Law.com’s online journal The Recorder caught up with Lieff Cabraser partner and Chair of the firm’s Employment Law practice group Kelly M. Dermody for a substantial and wide-ranging question and answer session published June 1st (subscription). Noting Ms. Dermody’s leadership on equal pay and promotion gender class actions against industry giants like Microsoft, Google, and Goldman Sachs, the publication talked to her about arbitration and class waivers, culture and its shaping of the law, and current progress on gender issues, among other topics.
Ms. Dermody was forthright about how easily change could come. “If you really want to fix pay—it’s easy. Just publish everyone’s pay, and the next day you will have employees lined up at HR demanding justifications for pay disparities.” As she further explains, The pushback I hear from management lawyers is, ‘What if we did a serious pay analysis? Then we’ll just get sued by someone like you?’ To that I say, what’s your goal? If your goal is to study pay without fixing gaps, then yes, you’ll get sued. But if your goal is fair pay, you’ll fix the gaps you find and actually comply with the law.”
Ms. Dermody highlights HR departments as a frequent source of problems. “When people come and talk to me, it is almost always after a failed HR experience…. Companies can’t fix their problems if the goal of the department is to stop the employee from being heard.”
Ms. Dermody is hopeful for further progress as the culture faces a potential pivot. “The combination of social media shining a light on bad actors and the credibility that has attached to women’s stories has been powerful. I think women now have a greater sense of confidence that they will be believed when they tell their stories, and a greater propensity to externalize the misconduct directed at them, to expect and demand better treatment and accountability from employers.”