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Judge rejects age bias complaint against law firm


NEW YORK—A former partner at Holland & Knight L.L.C. does not have standing to accuse the law firm of age bias, a New York Supreme Court judge has ruled.

In a lawsuit filed in 2007, John K. Weir accused the powerhouse law firm of pressuring him to resign shortly after he turned 55 in 2002, a violation of city and state laws in New York as well as federal employment laws.

However, a state Supreme Court judge ruled last week that that the anti-discrimination protection extends only to employees, not to partners.

“Mr. Weir does not dispute that, under the partnership agreement, he had the right to elect the managing partner and directors committee and, indeed, was eligible for election to such positions,” state Supreme Court Judge Marcy Freidman wrote in her decision.

“Mr. Weir also does not dispute that he had the right to participate in the firm’s governance, was not subject to expulsion without a 70% vote of the directors committee and was entitled to share in the profits of the firm,” Judge Freidman wrote in her decision, noting that state and city anti-discrimination laws apply only to employees. “Such rights have been held to support the finding that a partner…is not an employee for purposes of the anti-discrimination law.”

Mr. Weir had argued that he qualified to be an employee in that he had never held a managing partner position and frequently was given instructions by higher-ranking partners.

As he was being pressured to leave the firm, Mr. Weir logged an age discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, for which he alleges the company retaliated by abruptly terminating his partnership.

According to court documents, he elected to pursue legal action after the EEOC declined to pursue investigation of the matter in 2003 and a federal judge barred his claim against the firm for violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired.