Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Social Security Administration: Initial Claim for Benefits

In April 1993 I applied for Social Security Disability benefits. To support my claim that I had been determined to be disabled as of October 29, 1991 I submitted to Social Security the following two documents prepared by my former employer, the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, and filed by the firm on May 22, 1992 in connection with the unlawful job termination complaint I had filed with the D.C. Department of Human Rights and Minority Business Development.

In August 1993 Social Security advised me that it had determined that I was disabled and entitled to disability benefits effective October 29, 1991, the date of my job termination by Akin Gump.


All of the pleadings filed pursuant to the Department of Human Rights Complaint and subsequent D.C. Court of Appeals litigation can be found at the following site:

http://dailstrug.blogspot.com/2011/03/freedman-v-dc-dept-human-rights-docket.html

DOCUMENT I:

Akin Gump Response to Interrogatories and Document Request

ATTACHMENT A: RESPONSE TO PARTICULARS

Introductory Position Statement and Chronology

Claimant, Gary Freedman, was initially employed by Respondent law firm, Akin, Gump, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P. as a temporary employee for a specific project (See Attachment B). Later Claimant was employed as a full-time legal assistant ("paralegal") to manage massive amounts of documents for a major client (See Attachment C). Shortly thereafter, the client filed for bankruptcy protection and eventually the legal work diminished. In an attempt to find comparable work for the Claimant, a decision was made to transfer him to the Litigation Support Department. Because Claimant preferred to work in isolation, Respondent attempted to accommodate him -- and did so until work and space constraints became a problem (See Attachment D).

On October 23, 1991, Claimant approached Earl Segal, the partner in charge of the legal assistants, and stated that he was being harassed on sexual and religious bases. Claimant's concerns were communicated to a Managing Partner, Malcolm Lassman, who instructed Mr. Segal to memorialize his conversation with Claimant (See Attachment E). Thereafter, Mr. Lassman and another partner Dennis Race, met with claimant to discuss his concerns. Although Claimant stated that he felt he was continually harassed by fellow workers, his contentions lacked substance. When questioned for examples of sexual harassment, he conveyed such things as the following:

--An attorney once used the word "sweet" while pouring a cup of coffee from a coffee machine;

--While with a group of co-workers one female employee stated "I bet you have a sexy chest";

--One evening after business hours, an attorney got on the elevator with him and paced back and forth, looking at Claimant but saying nothing;

--Co-workers in the litigation support group were "trying to make him nervous";

--a female co-worker stood by him swinging her hips so as to provoke him; and

--a male co-worker had his eyes fixed to Claimant's genital area.

Claimant also mentioned several phrases which he felt were anti-Semitic: one employee referring to a July bill with emphasis as if to mean "Jew-lie" and thereafter was heard singing "liar, liar, pants on fire"; the group's mascot was a pig . . . which symbolized pork; and once a back employee was heard to use a Yiddish term.

When asked whether these or any of the incidents he mentioned had a direct impact on him or his employment with Respondent, Claimant answered that they did not. From the onset, Claimant's concerns appeared to be more emotional or psychological than employment related and it was suggested by Messrs. Lassman and Race that he seek counseling from Respondent's outside resource group, the Employee Assistance Program ("EAP"). Nevertheless, Messrs. Lassman and Race agreed to investigate Claimant's charges that he was being harassed by co-workers.

In the course of questioning Claimant’s supervisor, former supervisor and co-workers, it was even more evident that the Claimant had emotional problems which adversely affected 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, and frightening to co-workers.

Because of the emotional and psycyological nature of Mr. Freedman's complaints and those lodged against him, Messrs. Lassman and Race also sought professional guidance from two outside consultants: (1) a representation from the Employee Assistance Program; and (2) a practicing psychiatrist. The two professionals advised that Claimant should seek counseling and did not oppose respondent's recommendation to terminate Claimant. One of them identified Claimant's habit of putting a negative meaning to virtually every event as "ideas of reference" and cautioned that individuals in similar circumstances may become violent. (See Attachment F).

After deliberating with Claimant's supervisor and other members of Respondent’s Management Committee, the decision was made to terminate Claimant.

