Attorney files gender-bias suit against Reed Smith

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Attorney JoEllen Lyons Dillon today sued her employer, Reed Smith, alleging that the Pittsburgh-based mega-firm pays women less than men, promotes its female attorneys less frequently, and doles out work internally based in part on sexual relations and attractions.

The complaint filed in U.S. District Court alleges that Ms. Dillon's pay was cut twice after she gave birth to twins, even though she continued to bring in millions of dollars worth of business.

Ms. Dillon's attorney, Samuel J. Cordes, said top lawyers at the firm are known as equity partners, because they share in profits, and the next tier are non-equity partners -- and in both categories, women are disadvantaged.

"Across the board, women partners, both non-equity and equity, are paid, on average, around $130,000 less a year than male partners," he said. "It's evidence of a discriminatory mindset."

"We have not yet had an opportunity to review the specific allegations in the complaint, but we are confident that Reed Smith provides a positive working environment in all of our offices, including Pittsburgh," said the firm's Chief Marketing Officer David S. Egan, in a statement.

Ms. Dillon, of Squirrel Hill, left Buchanan Ingersoll for Reed Smith's corporate group in 2002. She said in her complaint that her new firm wanted to pay her $50,000-a-year less than two male lawyers who made the same jump, but the male lawyers protested and Reed Smith agreed to pay all three the same amount.

She established herself as a non-equity partner able to bring in millions of dollars of business yearly. After she took a few months off to give birth to, and care for, twins, "her total compensation decreased, by almost half." When she protested, according to the complaint, Partner David L. DeNinno asked if she was "done having babies yet."

Mr. DeNinno said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.

The complaint says her pay was cut again, by $100,000, in 2010.

The complaint says that "work was diverted . . . to female attorneys who were willing to engage in sexual relations with members of [Reed Smith] management or with whom members of [Reed Smith] management had sought to engage in such relations." It cites a national survey of female lawyers, the results of which were published and included anonymous quotes from Reed Smith attorneys.

Ms. Dillon "did not engage in such relations," the complaint says. Mr. Cordes said he will be able to produce examples of sexual quid pro quos as the case continues.

Rich Lord: or 412-263-1542


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