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Kelley Drye settles age discrimination claims

EEOC filed suit against the firm in 2010 over de-equitizing practices

After two years of battling it out with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), New York law firm Kelley Drye & Warren has settled the suit that accused the firm of violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The two parties had announced last month that they were close to a settlement.

The case centered on Kelley Drye’s retirement policy, which mandated that when a lawyer turned 70, the firm “de-equitizes” him. In 2010, the EEOC brought the suit on behalf of Eugene D’Ablemont—who Kelley Drye had de-equitized because of his age—claiming the policy violated the ADEA. D’Ablemont claimed the firm’s policy meant he made substantially less than he would have if he were allowed to stay on as equity partner. That same year, the firm gave up the de-equitizing practice.

In its settlement, Kelley Drye didn’t admit to any wrongdoing and agreed to pay D’Ablemont more than half-a-million dollars for his work between 2001 and 2011. Going forward, D’Ablemont—who is still a partner with the firm—will receive 12 percent of the annual fees collected for certain matters, the agreement said.

“As Kelley Drye has recognized by its policy change, it simply does not make business sense to arbitrarily force out attorneys with the skill and energy to continue to practice law at a high level even though they are over 70 years old.  I urge other law firms to assess their retirement policies,” said Jeffrey Burstein, a trial attorney in the EEOC’s New York District Office, in a statement.

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Cathleen Flahardy

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