Ex-staffer cites Morgan Lewis remote work policy in bias lawsuit

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius headquarters in Philadelphia. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

(Reuters) - A former administrative and database assistant at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius has sued the firm for discrimination and retaliation, claiming its policy of allowing remote work during the pandemic undermined its rationale for denying her request to work from home after a 2019 brain injury.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in Philadelphia federal court, Claire Young alleged the firm violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act by refusing to accommodate her request to work part-time and fully remotely and then eliminating her position last year.

Young claims her neurosurgeon said the accommodation was necessary after she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in April 2019. But according to her complaint, Morgan Lewis' human resources staff repeatedly rebuffed her requests in the months that followed and proposed schedules or work duties that would have forced Young to sacrifice her health, leading her to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Then the pandemic hit, and Morgan Lewis, like other firms, moved most of its operations online in March 2020.

"This was the specific accommodation Plaintiff requested, and it showed that Defendant could have accommodated Plaintiff with remote working in 2019 and earlier in 2020," the complaint asserts.

In December 2020, Young again requested remote work accommodation. Instead, Morgan Lewis said her position had been cut due to the COVID-19 crisis, despite the firm having administrative openings at the time, the lawsuit alleges.

"Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff due to her disability, denied her a reasonable accommodation, denied her work positions, and retaliated against her for requesting a reasonable accommodation and filing a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC, all in violation of the ADA and the PHRA," Young claims.

Neither attorneys for Young nor a representative from Morgan Lewis responded to requests for comment on the allegations.

The case is Claire Young v. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, No. 2:21-cv-03559-CDJ

For the plaintiff: David Koller of Koller Law LLC, and Scott Pollins of Pollins Law

For the defendant: Unknown

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Chinekwu Osakwe covers legal industry news with a focus on midsize law firms. Reach her at Chinekwu.osakwe@thomsonreuters.com.