C.C. was a highly experienced development professional who had spent many years working overseas on the African continent. She was a manager for a Washington, D.C.- based non-profit that maintained offices in the developing world and worked with funders (such as USAID) and partners on development programs. When her employer fired her, C.C. came to my office requesting help. I enlisted as my senior partner for this case an experienced employment rights attorney based in Maryland. We filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., charging that the organization fired C.C. as the result of illegal gender discrimination.
Investigation of the defendant non-profit revealed that their senior leadership had for years taken questionable actions to drive women from their workplace and prevent their rise into the senior ranks. The organization went through the turmoil of leadership changes while our litigation proceeded. We survived a motion by attorneys for the non-profit to dismiss our case, when the federal judge ruled that we had made legally sufficient claims of illegal discrimination based on our client’s gender.
We began the process of seeking evidence from the other side (discovery). As both sides geared up for expensive depositions of each other’s witnesses, we opened settlement discussions. Guided by an experienced U.S. magistrate judge online on Zoom (during the COVID-19 pandemic), my co-counsel and I spent nearly seven hours in one day of negotiations with our client, the judge, and the opposing side.
Neither side achieved its full goals, but we avoided a years-long wait for a trial (given the pandemic-related closure of the courthouse), the expenses of continued discovery, and the risks of a motion (by both sides) for summary judgment that could end the case in one party’s favor without a trial.
We eventually reached an agreement for the non-profit to pay our client a sufficient sum of money to both compensate her for the loss of her job, and anguish at that loss, and gain her agreement to terminate her lawsuit.