When the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld was called upon to justify the termination of my employment, the firm told the District of Columbia Department of Human Rights that my work performance was not a factor in the termination decision.
In an interrogatory response filed with the Dept. of Human Rights dated May 22, 1992, Dennis M. Race, Esq. stated: "Respondent does not dispute that Claimant's written performance evaluations were very good. Claimant was a law school graduate performing paralegal or administrative duties. When terminated, he was told that his actual work product was not a problem." (Record on appeal at 139)
Again, in a response to additional interrogatories filed by the firm with the agency on May 18, 1993, Dennis Race stated: "As previously stated, Complainant's substantive performance, as reflected in his written evaluations, was not an issue in the ultimate decision to terminate."
Akin Gump's declarations about my performance evaluations contain several implicit assertions -- all of which are ludicrous!
Akin Gump seems to be implicitly stating the following: "Here at Akin Gump -- unlike about 99% of businesses -- we do not use an employee's performance evaluation as a vehicle to record instances of inappropriate or unprofessional behavior. Yes, Mr. Freedman's performance evaluations are outstanding; we admit that. But if Mr. Freedman was violent and disruptive, we would not have formally advised him of our concerns in his performance evaluations. Our policy is to record instances of inappropriate or unprofessional behavior only in reprimands. In fact, you can look through our personnel files and you will not find a single instance in which an Akin Gump employee's inappropriate or unprofessional behavior is recorded in an employee's performance evaluation. Mind you, we do record evidence of an employee's professionalism and good behavior in performance evaluations. That's why -- despite the fact that Mr. Freedman had a history of disruptive and violent behavior -- you will find only positive statements about his behavior and professionalism in his written performance evaluations."
Isn't that, in effect, what Akin Gump would have the world believe?
To invoke the immortal reply of General Anthony McAuliffe to the Nazis' demand that he surrender: "Nuts!"
Here is a transcript of the narrative portion of all my performance evaluations that were given to me at about the time they were prepared. See record on appeal at 291-293, Freedman v. D.C. Dept. Human Rights, D.C.C.A. no. 96-CV-961 (Sept. 1, 1998).
1. Year-end attorney evaluation: 1988; Constance Brown [no date]
Gary has the ability to identify and extract the smallest detail in a clear and efficient manner. He is dependable; works well independently and produces a neatly typed work product. Gary occasionally overlooks a coding form, leaving it intact with the original. Gary is extremely valuable because he came to us with the necessary experience, having performed such a task for another major client/law firm in the city.
[Suggestions for improving utilization of legal assistants at Akin Gump]: Well, maybe, opportunities to research and receive outside (courtroom, deposition) experience.
There is no task too much to ask of Gary. Gary began as a temporary; however, he worked very diligently and consistently (weekends and overtime) to reduce the coding backlog. I believe, because of past experience, Gary understood clearly the needs of Central Files; the categorizing, analyzing and use of standard terminology. He has a good sense of the big picture and works toward that goal. Gary realized that typing up summaries provide for easier reading and faster data entry. It is nice to have Gary around. He is always stable in the midst of other inconsistencies. I recommend that Gary receive due consideration for all his efforts and be offered a permanent position.
2. Mid-year attorney evaluation: 1989; Kathleen Winslow, 5/17/89[no narrative comments]
3. Mid-year attorney evaluation: 1989; John Potter, Esq., 5/14/89
Gary digested part of a deposition transcript for me. [Complainant was assigned to complete, and did complete, one transcript of a multi-part deposition.] Gary did not request a conference concerning his evaluation.
4. Mid-year attorney evaluation: 1989; Constance Brown, 5/19/89
Gary is dependable and is an invaluable asset when it comes to coding Eastern documents. He is always enthusiastic re coding which comes 99% of his time. Gary has worked extremely hard over the past few months, reducing weeks of backlog to absolutely nothing, at which time he was on loan to the Toxic Tort group and the Firm's legal assistant group. Because Gary is so persistent, he provides for smoother, more efficient searching and retrieval of critical information used for attorney briefings.
5. Year-end attorney evaluation: 1989; Constance Brown, 11/6/89
[During the immediate prior six-month period, in August 1989, paralegal Stacey Schaar said to me: "We're all afraid of you. We're all afraid you're going to buy a gun, bring it in, and shoot everybody. Even the manager of your apartment building is afraid of you." Stacey Schaar was terminated for gross misconduct in May 1990.]
Gary is well-organized, self-sufficient and knows the issues of the case. He is the only full-time permanent coder on the Eastern case. Although he spends 100% of his time coding, his actual contact with me is limited.
Gary is an invaluable, dedicated and highly motivated individual who takes pride in his work and seems to thrive on heavy volume. Gary recently trained and supervised five temporary coders who were brought in to expedite the coding of some 200,000 pages of document production. In doing so, he inspired the group who were always eager to work and adopted Gary's own sense of commitment to the case. It was Gary who had reservations about temporary help and suggested they only code standard information; and he prepare the detailed summary in order to preserve the integrity of the database. Also, Gary was instrumental in redesigning the document summary form to aid in more accurate coding and data entry of document production onto the Firm's network. Gary is as capable an conscientious in digesting depositions and hearing transcripts, always staying flexible and catering to individual needs. I appreciate the job that Gary has done and look forward to other projects with Gary's help.
