Taking a Menopause Jab at Opposing Counsel: A Definite “Don’t”

A U.S. District Court judge was unamused by a jab an attorney made at opposing counsel during litigation this past March. After a female attorney complained about the temperature in a room where 16 attorneys were participating in a deposition, a male attorney remarked aloud, “You’re not getting menopause, I hope.” After a motion for sanctions was filed against the attorney who made the offensive remark, the judge expressed his negative view of the offending attorney’s conduct.

The judge called the attorney‘s comment “discriminatory in nature.”

“Because menopause occurs only in women, and predominantly in middle-aged women…a comment suggesting that a woman may be menopausal singles her out on the basis of gender and age.”

The judge ruled that the attorney’s statement was a violation of ABA Model Rule 4.4 (Respect for Rights of Third Persons). “The public nature of [the male attorney’s] comment combined with the personal and private nature of menopause leads the Court to conclude that the comment was made to embarrass [the female attorney] and was not intended to serve any other purpose.”

Attempts to ridicule opposing counsel are unfortunately nothing new in the legal profession. Citing a 2015 ABA report, the judge noted that “inappropriate or stereotypical comments” made by opposing counsel are one cause for the under-representation of women in lead trial attorney roles.

Accordingly, the court decided that the violating attorney was to pay his opposing counsel’s reasonable attorneys’ fees of $1,000 for bringing the motion and complete a continuing legal education course on professional conduct.

For more information click here. To read the full opinion click here.

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