Firm must offer up confidental info in discrimination lawsuit

A former McCarthys employee is suing the law firm for discrimination

By Todd Harrison

On Wednesday August 26th, 2009

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Lawyers Weekly reports that McCarthy Tétrault LLP has until September 7 to comply with a court order to supply confidential information to a former employee. Diane LaCalamita has filed a $12-million lawsuit against McCarthys, in which she alleges that the firm discriminated against her because of her gender when they failed to offer her an equity partnership, and later terminated her.

In two orders earlier this year, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted LaCalamita’s legal team access to confidential employment records, including billing rates, salary information, performance reviews and an internal women‘s issues report compiled for McCarthys by Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that aims to “build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business.”

Master Ronna Brott recognized that the Catalyst report was central to LaCalamita’s case — though McCarthys insists that the report proves only that the firm is committed to improving the imbalance of women in senior positions, something it insists is a “profession-wide challenge.” LaCalamita’s lawyers asked for a wide range of documents, but Master Brott limited the handover to information about lawyers who were made equity partners during LaCalamita’s time at McCarthys, as well as senior members of the intellectual property group — the branch of the firm where LaCalamita practiced.

LaCalamita’s allegations paint a picture of a lawyer who, after being lured away from Aird & Berlis LLP with promises of a plum position at McCarthys and a stake in the firm, found herself instead being pushed to the side, ignored and eventually terminated by a firm “plagued by systemic gender-based discrimination and a culture of discrimination.” She is represented by top employment lawyer Malcolm MacKillop, a partner with Shields O’Donnell MacKillop LLP in Toronto, and distinguished constitutional expert and women’s rights champion Mary Eberts.

McCarthys, represented by Lax O’Sullivan Scott LLP partner Terrence O’Sullivan, adamantly denies the accusations of discrimination, alleging that LaCalamita failed to perform at the level expected of an equity partner. The statement of defence cites a half-dozen performance issues, including an inability to meet deadlines and billable hour minimums, as well as a lack of judgment as a litigator.