Ogletree Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

Case name: Dawn Knepper, et al. v. Ogletree Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

Case type: Gender Discrimination

Filed in: [U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California]

Case no.: [3:18-CV-00303-WHO]

Case Summary

In January 2018, Sanford Heisler Sharp filed a class and collective complaint against the law firm of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. (“Ogletree”). The lawsuit alleged that Ogletree systematically discriminated against female shareholders in pay and promotions, in violation of Title VII, the federal and California Equal Pay Acts, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, the California Unfair Competition Law, and the California Private Attorney Generals Act (PAGA).

Plaintiff and Class Representative Dawn Knepper, a former Ogletree non-equity shareholder, brought the action on behalf of a class of approximately 100 non-equity female shareholders nationwide.

The Complaint alleged that Ogletree, one of the largest defense-side employment law firms in the country advising companies on how to resolve discrimination claims, was aware of its own gender-based discriminatory practices and failed to correct them.

According to the Complaint, Ogletree’s male-dominated equity shareholder structure led to female non-equity shareholders failing to be promoted and paid at the same level, although they performed substantially similar work.

Additionally, the Complaint alleged that Ogletree maintained a discriminatory credit allocation system that made it difficult for Ogletree’s female lawyers to meet the firm’s criteria for origination credits, denied female shareholders business development and training opportunities, and disproportionately saddled female shareholders with administrative duties, all of which resulted in inequitable pay and promotion for female shareholders.

An Amended Complaint filed in May 2018 alleged administrative exhaustion of PAGA claims, as required by the PAGA; added a count for breach of fiduciary duty against Defendant Ogletree and current and former managing shareholders Charles Matthew Keen and Kim Franklin Ebert, and included the identity of three new plaintiffs who opted into the Equal Pay Act collective action, among other minor changes.