We are pleased to announce that the Daily Journal (subscription) has named Lieff Cabraser partners Kelly M. Dermody and Anne B. Shaver as Top Labor & Employment Lawyers for 2020. This is Anne’s third time receiving the award, while Kelly joins the list for the eighth time since 2011.
The Journal highlights Kelly’s major gender discrimination class action case against Google Inc., in which Dermody said a key moment is near. “We’re powering ahead and about ready to file our motion for class certification, and we are excited to push forward this area of law under the California Equal Pay Act.” The suit could affect as many 8,300 current and former Google employees who allege the tech giant has paid women less than men for substantially equal or similar work in California. Ellis v. Google Inc., CGC-17-561299 (S.F. Super. Ct., filed Sept. 14, 2017).
The Journal further notes that Dermody is most enthusiastic about her employment practice group’s “embrace of a consciousness-raising project developed around the African American experience.” Launched in February 2020 before the current national upheavals over police shootings and racial violence, the Lieff Cabraser group developed a syllabus of short assignments (essays, podcasts, videos, etc.) to enable participants to more deeply understand the intersections of power, privilege, supremacy, equity and race.
“We wanted to apply to ourselves the lessons we have learned representing clients of color in discrimination cases,” she said. After completing the project, the Group was excited to share the syllabus firm-wide as an optional tool for all of Lieff Cabraser to expand awareness, compassion, and active engagement in the quest for racial equity.
In mid-June, a press release was issued, quoting James Baldwin: “There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.” The release announced that the 21-day syllabus has been shared with corporate general counsel, diversity and inclusion professionals and opposing counsel from big law firms. It has also been adopted by the ABA’s Labor & Employment Law Section. “It’s a racial equality habit-building process,” said Dermody. “It’s not linear, it’s immersive like a snowfall. It turns out to be the topic of the moment now, and it’s the thing I am most proud of.”
The Journal’s profile of Anne Shaver acknowledges her work as co-lead counsel on the firm’s plaintiff’s team in a significant longstanding gender discrimination class action against Goldman Sachs. The complaint alleges the company systematically favored its male associates and vice presidents at the expense of their female counterparts, paying its female professionals less than men for the same or similar work, disproportionately promoting men over equally or more qualified women, and offering better opportunities to its male professionals. Chen-Oster v. Goldman Sachs & Co., 1:10-cv-06950 (S.D.N.Y., filed Sept. 15, 2010).
“We filed in 2010 and the next year the Supreme Court ruled in Dukes v. Walmart that a large number of female employees could not be a class,” said Shaver. “People threw up their hands and that’s the end of gender class actions. A few of us said we will keep trying, though post-Dukes, cases have largely gone defendants’ way.”
Even so, in March of 2018 the court certified the Chen-Oster class. “We had a huge record of the company’s boys club atmosphere and this is the biggest such class certified post-Dukes, which is why it’s a big deal,” she said. Goldman Sachs immediately sought to remove more than half of the 3,220 class members to arbitration.
“Goldman waited until post-certification to move to compel arbitration,” noted Shaver. “We argue that’s an unfair strategic litigation move and that they waived arbitration by failing to bring it up at the certification stage. It’s egregious to try to backdoor their way out of the case.”
The magistrate judge overseeing these pretrial matters gave a mixed ruling on the arbitration move in March 2020 after which both sides made appeals to the trial judge. A decision is expected during the summer of 2020. The Journal notes that regardless of the outcome, nearly 1,400 class members for whom no arbitration motion was filed remain in the case.
Congratulations to both Kelly and Anne!
Upholding Employee Rights
Lieff Cabraser has a strong tradition of fighting for employee rights across America. Our employment law class action cases challenge discrimination based on employees’ race, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability; wage violations, including failure to pay overtime, break time, or vacation time; and misuse of employees’ retirement benefits. We also represent employees who “blow the whistle” on wrongdoing by their employers as well as in other cases alleging violations of the law.
About Kelly Dermody
The Chair of Lieff Cabraser’s employment practice group and Managing Partner of Lieff Cabraser’s San Francisco office, Kelly M. Dermody specializes in class and collective actions on behalf of plaintiffs in employment and consumer cases, including gender discrimination cases against Google, KPMG, and Goldman Sachs. Her additional case work includes wage suppression claims against technology, healthcare, and academic institutions; overtime and lost pay lawsuits for low-wage workers, I/T professionals, and foreign nationals working for American corporations; and ERISA claims that she has tried on behalf of employees and retirees for pension plan abuses.
About Anne Shaver
Anne Shaver is a partner in Lieff Cabraser’s San Francisco office with a practice focusing on employment law cases. Anne has taken a leading role in gender class action lawsuits that challenge business practices and work cultures at some of the largest and most powerful companies in the world, including Google, Goldman Sachs, and KPMG. Ms. Shaver’s passion for upholding worker rights has most recently been focused on gender discrimination “impact litigation,” where she represents clients seeking to alter core business practices in ways that transform not just individual companies, but entire industries.