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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Black Associate Sues For 'Diversity Fraud,' Says Law Firm Used Her As 'Diversity Prop' To Impress Clients

Sharika_RobinsonABA Journal, Firm Uses Minorities as 'Diversity Props' to Impress Clients, Suit Alleges:

A black associate has filed a lawsuit claiming that her North Carolina law firm uses minorities as “diversity props” to impress clients and also misrepresents its inclusiveness to potential employees.

Sharika Robinson claims in her March 4 lawsuit that Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson in North Carolina maintained in its advertising and in her job interviews that it was committed to the ideals of diversity and inclusion. ...

In reality, Robinson says, she is one of only two black associates at the 165-lawyer firm’s three offices, and the firm has had no more than 10 black lawyers since 1960. Robinson began working at Robinson Bradshaw in 2015 after two federal judicial clerkships, including a clerkship with Judge Damon Keith of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Cincinnati.

The law firm’s “claimed commitment to diversity and inclusion were blatant lies,” the suit alleges. “Robinson Bradshaw has only been faking the existence of a meaningful program to achieve diversity and inclusion in order to attract clients requiring such programs. In truth, Robinson Bradshaw secretly remains [a] ‘good ol’ boys club’ dominated by white male partners.” 

The suit claims that the firm’s misrepresentations amounted to fraud, and its discrimination against her violated Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act. She did not include any claims for violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, but her suit says there may be added claims if granted the right to sue by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. ...

Robinson is still employed with the law firm. According to the suit and her law firm bio, she was a teen mother who worked as a chemist before graduating as class valedictorian at North Carolina Central University. ...

Robinson says she was assigned work unevenly, excluded from case discussions, assigned grunt work, and excluded from social and marketing functions, including golf and sporting events. When she complained about work assignments, the suit says, “she was told to go to the partners and ‘smile’ and ask for work.”

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