6. Employee Review Evaluation--Litigation Support: May 1990, Chris Robertson/Constance Brown, 6/11/90
[The reader should keep in mind that I was transferred to the Litigation Support Group from the Legal Assistant Program two months earlier, in March 1990, the time period covered by this performance evaluation. Akin Gump offered the following declaration in its interrogatory response filed with the D.C. Department of Human Rights, filed May 22, 1992: "During his transition from a legal assistant position (paralegal) to his work with the litigation support department [in March 1990], Claimant had several discussions with his direct supervisor (Robertson) about problems with interacting with co-workers and occasional outbursts." Record on appeal at 139.]
Gary has picked up the basics of on-line coding with very minimal instructions. With additional experience, he should adapt better to the software techniques. Always mindful of quality control, which aids in more efficient data entry. Relentless, thriving on huge volume while maintaining a good end product. Totally independent, self-sustaining and committed to his work. Extremely solid and aiming to please. I trust Gary's ability to meet whatever the demand with little guidance. Gary is receptive no matter what the task and takes every assignment seriously. Even at times when material has to be redone because of GPE's. Great pressure buffer. I can be at ease knowing Gary will prevail. Gary seems to find those small mistakes which are not obvious to the average eye. Well-tuned, good analytical eye for detail. He can turn any combination of words into a statement. [AREAS IN WHICH MOST CAPABLE]: His dedication to consistency and detail, eager attitude and independent nature. [AREAS OF SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT]: Working directly with the computer. [AREAS NEEDING IMPROVEMENT]: Adapting to the software environment, being aware of its characteristics and sensitivities and distinguishing those traits which are unique to each base. Of course, with time, this atmosphere will be more evident.
7. Employee review evaluation -- Litigation Support: October 1990, Chris Robertson, 11/20/90
[QUALITY OF WORK]: Outstanding! [QUANTITY OF WORK]: Gary is a self-starter in all respects. He is both thorough and accurate in his work. [DEPENDABILITY/RESPONSIBILITY] Gary is the soul of dependability and responsibility. [WRITING ABILITY] This is Gary's strong suit. Outstanding work! [AREAS MOST CAPABLE]: Gary's coding/summarizing is excellent! He pays attention to detail and is extremely thorough. He has outstanding writing/grammatical skills. He is a self-starter and thoroughly dependable. [AREAS OF SIGNIFICANT IMPORVEMENT] Gary has shown an aptitude for docket summaries. He is particularly suited to this task and has taken on more responsibilities in this area. [AREAS NEDING IMPROVEMENT]: [None noted by supervisor].
8. Employee review evaluation--Litigation Support: May 1991, Chris Robertson [not dated]
[Note that I was moved to the Litigation Support Group's terrace level office suite (in the basement) effective Monday April 8, 1991. At the time of this evaluation I had been working in a group setting with other litigation support personnel on a daily basis for at least four weeks. Akin Gump made the following declaration in its interrogatory response filed May 22, 1992 with the D.C. Department of Human Rights: "In the course of questioning Claimant's supervisor, former supervisor and co-workers, it was even more evident that Claimant had emotional problems which adversely effected his work and his co-workers. Claimant was uncomfortable communicating with his peers and required work that ensured total isolation. During the investigation of his concerns, it was also brought out that his behavior had been disruptive, with occasional violent outbursts, frightening to co-workers."
If my behavior did in fact deteriorate, it had to have been after May 1991 when this performance evaluation was written. Note that Robert S. Strauss, Esq. was nominated to the post of U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union in early June 1991 (immediately after this evaluation); Mr. Strauss withdrew from the partnership in August 1991. Query: Did my behavior deteriorate beginning in June 1991, or did my working conditions deteriorate beginning in June 1991 when my employment with the firm may have seemed vulnerable to certain employees?]
Gary's on-line coding is superior. He is flexible and can turn his attention to several cases at once and retain the necessary [illegible] for each one flawlessly. [QUALITY OF WORK]: Consistent, detail oriented. Excellent! [DEPENDABILITY/RELIABILITY]: Gary is a model employee in this regard. Always know he can be relied upon to complete a project with no supervision, and it will be done accurately and efficiently.
[Akin Gump declared in its interrogatory response filed with the D.C. Department of Human Rights on May 22, 1992 that I was "difficult to supervise." Not only was Akin Gump unable to cite any specific evidence to support its declaration, but my direct supervisor directly contradicted the firm's declaration in May 1991 (see above), five months prior to the termination in October 1991.]
[PROFESSIONALISM]: Gary's interaction within Lit Support has improved considerably. He is more communicative and personable -- a team player.
[Note that from October 1989 to April 5, 1991 I was assigned to a group office on the firm's ninth floor; on the ninth floor I worked adjacent to a temporary paralegal named Ozie Jamison. Prior to April 5, 1991 I would have had little occasion to interact with Litigation Support employees on the firm's terrace level (basement).]
[ATTITUDE]: Gary maintains a positive, helpful attitude even through crisis periods.
[Here, my supervisor admits that I handle stressful situations in a group environment effectively.]
[PUNCTUALITY]: Exceptional! [GRAMMATICAL SKILLS]: Gary has excellent English Skills. [WRITING ABILITY]: Gary's forte! He is unsurpassed in this category. [AREAS MOST CAPABLE]: Gary seems as close to the perfect employee as it is possible to get! A self-starter--he works efficiently and consistently enjoying maximum productivity on a daily basis. He is reliable, hard working and extremely responsible. [AREAS OF SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT: Gary has recently moved down to the terrace level and has truly become a part of the Lit Support team after being isolated on the ninth floor. He is both communicative and personable and has made the adjustment well. [AREAS NEEDING IMPROVEMENT]: None!