A federal judge in Washington yesterday further reduced the claims Yolanda Young can pursue in her racial discrimination suit against Covington & Burling, where she worked as a staff attorney.
Determining that Young lacked standing to pursue the job-assignment portion of her disparate impact claim, Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted Covington’s motion for partial summary judgment on that count. Young had accused the firm of assigning a disproportionate number of African-American lawyers to the rank of staff attorney.
Walton found that because Young, who is black, had applied for the position of staff attorney in 2005 and had not sought any other position, she didn’t suffer any injury by being hired as a staff attorney, regardless of any allegedly discriminatory policy.
“It stands to reason that if [Young] applied for only one position, that if selected that is the position to which she would be assigned. Therefore, because [Covington] hired [Young] for the only position for which she sought employment, the court finds that no adverse employment action resulted from that decision,” Walton writes in the Sept. 21 opinion.
Walton’s decision was the latest victory for Covington in a case that has already amassed what Walton described as a “rich procedural history.” At various times since the case was removed to federal court in March 2009, Young’s suit has been dismissed entirely, had various counts thrown out, and had others reinstated due to changes in precedent.
Earlier this month, Walton granted part of Young’s motion to reconsider a previous order that dismissed several of her allegations. Citing the Supreme Court’s May 24 decision in Lewis v. City of Chicago, in which the Court found that a plaintiff need not prove deliberate discrimination in disparate impact claims, Walton determined that Young should be allowed to go forward with her adverse impact claim related to Covington’s job-assignment policy and its policy of not promoting staff attorneys to associate.
Young is represented by Latif Doman of Washington-based Doman Davis. Doman was not immediately available for comment. Covington’s lawyer, Michele Roberts of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, did not immediately return calls for comment.