Woman claims sexual harassment was behind firing from high-profile law firm
Paralegal says law firm has bias against women, pregnancies
SALT LAKE CITY — A paralegal who is suing a well-known Utah law firm for sexual harassment before and during her pregnancy will get her day in court.
Jeanne Marshall claims in a federal lawsuit that attorneys at Siegfried & Jensen, including founding partner Ned Siegfried, routinely referred to women employees using derogatory and vulgar words, including calling them "hoes." When confronted by a woman with whom he had a difference of opinion, Seigfried said she "had her tampon on sideways" or that "it must be that time of the month," according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
Furthermore, in her suit Marshall says the firm has a bias against pregnant women in the office with regard to work hours, job assignments and employment status. A majority of the women who became pregnant, the suit says, either were fired or quit.
Marshall claims her direct supervisor, attorney Gary Ferguson, became irritated when he learned in December 2007 she was pregnant with twins. She had complications one month later and lost one of the babies. Marshall returned to work after a five-week disability leave only to be fired in February 2008, she claims in the suit.
A personal injury law firm, Siegfried & Jensen advertises extensively on television, billboards and telephone books. The firm is involved in the community with various civic projects and charitable organizations. It is a sponsor of the Utah Open golf tournament, Tour of Utah bicycle race and Real Salt Lake soccer. It also frequently contributes to political action committees and candidates.
Siegfried & Jensen has denied Marshall's allegations in a written response to the complaint, asking the court to dismiss it.
Marshall seeks general and punitive damages, payment of legal fees and back and future pay.
According to the suit, Ferguson complained that Marshall was fired as a result of being pregnant, though her work product was good and she didn't miss any days of work. He encouraged her to get an abortion and showed her a section of the Utah Code regarding abortion. He also told her she should divorce her husband, the lawsuit states. Ferguson no longer works at Siegfried & Jensen.
Siegfried told Marshall's attorney he considered her to be a "toxic" and disruptive employee who brought "a chill" into the room when she entered, according to the suit. He also said he had determined that she and a few others, including four attorneys, "had to go." When her attorney asked Siegried whether Marshall would be allowed to return to work, Siegfried shook his head and replied, "Only if she were to get a personality-ectomy."
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