Aaron Charney | Discrimination | New York | News

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Associate Hits Major NYC Law Firm with Gay Discrimination Suit

Lawsuit

Powerful New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell has been hit by a lawsuit from Aaron Charney, who works there as an associate, alleging harassment, discrimination, and retaliation by partners and employees at the firm, according to legal tabloid Above the Law and The Daily Transom.

CharneyAccording to the Transom, who spoke with Charney, "he is still employed at the firm, and is representing himself."

The documents filed today allege that one of the partners in the firm threw a document at Charney's feet and said, "Bend over and pick it up — I'm sure you like that." There are also accusations that various partners at the firm conspired to have Charney thrown out because he was "carrying on an 'unnatural' homosexual relationship with another S&C associate", and that the firm discriminates against Canadians.

The full complaint is available here.

Bet it's not too comfortable running into the partners around the office water cooler.

UPDATE: The NYT published a story today regarding the lawsuit and they have more details of the complaints and a few responses from partners.

Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell [above the law]
Gay Discrimination Suit Filed Against White-Shoe Law Firm [daily transom]

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Comments

  1. "that the firm discriminates against Canadians". Well, why not? Blame Canada! :-)

    I have a friend who just made partner at a big firm here in Los Angeles. He really went back and forth about being out at work because he was afraid it would impact his chances at a partnership. He decided to not live a lie and still made it. Law firms are often pretty conservative places to work.

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Jan 16, 2007 8:08:06 PM


  2. "that the firm discriminates against Canadians". Well, why not? Blame Canada! :-)

    I have a friend who just made partner at a big firm here in Los Angeles. He really went back and forth about being out at work because he was afraid it would impact his chances at a partnership. He decided to not live a lie and still made it. Law firms are often pretty conservative places to work.

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Jan 16, 2007 8:13:38 PM


  3. Sounds a little strange for S&C. Google "David Braff" and "pro bono." He's an out partner there, and does a ton of volunteer work (he got domestic partner benefits for NYC employees, worked on DADT cases, etc.). I don't get it.

    Posted by: Fred | Jan 16, 2007 9:12:41 PM


  4. it's an extremely conservative firm, and it doesn't sound that odd to me.

    Posted by: akaison | Jan 16, 2007 9:35:33 PM


  5. hello andy....
    often have to wonder about the pseudo emails posting in defense of the wicked step mother .... if that be the case.

    Posted by: ricardo | Jan 16, 2007 9:44:35 PM


  6. Actually, Ricardo, I'm supposed to hate David. He was opposing counsel in an old case of mine. I'm no defender of gigantic law firms, or of David for that matter, but I'll give credit where it's due. If Andy wants my email address for confirmation I'll be happy to send it to him privately.

    Posted by: Fred | Jan 16, 2007 9:53:29 PM


  7. I have no idea if these allegations are true. But as a lawyer, and knowing full well that the legal profession is to a large extent a haven for the homophobic, misogynist, arrogant and sophomoric it’s quiet hard for me to suggest that I am even a bit surprised.

    Posted by: Bill | Jan 16, 2007 11:46:19 PM


  8. "Discriminates against Candians."

    LOL. I swear to god...

    Posted by: Becks07 | Jan 17, 2007 2:02:55 AM


  9. What's with this blog? Most of what I see are in Capital letters, and a lot are run together. Hope no one has gotten into your blog illegally, Andy.

    Posted by: Lady Heather | Jan 17, 2007 2:35:55 AM


  10. Odd that a law firm, who should have at least a passing aquaintance with what is and isn't legal, would go to such lengths to break the law.

    Almost makes you want to go back and review all their cases over the past several years.

    If they're so off-base with this, who knows what other messes are waiting to be discovered?

    Posted by: MikeInSanJose | Jan 17, 2007 4:14:22 AM


  11. Law firms are notoriously conservative, even when it comes to things like integrating ten year old technology into the office. Just because there's one gay partner does not mean, by any means, that this individual didn't experience base discrimination. It just means the firm found one fag good enough to keep around -- and perhaps two was too much, or this individuals homo-personality was too much for their hetro's.

    Anyone who has worked in big companies knows the politics involved. And, just like junior high, they'll latch onto anything in hopes of getting rid of a personality they don't want around, no matter the reason.

    The presence of 1 homo doesn't mean they want more. It just means they can tolerate that one homo in their midst -- and that's it.

    [email protected]

    Posted by: rob adams | Jan 17, 2007 6:54:44 AM


  12. BTW (sorry for double-dipping)...
    Who said lawyers have any better regard for the law than regular folk? If anything, US legal history says the *exact* opposite.

    Posted by: rob adams | Jan 17, 2007 6:56:58 AM


  13. Rob's post is exactly the way it is. In all mid- to large-size law firms, there are departments and the atmosphere in each department varies due to the lawyers that work in that department. Note, in most fims, lawyers are specialized and work in one type of law only, such as Intellectual Property or Mergers or Bankruptcy.

    Where I work the IntelProp department is very liberal with lots of ex-scientists, whereas M&A is more conservative.

    Posted by: Will | Jan 17, 2007 7:57:56 AM


  14. I agree with Will on this and would caution anyone defending/attacking S&C to focus on who and what exactly is involved:

    This is a case that deals 99% with partners in the M&A practice. That practice group is known for having the MOST atrocious of personalities in most law firms (not just S&C). I work at another BigLaw firm in NYC and, while my practice group (not M&A) is humane and the people are open-minded, the M&A group is notorious for a--holes.

    As for David Braff, he's a partner in litigation. Litigators, even at large firms, tend to be more open-minded and progressive in their thoughts, so having a gay litigation partner is not completely unusual. What is more frightening is how O'Brien (the gay M&A partner discussed in the complaint) was being used to sabotage Charney. I do not doubt that a firm would do that, but I can not believe that someone would let themselves be used like that--especially AFTER they are already a partner. As the S&C partnership agreement shows, it's almost impossible to get rid of a partner so, if Charney's allegations are true, O'Brien was simply sucking up to homophobes to move up in the firmament. That is disgusting. If anyone know O'Brien, you should tell him so.

    Posted by: bboy | Jan 17, 2007 11:18:02 AM


  15. It's disgusting, but not unheard of. Out in LA a decade ago there was a big case involving a partner who because he was gay decided to selective eliminate all the minority, gay and women associates in his dept. The firm ended up paying out a lot of money to the ex associates. And yes the law is very conservative and full of a lot of socially and emotionally stunted people who never progressed beyond college age, at best, thinking. it makes sense because you are work ing all the time so you develop high school like behavior.

    Posted by: akaison | Jan 17, 2007 8:01:32 PM


  16. These types of in-house hate-crimes are not uncommon in any profession, whether it be legal, medical, fire/police, academic, et al. Charney will be assisted by another yet-to-be-posited high-profile claim in an adjoining NY court with parallel consistancies.

    Posted by: drucdf | Jan 19, 2007 12:48:17 AM


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