A former longtime lawyer at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. is suing the consulting firm for discrimination, claiming the company unjustifiably demoted her and eventually forced her to resign because of her age and gender.
The plaintiff, Carla Calobrisi, joined Booz Allen's law department in 2000 at the age of 44, according to the complaint she filed Friday in District of Columbia Superior Court. After several years as a senior associate in the company's law department she was promoted to principal, and said she always received positive performance reviews. However, she said younger male colleagues were given preferable treatment and there was a "glass ceiling" in the law department and throughout the company preventing women over 40 from advancing.
Booz Allen is already fighting two separate discrimination lawsuits in Superior Court filed by former female partners. In those cases, the plaintiffs accused the company of actively denying women opportunities to move up to top leadership positions.
A Booz Allen spokesman, James Fisher, said via email today that Calobrisi's practice was changed in 2011 to focus on real estate as part of a departmental "re-organization" and didn't affect her salary. Fisher said Calobrisi voluntarily resigned in 2011, "[d]espite our active efforts to encourage her to remain with Booz Allen."
"The timing and circumstances of Ms. Calobrisi's legal action are curious, given that she voluntarily resigned in 2011 and only now decided to file suit," he said.
Calobrisi's attorney, Linda Correia of Washington's Webster Fredrickson Correia & Puth, said Calobrisi decided to pursue the lawsuit because "she believes she was discriminated against and retaliated against for complaining about discrimination." Calobrisi, who runs a leadership coaching business, is "looking for a fair resolution of the issues that she's raised in her complaint," Correia said.
Calobrisi's practice at Booz Allen included real estate, commercial transactions and some international work, according to her complaint. She claimed men in the law department with less experience were promoted faster and received support she didn’t get. For instance, once she became a "team lead" for her practice area, she said she wasn't assigned any team members, meaning she had no assistance from other lawyers. In contrast, she said, men in the department who became team leaders had several lawyers assigned to them.
She said that unlike male attorneys, she was never appointed to "leadership committees or teams." She claimed she was excluded from management-level meetings and training opportunities male attorneys were invited to attend.
After spending a decade with the company, Calobrisi said she was told in 2010 that her practice would expand, but instead she was demoted in early 2011 from a principal to senior associate and some of her work was reassigned to younger female lawyers. She claimed she was told the demotion was not performance-based. She said when she protested the demotion, her supervisor told her he didn't understand why she was upset and that she could apply for a promotion in the future.
"It is sexism to assume that women (as opposed to men) will not mind undeserved and obvious setbacks in their careers," Calobrisi alleged in her complaint. She said she was forced to sign a letter that she accepted the demotion voluntarily and eventually resigned, calling the demotion "career ending." After she left the firm, she said she was replaced by a younger male attorney with less experience and some of her work was given to younger female attorneys.
Calobrisi is suing for age and gender discrimination under District of Columbia and federal law. According to her complaint, she's hoping to get her job back and receive unspecified damages.
The case is assigned to Judge Brian Holeman.