NEW YORK, Oct 31 (Reuters) - A former staff attorney at
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has sued the law firm in
federal court, claiming that it discriminated against her
because she is black.
In a complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Kisshia Simmons-Grant alleged
that while she was a staff attorney at Quinn Emanuel's New York
office from 2006 to 2010 she received fewer and less-favored
assignments than her white colleagues even though she was as
qualified or more qualified to handle them. She also claimed
that she was forced to work with an attorney whom she feared
after she complained about the alleged racism.
The complaint asserts violations of federal, state and
local civil-rights laws. Simmons-Grant seeks lost past and
future earnings and compensation for mental anguish, in
addition to punitive damages and attorneys' fees.
In an email, Quinn partner Robert Juman said, "We believe
the claim to be frivolous, as subsequent proceedings will
Simmons-Grant, a graduate of Georgetown University Law
Center who is now a solo practitioner in New York, asserted
that Quinn's manager of staff attorneys "kept white staff
attorneys constantly busy with projects" while she experienced
several periods without work and therefore did not get paid.
Staff attorneys at the firm, according to the complaint, were
paid on an hourly basis for the work they performed.
She further alleged that she told Quinn's New York managing
partner, Peter Calamari, about the alleged discrimination, but
that he determined after speaking with the staff-attorney
manager that there was no racial basis for the way assignments
were given. Calamari was not immediately available for
FEARED FOR SAFETY
After she complained about the problem, Simmons-Grant
alleged, the firm retaliated against her by forcing her to work
with another staff attorney, although she complained that she
didn't feel safe with him. She asserted that the staff attorney
"became enraged" at being assigned to work over a holiday
weekend and that he physically threatened her. She asserted
that she twice told managers that she didn't want to work with
him, and that she had to quit after she was forced to do so.
Simmons-Grant declined to comment about the lawsuit. The
Web site for her law firm, Simmons-Grant PLLC, states that she
received a bachelor's degree from Cornell University and,
following law school, worked as assistant chief counsel at the
Department of Homeland Security. Her current practice focuses
on immigration law.
Her attorney, James Halter, with Liddle & Robinson in New
York, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The case is Simmons-Grant v. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart &
Sullivan, No. 11 CIV 7706, U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of New York.
(Reporting by Leigh Jones)
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