PHILADELPHIA – A trial attorney alleges in a federal lawsuit that local law firm White and Williams LLP harassed and discriminated against her because she is an African-American woman.
In the 27-page suit filed on May 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Linda Perkins asserted that “she has been marginalized, mocked, deprived of opportunities to develop her career and otherwise treated as a second-class attorney not deserving of the same opportunities as her white counterparts.”
Perkins is reportedly among the few African-Americans employed by White and Williams, which the plaintiff labeled “a homogenous, almost exclusively white, male-dominated law firm.”
The plaintiff - whom the defendant hired two years ago to its Commercial Litigation Department and the General Commercial Litigation, Cyber Law and Data Protection Practice groups - claimed that she “was not being assigned enough work to allow her to meet her annual billable hours requirement, to meet expectations of a lawyer of her capabilities, or to permit her to cultivate a book of business and develop professionally,” the suit states.
According to Perkins, the firm was not adhering to its parts of a written employment agreement it entered with her on Dec. 28, 2016.
“As a result of White and Williams’ refusal to assign Ms. Perkins any significant amount of work despite her stellar qualifications, she was forced to seek out any work that was available and essentially beg to be assigned work in order to attempt to meet her billable hours requirement,” the original petition said.
Perkins further alleged that the defendant “routinely” promoted white male attorneys and touted them “as subject matter experts, being introduced to important client contacts, invited to attend or speak on panels, and otherwise assisted in their professional development at the firm.”
“With respect to the work she was able to secure, Ms. Perkins was repeatedly subjected to humiliation and a demeaning and disrespectful attitude as a result of being one of only two African-American, female attorneys in a homogenous firm comprised almost exclusively of white attorneys,” the suit said.
The plaintiff eventually filed a complaint. White and Williams allegedly delayed investigating her concerns for five months.
“After Ms. Perkins was left with no other choice than to complain about the discrimination and harassment she was experiencing, White and Williams unreasonably delayed investigating Ms. Perkins’ concerns, taking nearly five months to conclude an ‘investigation’ that appeared to be nothing more than a cursory exercise to find reasons to dismiss and minimize Ms. Perkins’ complaints,” the suit said. “Instead of properly investigating and addressing Ms. Perkins’ concerns, White and Williams used the investigative process as a vehicle to attack Ms. Perkins’ work and to manufacture evidence of alleged performance deficiencies,” the suit states.
In response to the litigation, White and Williams, a multi-practice firm with more than 240 lawyers in 10 offices, said it is an equal opportunity employer.
“As such, all employees, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age are treated equally and fairly,” the firm said. “When the issues in the complaint were first raised internally, the firm hired a third-party to conduct an investigation, which concluded that they were unfounded.”
The firm stated that “it continues to take Ms. Perkins’ allegations seriously, but will not comment on them directly.”
A jury trial is requested.
Jennifer C. Bell with the law firm Bell & Bell LLP of Philadelphia, is representing Perkins.
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:19-cv-02313