplary and of excellent quality, the firm never promoted her to partner or Special Counsel despite her meeting the firm’s criteria for promotion. The Complaint alleges that Ms. Levinson’s gender and age were barriers to her upward mobility at the firm.

During her seven year tenure at WilmerHale, only one female, age 50 or older, was promoted to partner. The majority of individuals promoted to partner or special counsel at the firm were 40 or younger and WilmerHale terminated a number of older females, including Ms. Levinson’s secretary during this same period of time.

In 2011, Ms. Levinson went on leave and adopted a 22-month old daughter from China. What followed was her first negative evaluation at the firm, substantial reduction in her annual bonus and ultimately her termination.

Sanford Heisler’s Brandon Jamison also represents Ms. Levinson in the matter.

WilmerHale has 12 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia employing some 1,000 lawyers, some 400 of whom work in its Washington, DC office.

About Sanford Heisler, LLP

Sanford Heisler is a law firm with offices in Washington, DC, New York, and San Francisco that specializes in employment discrimination, wage and hour, qui tam and consumer actions and complex corporate class action litigation and has represented thousands of individuals in major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents individual clients in employment discrimination, sexual harassment, whistleblower, public accommodations, commercial, medical malpractice and personal injury matters. In May 2010, the firm won the largest jury award in the U.S. in a gender discrimination employment class action when a jury returned a verdict of $253 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. In 2012, the firm won court approval to settle a wage and hour case on behalf of sales representatives employed by Novartis Pharmaceuticals for $99 million. Last month, Sanford Heisler was counsel in a $762 million dollar whistleblower qui tam settlement against Amgen. For more information, contact Sanford Heisler at 646-791-4848.