Female Lawyer’s Discrimination Suit Dismissal Upheld

July 20, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – A federal appellate court has ruled that a female lawyer's status as shareholder and director in a Pittsburgh law firm effectively made her an employer and rendered her ineligible to sue the firm for sex discrimination. 

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was the fact that attorney Alyson Kirleis participated in the governance of the Dickie McCamey & Chilcote (DMC) firm and received a share of its profits that was the critical issue, the Legal Intelligencer reported. 

Because the law only allows employees – not employers – to sue for sex discrimination, the appellate panel found that U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania was right to throw out the case.   “We cannot agree that Kirleis is a mere employee of DMC, and our review of the record supports the district court’s conclusion in this regard,” Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Jane R. Roth wrote for the appellate court. 

Kirleis argued in papers filed with the appellate court that she should be treated as an employee because her work is “subject to the control of” the firm’s 13-member executive committee.  

In her suit, Kirleis accused Dickie McCamey of paying female lawyers less than males and alleged she was told by a male partner that a woman with children should relinquish her partnership and work only part-time.  Kirleis also charged that she was told by another male partner that the role of women lawyers was to prepare lawsuits for trials that would be handled by male lawyers, and that the firm had retaliated against her since her suit was filed. 

“We’re gratified by the 3rd Circuit’s affirming of the judge’s decision and pleased that the firm has been vindicated,” said Jeffrey T. Wiley, the managing director and chief operating officer of Dickie McCamey, according to the news account.