Monday, November 30, 2009

Racism at Vernon Jordan's Law Firm: Akin Gump

The following document is pages 57-61 in the record on appeal in Freedman v. D.C. Department of Human Rights, D.C.C.A. no. 96-CV-961 (Sept. 1, 1998).  The pleading was included as an attachment to my Petition for Reconsideration filed with the D.C. Department of Human Rights. 

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

PATRICIA A. MCNEIL
7893 Patriot Drive
Annandale, Virginia 22003

Plaintiff,

v.

AKIN, GUMP, STRAUSS, HAUER & FELD
1333 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Defendant

CIVIL ACTION NO. 93-0477 -- JURY ACTION
JOYCE GREEN, J.

COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES

(Race Discrimination in Employment)
_________________________________________

1. This is a suit brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1984, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e at. seq., as amended. Plaintiff brings this action for redress of injuries sustained as a result of the defendant's unlawful conduct terminating her employment after 4 and 1/2 years because of her race.

2. Jurisdiction of this Court is invoked pursuant to 29 U.S.C. Sec. 626(c).

3. Venue in this district is appropriate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1391 because this cause of action arose in the District of Columbia.

PARTIES
________

4. Plaintiff, Patricia A. McNeil, is a citizen of the United States and a resident of the State of Virginia, residing at 7893 Patriot Drive, Annandale, Virginia 22003. Plaintiff is a black female.

5. The defendant, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, is a law firm with its principal offices at 1333 New Hampshire Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036 At all times relevant to this complaint, defendant was an employer within the meaning of federal law, engaged in an industry affecting commerce and employing more than 20 employees.

STATEMENT OF THE CLAIM
_______________

6. Plaintiff McNeil was hired by defendant on September 23, 1987, and continuously worked thereafter until her summary termination on April 9, 1992. She was employed as an on-line coder and her basic duties involved making data processing entries relating to litigation files.

7. During the 4 1/2 years that she worked for defendant, plaintiff was regularly rated on her performance reviews as meeting or exceeding job expectations.

8. On April 9, 1992, plaintiff was summarily terminated by the defendant for the stated reason that she refused to meet with a member of management. Plaintiff believes that the stated reason for discharging her was pretextual and that defendant's true motivation was race discrimination. In support of this claim, she offers the following evidence:

9. Plaintiff had not refused to meet with a member of management. Indeed, she had already met with that very member of management.

10. Plaintiff had not been previously disciplined by defendant. White employees were routinely given progressive discipline for work rule infractions prior to being discharged, except for the most serious offenses.

11. Plaintiff's immediate supervisor [Christine Robertson] engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against blacks, including engaging in offensive conduct such as telling racial jokes, making comments to the effect that blacks are perceived as not working as hard as white employees, are shiftless, lazy, incompetent; favoring white employees over black employees in work assignments, while generally avoiding black employees.

12. In July, 1991, Ms. Robertson called a meeting of three of the black employees under her supervision, including plaintiff, and asked them if they thought she was prejudiced against blacks. She explained that her black male receptionist had accused her of being prejudiced against blacks and she wanted to know whether they shared that view. All three employees responded in the affirmative and provided her the reasons they felt that way, giving her examples of the way she treated blacks differently than whites.

13. In March 1991, two black employees in the Litigation Support group in which plaintiff worked were laid off allegedly because of budget cuts. Within a very short period of time thereafter, their positions were filled by white employees. Plaintiff does not believe the black employees laid off were offered reinstatement to their former positions.

14. In August 1991, plaintiff informed Ms. Robertson that she had recently learned that she (plaintiff) was pregnant with her second child. Ms. Robertson responded that she did not understand why blacks have so many babies.

15. Plaintiff had a very difficult pregnancy and eventually lost her baby through a miscarriage. Although she had medical documentation supporting her request for eight weeks of maternity leave after the delivery, she was told by defendant's personnel administrator, Laurel Digweed, that she did not qualify for maternity leave because her baby died. Meanwhile, plaintiff had a terrible time coping with the emotional pain of losing her baby, in addition to the physical recovery from the miscarriage.

16. The incident leading up to plaintiff’s discharge commenced on April 7, 1992. Plaintiff was called in by Ms. Robertson and told that a coworker had complained that plaintiff was abusing the personal phone call privileges by taking too many personal calls and that she talked so loudly on these calls that she disrupted the work of other employees. Plaintiff denied engaging in such conduct and urged Ms. Robertson to check with other employees if she had any doubt about who was telling the truth on the matter. Plaintiff asked who it was who complained, and Ms. Robertson identified a white coworker by the name of Isabelle Schotz.

