Jones Day responds to litigation challenging leave policy
Jones Day is devoted to the importance of family and maintains an environment in which our lawyers can practice at the highest professional levels and have rewarding family lives. Among the benefits it provides to parents, the Firm gives lawyers who are primary caregivers, regardless of gender, ten weeks of paid leave and six weeks of unpaid leave after the birth of a child. Birth mothers are eligible to receive an additional eight weeks of paid leave under the Firm’s short term disability policy. For adoptive parents, Jones Day provides eighteen weeks of paid leave, regardless of gender.
Today, two former associates—Mark Savignac and Julia Sheketoff—sued Jones Day claiming that the ten weeks of paid leave and six weeks of unpaid leave Mr. Savignac was offered when he and Ms. Sheketoff had a child constituted gender discrimination because he was not eligible for the paid disability leave offered to birth mothers. Ignoring both the law and biology, Mr. Savignac and Ms. Sheketoff complain that this generous family leave policy, which is fully consistent with guidance of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, perpetuates gender stereotypes because the Firm does not require birth mothers to submit medical evidence proving that childbirth has had a physical impact on them sufficient to justify disability leave. Neither the law nor common sense requires such intrusive disclosures. Jones Day’s adoptive leave policy, which is gender neutral, reflects the fact that adoptive parents face unique demands on their time and finances that differ from those faced by biological parents—such as extended foreign travel and adoption-related legal and administrative hurdles.
Mr. Savignac's claim that he was retaliated against for espousing his legally indefensible view of Jones Day's family leave policy is both false and self-indulgent. In August 2018, Mr. Savignac and Ms. Sheketoff raised questions about the legal basis for the leave policies, and the Firm responded to those questions. No adverse actions were taken against either of them in response to their inquiries. Five months later, Jones Day terminated Mr. Savignac's employment because it concluded that he showed poor judgment, a lack of courtesy to his colleagues, personal immaturity, and a disinterest in pursuing his career at Jones Day—all of which are apparent in an intemperate email he sent to a member of our professional staff and in the complaint itself. Mr. Savignac exhibited open hostility to the Firm, demanding that he be given what he wants "or else" and claiming hardship under circumstances that no reasonable person would view as anything but exceptionally generous.
The gratuitous allegation that Ms. Sheketoff, who voluntarily left the Firm in August 2018, was a victim of gender pay discrimination is false and was not made in good faith. Ms. Sheketoff was a highly paid associate who made more than her husband despite the fact that her reviews from multiple partners were mixed, her contribution to billable client representations was below expectations, and her attention was focused on idiosyncratic concerns. Reflecting the frivolousness of her claims, Ms. Sheketoff resorts to the sensationalized allegation that the Firm doctored her website photo "to conform to the firm’s Caucasian standards of female beauty." Jones Day never altered any photographs of Ms. Sheketoff, and in fact, Ms. Sheketoff personally selected the precise photo that was used on the Firm’s website.
Jones Day intends to try this case in court, not in the media, and will have no further comment beyond the pleadings and proofs in the case.