Sidley Austin Seeking Discovery of Partners' Subsequent Job Performance

November 28, 2006 ( - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in a long-running battle with Chicago law firm Sidley Austin, is now trying to fight the firm's efforts to seek discovery concerning the subsequent job performance of several partners and the mental health of one.

The New York Law Journal reports the law firm, which contends that six former partners were demoted in 1999 due to poor performance, including low billable hours and poor business development skills, wants to show that new employers have encountered similar performance by the former partners. However, the EEOC has filed a motion for a protective order asking that Sidley Austin be denied discovery relating to the billable hours, equity status and business development efforts of the former partners now working at other firms.

The EEOC said the information Sidley Austin seeks is “not relevant to any disputed fact” in the case, according to the New York Law Journal. The agency, which argued that the law firm’s given reasons for the demotions were pretextual, won its discrimination case and was given the go-ahead in February of this year to seek monetary relief for the victims (See Government Wins Latest in Series of Age Discrimination Rulings ).

The EEOC also asked the judge to block Sidley Austin from deposing one former partner about his mental health and history of mental health treatment. The agency said the law firm had previously said mental health problems the partner experienced in 1993 had nothing to do with his demotion in 1999 and should not now be able to say otherwise.

The EEOC also expressed concern about embarrassment the discovery could cause the former partners and potential damage to their professional reputations.