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Ray v. Gray - Firm Jabs Back in Race Discrimination Lawsuit

By William Peacock, Esq. on April 17, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As the nearly two-year-old lawsuit reaches the summary judgment stage, more details about the inflammatory accusations made by John Ray III against BigLaw firm Ropes & Gray, as well as the firm’s defense, are being made public, and at this point in the proceedings, it’s not looking great for Mr. Ray.

Previous reporting by Above The Law brought us the Ray’s story. The ninth-year associate was let go after the firm reportedly felt that his work was well below partnership standards. They also stated that his “fractured relationships with colleagues” and “inappropriate behavior” with subordinates contributed to the decision. That inappropriate behavior allegedly included sleeping with a paralegal.

Ray, on the other hand, accused the firm of treating him, and explicitly asking him to be, their "token black associate" during meetings with clients. He alleged that when he complained about the "token" comment and a "n****r" joke, the firm retaliated by cutting his work, and eventually, cutting him.

Allegedly, the firm deactivated his key card in May 2009 and also reneged on an offer for a letter of recommendation after he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The new details, courtesy of the ABA Journal, come from Ropes' motion for summary judgment. They allege that they made the decision to let him go, based on the above reasons, in December 2008, but allowed him to continue calling himself a Ropes associate for the following six months while he continued looking for work.

The firm's argument is this: since he had been effectively fired in December 2008, there was no way they could have retaliated in May 2009 for his "groundless" EEOC claim. They also kept their promise to pay him through June.

As for the letter of recommendation, the firm admits that their partner reneged on the offer, as he could not write a letter of recommendation to someone who had filed "a groundless claim for [his] own personal benefit."

The firm also argues that, based on the timing and the effort to secure an $8.5 million settlement before the EEOC claim was filed, "the inference that plaintiff's discrimination case was a post-hoc invention aimed a securing a large sum of money from Ropes & Gray follows inescapably."

Ironically enough, even with the firm's P.R. nightmare of a suit, they were recognized last year as the second most diverse law firm, according to Vault.

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