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Clifford Chance law firm sued by former associate for discrimination and hostile work environment

Karen Ramdhanie, a former Clifford Chance associate as the firm’s S&P Group, has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the firm for subjecting her to “a hostile work environment and harassment which was ‘severe or pervasive’ in nature.”

According to the complaint, “Several of the black minority Associates, both male and female, repeatedly complained that they were being discriminated against on the basis of their race, harassed and ‘treated less well’ than the white Associates in the S&P Group in violation of New York City Human Rights Law.”

Ramdhanie accuses Helayne Baron, a senior partner at Clifford Chance, of creating a hostile work environment with her “discriminatory and harassing behavior.”  Ramdhanie claims that “Baron never spoke to Ramdhanie except to be rude and condescending.  Baron’s humiliating and denigrating treatment of Ramdhanie was because Ramdhanie was a black female minority Associate with West Indian heritage.”

Ramdhanie alleges that she complained to Lewis Cohen and David Felsenthal about Baron’s behavior, but “Cohen and Felsenthal not only did nothing to support Ramdhanie but condoned Baron’s humiliating and discriminating behavior against Ramdhanie.”

According to the complaint:

On February 2nd 2007, in support of Baron’s denigration of Ramdhanie and as retaliation for Ramdhanie’s discrimination and harassment complaint, Terry Richardson (“Richardson”), manager of secretarial help, and Cohen informed Ramdhanie that despite no wrongdoing on Ramdhanie’s part, because Baron was insisting that Ramdhanie not share her secretary, from that day onwards Ramdhanie’s secretarial support would be split six (6) different ways.

Ramdhanie was repeatedly asked by “floater” secretaries who answered her client’s calls why she was so senior and did not have an assigned secretary.  Even the support staff at CC found the situation offensive to a reasonable person and expressed their feelings privately to Ramdhanie.  It was not the way a senior associate with a demanding workload should be treated or would like to be treated.

Because of the stress created by the discriminatory treatment and the hostile work environment, Ramdhanie developed serious health complications, which included headaches, sleep disorder, asthma, heart palpitations, depression, great mental anguish, emotional distress, shame, humiliation, panic attacks, stress and anxiety, and loss of self-esteem and self-confidence.

In November 2007, Clifford Chance laid off Ramdhanie as well as three other black lawyers and two white women, supposedly as a “business necessity.”

Two days after Ramdhanie was laid off, Clifford Chance allegedly announced that it was awarding its associates year-end bonuses of $35,000 to $65,000 and a “special bonus” of $50,000 because the firm had “done extremely well for 2007.” the complaint said. 

Because she had been laid off, Ramdhanie claims that she was not eligible for the bonus.

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Clifford Chance law firm sued by former associate for discrimination and hostile work environment
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