Terminated Lawyer Sues Toronto-based Law Firm for Sexual Discrimination

Jaime Laskis, 34, a Canadian lawyer working in New York, has filed a claim with a U.S. District Court for sexual discrimination by Toronto-based law firm giant Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt. Laskis alleges that her complaints about unfair treatment and inappropriate comments resulted in retaliatory action by the firm, including her eventual termination in 2009.  

The Offending Treatment

Laskis started working at the firm’s Toronto office in 2003 and then moved to its New York office in 2004. She claims that she had received exemplary reviews throughout her career, but that when senior partner Kevin Cramer became responsible for performance evaluations in 2008, her troubles began.

According to Laskis, Cramer told her during one evaluation that she “must be more than a pretty face” and that her salary would be frozen. When she asked for specifics on how she could improve, Laskis claims that Cramer told her she would have to figure this out on her own.

Laskis also detailed offending comments made to others by Cramer, including expressions that Harvard had “pretty women pretending to get a legal education”, and that Cramer hated working with women because they get pregnant and that “out of every three years you only get one good year out of them.”

Backlash from Speaking Out

Laskis’ states that firm responded to her initial complaints by providing Cramer with sensitivity training and removing him from conducting performance evaluations. However, Laskis says she continued to receive unfavourable reviews including comments made by both Cramer and other staff with whom Laskis had hardly worked.

Although Laskis’s salary was subsequently raised, she claims that her earnings were still lower than the levels outlined in Osler’s salary rules. When Laskis inquired about getting a US green card in March 2009 she says she was informed that she was being put on probation. Three months later, she was terminated.

According to Laskis, despite her termination, the backlash continued. Following her departure from the firm , Laskis applied for a position at another New York law firm,. She claims to have subsequently discovered that one of Osler’s senior partners had lunched with the prospective firm’s managing partner and attempted to ruin her professional reputation. Laskis claims lost compensation and undetermined damages from stress, mental anguish, emotional pain and anxiety.

Osler has yet to file a statement of defence.

Minken Employment Lawyers is your source for expert advice and advocacy on today’s employment law issues.

See: Laskis’ Statement of Claim

To read the source article for this blog, see The Toronto Star: (Woman alleges sexual discrimination in lawsuit against Toronto-based firm, by Michele Henry, February 15, 2011).

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