A lawsuit accusing Covington & Burling LLP of racial bias in its staff attorney program has been dismissed by U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton of the District of Columbia, who found that the black woman who sued had “failed to state a genuine issue of material fact.”
In so ruling, Walton granted summary judgment on Tuesday in favor of Covington, an international firm with offices in New York City, Silicon Valley, Europe, China a few blocks from the White House.
The judge declared that the plaintiff, Yolanda Young, had failed to establish a basis for any of her six discrimination claims. Among other allegations, she claimed that the firm retaliated against her for raising claims of discrimination by denying her a bonus, firing her, then refusing to rehire her.
Young, who graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 1995 with average grades, sued Covington in 2009, two years after she left the firm. She alleged that a firm policy of not promoting staff attorneys to associate “was racially discriminatory, since the staff attorneys were disproportionately black,” The Wall Street Journal Law Blog said in its account.
None of the 170 staff attorneys hired through the program, created in 2005, ever moved up the firm ladder to associate, counsel or partner, The WSJ Law Blog said. Covington ended the program in 2009.
In his 44-page opinion, Walton said Young had “created a nearly insurmountable task for herself” because she could not show any difference between the firm’s treatment of white staff attorneys and black staff attorneys.
Among other things, Young said that white members of the firm sometimes acted as though she wasn’t there, by uttering disparaging remarks about Hispanic, Asian, black and biracial people in front of her. Furthermore, she said, senior white members of the firm socialized less with black junior employees and seemed far less willing to act as mentors toward them.
Covington said in a statement that it was “gratified by the ruling” and regreted that some of its employees and attorneys were “the subject of unfair and unfounded accusations,” The WSJ Law Blog reported. It said Young did not immediately return a call seeking comment.