The global law firm, Jones Day, is currently embroiled in a gender and discrimination class action lawsuit brought by former associates against the firm. The former associates, all of whom are women, allege various instances of discrimination which the firm vigorously denies. It is alleged in the suit that Jones Day maintained a discriminatory parental leave policy, a gendered pay scale system, and altered female associates’ profile photographs on its website to make them look more attractive.
One of the more novel issues presented in the case is whether, in employment discrimination cases, members of the class should be permitted to join the suit anonymously to prevent public backlash, retaliatory conduct, and reputational harm.
Currently, federal law generally requires plaintiffs in an action to file publicly, which means they must disclose their identities. This remains the case even in sexual harassment or retaliation cases, because the available legal justifications for filing under a pseudonym are limited to severe cases of physical danger, reputational or psychological harm. As Jones Day was quick to point this out in its opposition to a Plaintiff’s anonymity request, allowing a plaintiff to proceed under a pseudonym is a “rare dispensation” and must outweigh the fairness to the opposing party.