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Summer intern sues law firm over rescinded job offer

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

Sometimes, the employee not hired is the one who causes the most legal trouble. A San Francisco law firm is facing a discrimination lawsuit after it declined to hire a young lawyer who had interned there.

The law firm of Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin has been sued by Sarah Martinez, who served as a summer associate three years ago. Her suit alleges that Howard Rice discriminated against her on the basis of gender, national origin and race when it decided to defer and later rescind her associate contract.

Law students who serve in summer associate programs are typically on the hiring fast track for associate positions at the firms where they interned.

Martinez, who is of Mexican ancestry, worked at Howard Rice as a summer associate in 2007. The firm later offered her a full-time associate position starting in 2008, and she accepted. Then the firm notified Martinez that it was deferring her position until 2009. In lieu of hiring her, the firm offered her a stipend, which Martinez accepted. Such deferments have become common nationwide, as law firms struggle to retain clients (and billable hours) during the economic downturn.

Finally in 2009, Howard Rice revoked its offer of employment to Martinez, claiming the firm “did not have the resources to hire anyone in the foreseeable future.”

Martinez filed her discrimination lawsuit when she allegedly discovered that Howard Rice had all along been recruiting male associates not of Mexican descent.

Her lawsuit claims Howard Rice violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act when it revoked her job offer.

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