Allegations of Discrimination Surface at the ABA

August 16, 2004 ( - The American Bar Association's (ABA) director of the Commission on Women in the Profession has thrown allegations of racial discrimination at the legal organization.

ABA director Kimberly Youngblood filed a formal charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging her superiors forced her to hire non-Blacks even when they were less qualified than black applicants. Further, Youngblood said the directive was handed down as an ultimatum: accept a demotion or face termination, according to a report in the National Law Journal.

In an e-mail sent to member of the EEOC prior to filing her complaint, Youngblood said Terry Kramer, the ABA’s senior vice president for professional services, told her she would have to resign or accept a demotion to assistant director of the Young Lawyers Division.

Kramer told her that commission Chair Diane Yu, along with two influential ABA members, pressured the association’s executive director, Robert Stein, to dismiss the entire commission staff. Stein agreed to remove Youngblood as a “compromise gesture,” she wrote.

She was given a week to respond, Youngblood said. A week later, she received a letter that claimed she’d “misunderstood” the association’s position and asked her to return to work. She did briefly, but has been on administrative leave while Monte has tried to negotiate severance.

“The allegations of discrimination are totally without foundation. The American Bar Association is committed to equal employment opportunity and diversity,” the ABA said in a statement issued by its general counsel, Darryl DePriest. As evidence of the diversity, DePriest points to the fact that 70% of the ABA’s staff is female, more than 40% is minority and 26% of the staff leaders are minority.