In a closely watched case I last wrote about here, the law firm Sidley Austin Brown & Wood has agreed to pay $27.5 million dollars to settle an age bias suit brought against it by the EEOC. The case had to do with the question of the EEOC's ability to seek money damages and reinstatement for partners who were downgraded from partner status by the firm in 1999 and others forced out because of an age-based retirement policy.
The firm had long argued that the partners were just that, partners, and therefore not covered employees under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The agency argued that the partners were really employees with no real policy-making power in the firm or power to hire or fire other employees.
Apparently, after the Supreme Court refused to intervene prior to trial and overturn the Seventh Circuit as to this question, the firm decided it was worth $27.5 million to put the case behind it. Now the question becomes how many more firms will be targeted by the EEOC as this type of "partner" structure is not at all uncommon.
Source: Chicago Tribune