Wilkinson Stekloff Secures Victory in Pro Bono Employment Discrimination Case

Washington, D.C. — Wilkinson Stekloff associate Amelia Frenkel helped secure victory in a pro bono case challenging alleged employment discrimination by the U.S. State Department. Frenkel was appointed by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to argue on behalf of a pro se litigant who challenged employment decisions on disparate treatment and impact bases but had lost on summary judgment.

On behalf of Richard Figueroa, a foreign service officer in the State Department who alleged employment discrimination in promotions, Frenkel and Wilkinson Stekloff partner James Rosenthal successfully argued that the United States District Court for the District of Columbia had misapplied the McDonnell Douglas framework, a three-step process to help employees make their cases for employment discrimination.

After “thank[ing] Rosenthal and Frenkel for ably discharging their duties” in court, Circuit Judges Henderson and Wilkins and Senior Circuit Judge Edwards ordered that “the District Court misapplied the second step of the McDonnell Douglas framework” and remanded the case for further proceedings.

The order also clarifies D.C. Circuit law on disparate treatment claims, potentially establishing a major precedent going forward in employment discrimination cases. The victory comes on the heels of Wilkinson Stekloff being shortlisted by Chambers & Partners for its “Pro Bono Program of the Year” award.