A former Crowell & Moring administrative staff member has filed a $300,000 lawsuit against the firm, alleging that she was fired after 18 years with the firm because of her age. Mona Saunders, 54, sued in D.C. Superior Court on July 10 under the D.C. Human Rights Act.
According to Saunders’ complaint, she was employed by Crowell from 1990 to 2008 in several jobs with no performance issues. Saunders' lawyer, Ardra O'Neal of Washington’s O'Neal Firm, adds that in 2003, the firm awarded Saunders the George Bailey Award, named after the character played by Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life, for her pro bono work.
In 2005, the complaint says, Saunders got a new supervisor. The complaint alleges that under the new supervisor, Saunders' work was routinely criticized and she was made to feel that "she was unable to learn new tasks because of her age." The supervisor is not named as a defendant.
The following year, O'Neal said, Saunders was reassigned to a different job. O'Neal said that the move was made without "any training" and was designed to "set Ms. Saunders up for failure." Also in 2006, according to the complaint, Saunders filed a charge of age discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the D.C. Office of Human Rights.
Saunders continued to work at Crowell until July 2008, when the complaint alleges she was let go because she was told she was not a "good fit" for the firm. In September 2008, she filed a charge of retaliation for complaining of age discrimination with the EEOC and the D.C. Office of Human Rights, and in April 2009, she received a notice of right to sue.
O'Neal says Saunders opted to sue in Superior Court because it "tends to move more quickly than federal court."
In addition to lost wages and benefits, Saunders' complaint says, the firing caused her to suffer "mental anguish, emotional distress, personal humiliation, indignity, embarrassment, inconvenience, stigma, pain and suffering, and damage to her personal and professional reputation."
Crowell's managing partner, Ellen Dwyer, denies the allegations and said in a statement, "We work very hard to ensure our employees are successful at the firm. We are disappointed that Ms. Saunders has taken this action and will participate fully in the legal process."