In an article published by Law360, "Myers Bigel Dodges Race, Sex Bias Suit At 4th Circ.," employment attorney Kerry Shad is quoted regarding Smith Anderson’s client, Myers Bigel, and its former equity partner’s race discrimination and retaliation suit against the law firm for the purposes of Title VII. The noteworthy discrimination case was also covered in Bloomberg Law, North Carolina Lawyers Weekly and South Carolina Lawyers Weekly
The Law360 article addresses the Fourth Circuit’s decision in the case that shareholder partners and equity owners of a firm are not classified as "employees" and cannot declare "employee" status under Title VII. In addition, the plaintiff failed to prove that her race was the sole factor that led colleagues to bar her from taking time off, the Fourth Circuit found, making her requested leave-related allegations implausible.
Kerry told Law360 that several law firm partners have tried to declare employee status in previous discrimination cases. "The Fourth Circuit's decision makes clear that lawyers who are owners, entitled to vote and who share in profits are not 'employees,'" said Kerry. "The decision should apply with equal force to other professional services firms, including, for example, accounting firms and medical practices."
Kerry informed North Carolina Lawyers Weekly that the judges on the 4th Circuit seemed to understand the stakes. From their questions at oral argument, they seemed concerned that Lemon’s expansion of Title VII and antidiscrimination statutes might end up covering people not intended to be covered—not just partners in law firms, but shareholders in medical practices or even businesses with shareholders.
In Lemon v. Myers Bigel PA, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit concluded that Title VII’s anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation provisions were designed to protect "employees" and confirmed that Title VII doesn’t protect equity firm partners. Smith Anderson attorneys Isaac Linnartz and Kerry Shad represented Myers Bigel and ultimately led the Raleigh IP firm to a big win. Isaac and Kerry defended the Title VII claims on the basis that, as one of 25 equity "owners" of the firm, the plaintiff was not an "employee" and therefore not entitled to the protections of the statute.
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N.C. and S.C. Lawyers Weekly subscribers can read the full article here.
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