17. When Plaintiff returned to her work area, Ms. Schotz approached her and asked why she had a meeting with Ms. Robertson. Plaintiff told her it was confidential in nature and she did not want to talk about it.

18. On April 9, 1992, plaintiff was asked to meet with Laurel Digweed from Personnel. Ms. Digweed told plaintiff that she had been advised by Ms. Robertson that plaintiff had called Isabelle Schotz a "Jewish bitch" and that the two of them then got into a shoving and fighting match. Plaintiff denied calling Ms. Schotz any such name, or that she got into any kind of fight and suggested that Ms. Schotz be called to the office to clear the matter up, since plaintiff did not believe that she would fabricate such assertions in her presence. Ms. Digweed responded that Ms. Schotz had no reason to lie about the incident and that she would have to write plaintiff up for the incident and place the memo in her personnel file. Plaintiff continued to argue that this was not fair, and Ms. Digweed told her to "shut [her] god damn mouth up bitch." Plaintiff then left the office since she felt that she did not have to put up with that type of abuse.

19. A short time later, Ms. Digweed called plaintiff at her work area and instructed her to return to her office immediately. Plaintiff responded that she would agree to return to her office only if a third person were present because she would not put up with her abuse alone. Approximately at noon that same day, Ms. Digweed came to plaintiff's work area and informed her that she was being terminated for refusing to talk to management.

20. Plaintiff believes that the entire handling of this incident was discriminatory by Ms. Robertson and Ms. Digweed, in that their investigation of the incident did not comply with the firm's own procedures for investigating such matters between coworkers. Were it not for the discriminatory attitudes harbored by these two individuals toward blacks, plaintiff does not believe they would have taken the assertion of one employee against another without having conducted a thorough investigation to determine who was telling the truth.

21. Since her termination, plaintiff has been unable to find comparable work elsewhere. She has become depressed and anxious for her family and has had to seek medical attention for these symptoms.

22. Plaintiff timely filed a complaint of race discrimination with the Federal Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and has requested and received her private right to sue authorization. Plaintiff has satisfied all procedural and jurisdictional requirements for bringing this action.

CAUSE OF ACTION
___________

23. Paragraph 1 through 23 of the complaint are hereby incorporated by reference.

24. Defendant's summary termination of plaintiff was motivated in substantial part because of her race and as such constitutes a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended 29 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e et. seq.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF
_______________

WHEREFORE, the plaintiff prays that this Court:

1. Order the defendant to reinstate plaintiff immediately to her former duties, or, to a similar position with salary and seniority commensurate with the position she would have reached absent discrimination;

2. Order the defendant to make the plaintiff whole for all wages and benefits which the plaintiff lost as a result of the defendant's discriminatory conduct;

3. Grant the plaintiff her costs, including reasonable attorney's fees;

4. Grant to plaintiff pain and suffering damages which she sustained due to the job loss and the traumatic effect that has had on her personally and on her family;

5. Grant to the plaintiff such other and additional relief as may be appropriate.

JURY DEMAND
___________

The plaintiff demands a trial by jury as to all issues to which she is entitled by law.

THE PLAINTIFF

[signed]

By: James L. Kestell
1101 15th Street, NW
Suite 1010
Washington, D.C. 20005
(202) 296-7420
D.C. Bar No. 955 310

[Record on appeal at 57-61: Freedman v. D.C. Dept. Human Rights, D.C.C.A. 96-CV-961 (Sept. 1, 1998)]

2 comments:

Gary Freedman said...

Peculiarities:

1. I was terminated on October 29, 1991 by Dennis M. Race, Esq.; personnel administrator Laurel Digweed; and Litigation Support Administrator Chris Robertson according to a termination chart prepared by the firm. The firm, in effect, admitted that Race, Digweed, and Robertson cooperated in the termination decision.

2. McNeil, a coworker in Litigation Support, was terminated in April 1992.

3. Race and Hoffman file the firm's Response to Interrogatories in Freedman with the DC Dept. Human Rights on May 22, 1992 --omitting any reference to Chris Robertson. Chris Robertson's name is never mentioned in the firm's pleadings. The firm omits to mention that I had complained about Robertson to the firm's managers in late October 1991.

4. In 1993 the firm responds to the complaint in McNeil and denies that Robertson and Digweed colluded in the termination of McNeil. According to Akin Gump, the termination decision was that of Digweed alone. (McNeil had argued that Digweed and Robertson (a known racist) had colluded in McNeil's termination).

The U.S. Dist. Court entered summary judgment for the defendant law firm finding that the termination decision was that of Digweed alone (about whom there was no evidence of racial animus).

Gary Freedman said...

Vernon Jordan is associated with:

Lazard Freres (207.19.205.4)

United States New York, United States, 0 returning visits

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