Response to Particulars

1. In June 1988, Claimant, Gary Freedman, was employed on a temporary basis for a specific assignment. On August 1, 1989, claimant was hired as a legal assistant. Claimant was terminated on October 29, 1991.

2. On October 29, 1991, one of Respondent's partners, Dennis Race, the Litigation Support Administrator, Christine Robertson and the Personnel Administrator, Laurel Digweed, met with Claimant and informed him of his termination and the reasons behind the decision. Claimant was informed that the law firm did not have a position (similar to his job tasks for client, Eastern Airlines) which allowed Claimant to work alone and isolated from other employees. He was also told that it was clear that he could not function in a group setting (he could not work with or in close proximity to other legal assistants or litigation support personnel). Claimant had openly admitted that he had difficulties interacting with co-workers and requested virtual isolation. He was informed that although Respondent tried to accommodate him, there was no longer work (or space) available to suit him. He was also informed that his behavior with co-workers was a problem. Claimant was specifically told the complaints which he raised about employee harassment were deemed baseless as proof of sexual or religious harassment. Claimant himself admitted that none of his claims of harassment had a direct impact on him or his employment with Respondent. In addition, he was told that during the course of the investigation of his harassment claims, Messrs. Lassman and Race were apprised of several employees’ complaints and concerns about the Claimant's behavior and overall conduct which was detrimental to the firm.

Respondent denies that discrimination of any nature was a factor in the ultimate decision to terminate Claimant. His behavior was described by several employees, including his direct supervisor as bizarre: he demanded isolation; he was volatile; and he frightened many of his co-workers.

3. A. 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. During his transition from a legal assistant position (paralegal) to his work with the litigation support department, Claimant had several discussions with his direct supervisor about problems with interacting with co-workers and occasional outbursts (See Attachment 4).

B. Until the filing of this Charge, the subject of Claimant's sexual orientation was never brought up by Claimant or anyone involved directly or indirectly with Claimant's employment. While Claimant raised concerns about sexual and religious harassment, he never stated that it was based on his sexual orientation -- nor was it ever interpreted as such by anyone involved in this matter.

C. Claimant was told that "there did not appear to be a good fit" because of his demand for isolation; (2) his difficulty working with or near other employees; (3) his violent behavior; and (4) his paranoia. Claimant's sexual orientation was not an issue.

D. Claimant never complained of discrimination treatment based on sexual orientation.

Respondent contends that Claimant was terminated for good cause, nondiscriminatory reasons. Claimant's sexual orientation was not a factor or even known by those involved in any stage of the decision process. Respondent denies any violation of law.

[record on appeal at 135-140, Freedman v. D.C. Dept. Human Rights, D.C.C.A. No. 96-CV-961 (Sept. 1, 1998)]

RESPONSE TO DOCUMENT REQUEST

1.  Claimant's written performance reviews are appended as Attachment G.

2.  Respondent's termination chart is appended as Attachment H.

Respectfully submitted,

Laurence J. Hoffman
Dennis M. Race
AKIN, GUMP, HAUER & FELD, L.L.P.
1333 New Hampshire Ave., N.W.
Suite 400
Washington, D.C.  20036
(202) 887-4030

Dated: May 22, 1992

CERTIFICATION

I certify that all of the foregoing statements made in these responses are true.  I am aware that if any of the foregoing statements are wilfully false, I am subject to punishment.

___________________
Laurence J. Hoffman

Subscribed and sworn to before me
this 22nd day of May, 1992.

Diane Elisa Swanson
_________________
Notary Public

My Commission Expires February 14, 1994

DOCUMENT II:

MEMORANDUM

TO: File
FROM: Dennis M. Race [initialed DMR]
DATE: October 29, 1991 CONFIDENTIAL
RE: Gary Freedman

__________________________________________

In the course of investigating Gary's complaints about working conditions (none of which, by his own admission, involved activity or conduct which had a direct impact on him), I concluded that Gary's inability to work or interrelate with others is a substantial problem for the firm. There is only so much work that can be done without any interaction among our staff (which is what he requests) and his continued presence in the firm has been extremely disruptive. Reported outbursts and arguably bizarre behavior have made it uncomfortable and sometimes disruptive for many of his co-workers -- some of whom have voiced fear in working with or nearby him. In addition he is very difficult to supervise.

