Judge mulls ordering Jones Day to share partner data in bias case

The law firm of Jones Day is seen in Washington, D.C.
The law firm of Jones Day in Washington, D.C. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Fired Jones Day associate says he would have made partner if not for wrongful termination
  • Plaintiffs say firm's family leave policy favors mothers

July 20 (Reuters) - A federal judge in Washington, D.C., is weighing whether to order Jones Day to turn over internal data on its partnership to a pair of married former associates who have sued the firm for sex discrimination and unlawful termination.

U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss on Tuesday ordered Jones Day and former associates Julia Sheketoff and Mark Savignac to submit briefs over whether the plaintiffs are entitled to the data, including compensation records, which they say would support Savignac's lost wages claim.

Moss said he wasn't convinced by Jones Day's argument that the plaintiffs aren't entitled to the records they're seeking. But he expressed worry about how many documents were being produced for a lawsuit involving only two plaintiffs.

"It does strike me that the amount of discovery in this case is surprisingly extensive," Moss said, following a nearly 90-minute hearing on discovery disputes. He urged the parties to concentrate on the documents they believe they need to prevail on summary judgment or for a potential trial.

The hearing comes days after Moss denied a bid by Sheketoff and Savignac to shield certain information from Jones Day's leadership. They had argued that the firm could retaliate against current and former employees.

"The concerns that plaintiffs raise are unduly speculative to overcome the 'powerful interest in being able to ... consult freely with an attorney,'" Moss wrote.

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.

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

Savignac has maintained his termination was unlawful, and has argued that, had he not been fired, he would have made partner. The plaintiffs are looking for documents from Jones Day showing that he would have made partner by now, and what his pay as a partner would be.

"I would be a partner at Jones Day had it not been for Jones Day," Savignac said during the hearing.

Jones Day pushed back hard against the plaintiffs during Tuesday's hearing, arguing that the information they're seeking is speculative, in part because it was doubtful that Savignac would have been promoted to partner in 2020.

"This is all about what may or may not have happened two years after he left the firm," said Jones Day partner Terri Chase.

Savignac and Sheketoff declined to comment. A representative for Jones Day did not respond to a request for comment.

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

For Mark Savignac and Julia Sheketoff: pro se

For Jones Day: Mary Ellen Powers, Anderson Bailey, Christopher DiPompeo, Terri Chase and Traci Lovitt of Jones Day

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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.