Six former employees and one current worker at the Richmond law firm Williams Mullen have filed discrimination claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In the filings, the employees cite demotions without prior discussion, forced work without compensation, hostile work environment and unequal terms and conditions of employment.
Some of the complainants, all women, also filed charges of gender and race discrimination against the firm, according to papers filed with EEOC. The offenses allegedly occurred between September 2006 and August 2008. The women, all support staff, worked in different departments throughout the 100-year-old law firm.
One of the employees, a department manager, claims she was excluded from meetings that involved her department. And speaking of a supervisor, another former employee wrote, “His conduct included, but was not limited to: treating me in a demeaning manner; not providing me with timely notice of/and pertinent information for job assignments; becoming angry, raising his voice, and berating me; and accusing me of spreading rumors or complaining about him.”
According to commission procedure, claims that aren't resolved during mediation or have been refused mediation by one of the parties are then investigated. While some complainants' charges have been dismissed, six outstanding claims are currently under investigation, says one of the women who filed complaints, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The EEOC does not comment on cases.
Williams Mullen's vice chairman, James V. Meath, denies the gender and age discrimination charges. “Of the staff population, 75 percent are [age] 40-49; 89 percent of those 50-59 are women; and 94 percent of those 60-69 are women.
“We have not engaged in any form of discrimination against anyone for any reason,” he says, adding that the complainants who were laid off or terminated were offered severance packages. The six former employees refused severance.
However, at least one of the complainants, Savannah Morgan, says she settled with the firm in mediation.
Morgan says that four years into her 10-year employment as a legal secretary with the firm, she required a three-day hospitalization at the Tucker Pavilion at CJW Medical Center; the result, she said, of mistreatment and abuse by the attorney she worked for. “She would yell and scream and turn absolutely purple,” Morgan says.
When she returned to work after hospitalization, Morgan was moved to a floor under construction, isolated from other employees. She says the isolation ended after two months.
Meath said he was unaware that any cases had been settled in mediation, adding that the firm will not mediate remaining claims. “Just like our clients, we don't have reason to mediate because we haven't done anything wrong,” he says.