Updated at 5:02 p.m.
After winning partial summary judgment in September, Covington & Burling is moving for summary judgment on the remaining claims in a discrimination suit filed by a former staff attorney.
Yolanda Young has accused (PDF) the firm of firing her in retaliation for complaining about discrimination she believed she and other minority attorneys were facing. Young, who is black, worked as a staff attorney at Covington from 2005 to 2007. A writer, Young also claims the firm unlawfully refused to rehire her after she wrote an article about her experience with the firm for the Huffington Post.
The firm has repeatedly denied the claims, arguing that Young was fired because of poor performance and that the firm took steps to remedy any concerns Young may have brought to supervisors.
The case is pending in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before Judge Reggie Walton.
In September, Walton granted Covington partial summary judgment, ruling that Young lacked standing on her claim that the company had a non-promotion policy for black attorneys since she had never applied for another position. On April 1, Covington filed a motion for summary judgment (PDF) on the remaining claims. In addition to wrongful termination and retaliation, Young has also accused firm leaders of permitting “severe and pervasive workplace harassment.”
In its motion, as in previous filings, Covington maintains that Young was fired because she received low performance scores from the attorneys advising her program. The firm also claims she wasn’t rehired because the firm was no longer filling the staff attorney slots. As for the racial discrimination charges, the firm has argued that it addressed Young’s concerns as soon as they were brought up.
Young filed a response last night, although Young’s attorney, Latif Doman of Washington’s Doman Davis, said they’ve requested an extension to flesh out the brief. On May 9, the judge had issued a minute order that it would not grant any extensions absent “extraordinary circumstances”; Doman noted in his request that unforeseen administrative issues made the request necessary.
In a phone interview this afternoon, Doman said that Covington’s motion fails to acknowledge that there remain genuine disputes of fact over whether the firm retaliated against his client. Young did not immediately return a request for comment.
“They’ve filed a motion that we believe is insufficient,” Doman said.
In a phone interview this afternoon, Covington partner Jeffrey Huvelle disputed that Young's response had raised any substantive claims that could survive the motion.
"Her papers confirm what we said from the outset, her claims are totally without merit," he said.
Covington is being represented by Michael Starr of Washington’s Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; former Akin partner Michele Roberts previously handled the case. Starr could not immediately be reached for comment.
An earlier version of the article misstated Michael Starr's name.