Ex-Jones Day associates want firm sanctioned in paternity bias case

The law firm of Jones Day is seen in Washington, D.C.
The law firm of Jones Day is seen in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 30, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

(Reuters) - Two former Jones Day associates suing the U.S. law firm for sex discrimination and unlawful termination are hoping to fend off potential sanctions in the case with a sanctions request of their own.

Former associates Julia Sheketoff and Mark Savignac, who are married, argued in partially redacted court papers on Saturday that Jones Day's sanctions bid was "calculated to harass" them "and intimidate others who may have claims."

Jones Day in December asked for sanctions against the couple and a summary judgment ruling to end the Washington, D.C., federal court case in its favor, arguing their claims are "demonstrably false."

Sheketoff and Savignac have argued that Jones Day's family leave policy violates civil rights law because it offers paid disability leave for birth mothers, but not fathers like Savignac. The firm has defended its paternity leave practices in the case.

The former associates said in their sanctions motion Saturday that "they have no choice but to take action to stop Jones Day's frivolous attempt to force an end to this case by to inappropriate economic intimidation."

They also asked the court to grant them summary judgment on their claims that the firm underpaid Sheketoff because she's a woman and that its parental leave policy is biased against fathers like Savignac, as well as their claims of retaliation.

Sheketoff and Savignac, who have represented themselves in the lawsuit since filing it in August 2019, declined to comment. A spokesperson for Jones Day did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sheketoff left the firm's Washington, D.C., office in August 2018. Savignac was fired after he emailed the firm demanding 18 weeks leave and threatening to fight the firm both in a court of law and in the "court of public opinion."

Savignac has maintained his termination was unlawful and argued that, had he not been fired, he would have made partner.

The case is Savignac, et al., v. Jones Day, et al., U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 19-cv-02443

For Mark Savignac and Julia Sheketoff: pro se

For Jones Day, Stephen Brogan, Beth Heifetz and Michael Shumaker: MaryEllen Powers, Anderson Bailey, Chris DiPompeo, Terri Chase and Traci Lovitt of Jones Day

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Jones Day wants ex-associates sanctioned in paternity leave bias case

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.