Laid Off Legal Secretary Fights Back With Laundry List of Discrimination Charges

Lawsuit 'Nelson v. Jones Day,' filed by black former secretary Jacki Nelson against prestigious law firm Jones Day, is bound to rock the legal world as well as organizations focused on possible discrimination and abuse in the workplace.

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'Nelson v. Jones Day' could make the lawsuit filed by legal secretary Denise Fitzhenry, who tripped and was injured when wearing office-mandated high heels, seem tame. That now infamous lawsuit by Fitzhenry is against Michigan law firm Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn. After all, Fitzhenry's allegations do not contain complaints about racial and ethnic discrimination and sexual harassment.

What Nelson contends covers a broad range of taboo and perhaps illegal behaviors in the workplace. As legal tabloid reports, Nelson had been employed at the Jones Day Los Angeles office from November 1992 until June 2010. During a reduction in force last June, she lost her job, which she claims, constituted the employer's efforts to eliminate minorities and troublemakers. Of the nine staff members terminated, seven were minorities. They included two Hispanics, two blacks, and three Filipinos.

Nelson's other allegations include racial and ethnic slurs, inappropriate staring at female private parts by Frederick McKnight, a Jones Day partner in charge of the L.A. office, an environment in which inappropriate sexual talk and activity were standard and tolerated, and infliction of emotional distress.

Here is an excerpt from the complaint:

"... Plaintiff is informed and believes that McKnight himself loudly proclaimed once that A n____ger robbed me! when discussing a situation in which he was allegedly robbed."

Nelson noted that she did initially bring her concerns about Jones Day to internal channels. However, they were not addressed. She believes her termination was a type of retaliation for reporting what she perceived as wrongdoing, adding a whistleblower's subtext to the overall complaint.

Jane Genova


Jane Genova began focusing on transitions when the academic market collapsed as she was writing her dissertation in linguistics and literature at the University of Michigan.  After re-establishing herself in the public relations industry, she gradually published on the subject.  Her first piece was on The Professional Woman in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.  Since then, she co-authored the book THE CRITICAL 14 YEARS OF YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE and myriad e-books and articles on career subjects ranging from emotional intelligence to aging.  In the 1980s she attempted another change by attending Harvard Law School.  She didn’t complete the degree but channeled that experience into maintaining a legal blog [] housed at the Library of Congress.

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