Chicago Firm Learns the Price of Dodging Discovery

By Laura Temme, Esq. on August 02, 2019

After three years of getting the run-around from her former employer, a Chicago-based immigration attorney was recently awarded $229,498 in a default judgment based on her claim of pregnancy discrimination. U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer presided over the case and did not mince words when it came to condemning the defendant law firm’s foot-dragging in discovery.

“Sir, your client has amply earned a default order,” Judge Pallmeyer said in a hearing on February 7, 2019. “[T]his kind of behavior with respect to discovery is wholly unacceptable.”

A Less-Than-Decent Proposal

Attorney Jessica Hernandez said the trouble started when she disclosed her pregnancy in May 2016 to the name partner of her firm, Matthew Katz. Katz reportedly suggested that rather than return to her full-time position as an associate after giving birth, Hernandez could switch to a contract position and reapply for full-time after maternity leave. Hernandez, wishing to stay on as a full-time, salaried associate, told Katz that arrangement was not acceptable.

She was fired from the Katz Law Office the very same day.

You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

After Hernandez filed a claim for pregnancy discrimination in 2017, Judge Pallmeyer entered not one – but two – default judgments against Katz Law Office for taking its sweet time on discovery responses.

At the February 7th hearing, counsel for Katz Law Office argued that the problem could have been solved through reminder emails or phone calls. However, Judge Pallmeyer wasn’t buying it, pointing out that despite a court order the firm had failed to communicate with Hernandez and had not begun forensic examination.

Judge Pallmeyer went on to say that not only was a default judgement warranted, but requests to be more forgiving toward Katz Law Office were “particularly difficult to stomach” when the firm had previously “ducked service” for three months.

The court entered its judgment in favor of Hernandez on July 3, 2019, just a few months shy of three years since she filed her complaint. Matthew Katz has since retired from practicing law, while Hernandez has opened her own immigration and family law firm.

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