Let’s sue your law firm. It’s a growing trend, but as AmLaw Daily have found, the lawsuits against firms don’t always hit home they way they were intended. A case in point: the discrimination suit against Covington & Burling by Yolanda Young.
A federal judge just dismissed the high-profile lawsuit filed by Yolanda Young, the Georgetown-trained attorney and commentator, whose complaint against Covington was that minorities were assigned to what she called
a “staff attorney ghetto.”
As AboveTheLaw noted, the procedural history of this case has more twists than a John Grisham novel.
In early 2009, Young sued Covington, alleging racial discrimination. The suit got dismissed. Then it got reinstated. Young amended her complaint. The case got dismissed in part, then reinstated in part.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton granted summary judgment to the [Covington] law firm in an opinion released Tuesday. The African-American plaintiff, Yolanda Young, was hired in 2005 as a staff attorney reviewing documents in large litigation. She was among eight staff lawyers fired in 2007 in layoffs based on associate evaluations and hours billed.
None of the staff lawyers was ever promoted to associate, counsel or partner, according to evidence in the suit. But the failure to promote claim must fail, Walton said, because there is no evidence Young ever applied for, or was qualified for, a promotion to a non-staff attorney position. Her disparate impact claim also must fail because of the qualification issue, Walton said. Staff lawyers were hired based on prior document review experience, while associates needed different capabilities.
Young’s allegations of a hostile work environment also fail, Walton said, because she only complained about one of the alleged incidents — in which a white employee read aloud racial slurs from Wikipedia — and management responded immediately. He also dismissed Young’s claims of retaliation and wrongful firing.