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Davis Polk Accused of Racial Discrimination and Retaliation

Kaloma Cardwell has filed a lawsuit in New York federal court accusing the large law firm of retaliating against him after he brought forward a claim of racial discrimination. Specifically, Cardwell, a former associate, asserted that he was denied job assignments and then terminated following his complaint.

Cardwell began working for the firm in 2013 as a summer associate and was offered a full-time position following his graduation. He claims that he was the only black attorney in the firm’s 2014 class of over 120 new associates and only one of four black attorneys in the entire firm during his tenure. In the complaint, Cardwell cites Chambers Associate’s report from 2019 showing that only 1% of Davis Polk’s attorneys are black while 87% are white and 81% are male. Cardwell first complained when partners failed to look him in the eye while a summer associate, which was called “social awkwardness” by a partner. Cardwell was concerned about accepting employment at the firm after that but received assurances that he would have opportunities to advance. However, Cardwell alleges that after his hire he was left off of emails and excluded from meetings as he continued to complain about the bias. Cardwell asserts that the firm spent a year building a record of performance issues with him rather than investigate his claims. The performance issues were purportedly inconsistent with verbal feedback he received and were “vague.” Cardwell alleges that his termination came about one year after the managing partner threatened Cardwell would be “out of the game” if he did not stop complaining and six months after filing an EEOC Charge of Discrimination.

Davis Polk has issued a public statement and sent an email to its employees denying the charges in the lawsuit and asserts that it had a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for firing Cardwell.