Malcolm Lassman and I have also discussed this matter, including Gary's work habits (as well as his habit of putting negative meanings to even trivial events i.e., "ideas of reference") with two outside consultants and both concurred that termination was the sound approach to take. One outside consultant also cautioned about the possibility of violence.

Accordingly, on the basis of disruptive work habits, unusual behavior and discussions with outside consultants, I believe that termination is warranted. Indeed, to do otherwise may prove to be negligent. I have discussed this with representatives of the Management Committee and our Administrative Staff and everyone concurs.

Gary will be given an additional two weeks severance (a total of four weeks) not only to cover extra time to look for alternative work but also to help cover insurance costs which will be borne directly by him upon leaving the firm.

8 comments:

Gary Freedman said...

Sheppard Pratt Preferred Resources, Inc.

July 14, 1993

Gary Freedman
3801 Connecticut Avenue, NW
#136
Washington, DC 20008

Dear Mr. Freedman

This letter is in response to your recent inquiry about your case file.

With regard to your question concerning EAP consultation with Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld:

We have no record of contact concerning you with either Dennis Race or Malcolm Lassman.

With regard to your question about Sheppard Pratt EAP's role in providing consultation to employers regarding employees whose job performance is affected by personal problems (attendance, quality/quantity of work or workplace conduct):

When an employer calls to discuss a troubled employee, we inquire about the history of documentation to determine if the employee's problem is chronic or in early stages. If the employer hasn't documented any earlier problem we suggest a statement of concern and an informal referral to the EAP. This can often prevent the problems from intensifying if the client follows up with recommendations. If the problem is chronic and there is documentation of a pattern of behavior impacting on job performance over a long period of time, we recommend a formal referral to the EAP. The purpose is to provide confidential intervention/support or accommodation to the problem which if addressed could ultimately lead to termination.

We do not tell employers to terminate employees. If an employer has months of documentation and has followed internal disciplinary procedures, i.e., providing verbal, written and suspension as counseling techniques it is the company's decision to fire for cause. Generally, employers do not call to ask EAP advice about terminating employees. They may call us to inform us about their decision if they know the employee was referred to the EAP, yet the performance problems continued over a long period of time. If we do not oppose the decision, this does not imply that we concur in the decision to terminate the employee.

Sincerely,

Suzanne Reynolds, M.A., CEAP
Assistant Director
Director -- Washington Operations
Employee Assistance Programs

SR/ab

record on appeal at 63-64

Gary Freedman said...

Gertrude R. Ticho, M.D.
3120 Brandywine Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
_____

Telephone: 202-244-2113

July 4, 1993

Dear Mr. Freedman,

When you called me on the morning of July 2, 1993 you asked me two questions, which I promised to answer in writing.

1.) I never met, nor have I ever spoken to a Mr. Dennis R. Rice [sic].

2.) I do not know your identity, Mr. Gary Freedman nor have I ever seen you for a diagnostic evaluation.

Sincerely,

Gertrude R. Ticho, M.D.

[Record on appeal at 62, Freedman v. D.C. Dept. Human Rights, D.C.C.A. 96-CV-961 (Sept. 1, 1998)]

Gary Freedman said...

In November 1989, my then supervisor at Akin Gump, Constance Brown, wrote the following about me:

"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. In was Gary who had reservations about temporary help and suggested they only code standard information; and he prepared the detailed summary in order to protect the integrity of the database. Also, Gary was instrumental in redesigning the document summary form to aid in more accurate coding an data entry of document production onto the Firm's network. Gary is as capable and 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. Constance M. Brown 11/6/89" Freedman v. D.C. Dept. Human Rights, record at 310.

Gary Freedman said...

On the evening of July 1, 1993 I spoke by telephone with a former Akin Gump coworker, Patricia McNeil. Summarized below are selected, material comments made by Pat McNeil. I supplied a copy of the tape recording of the phone call to the DC Corporation Counsel, the U.S. Secret Service, and the D.C. Police (Second District, Officer J.E. Williams, Badge 1226).

1. I thought you were a very professional person, a quiet person, who stayed to himself. I respected that. Some people are just not people-oriented.

2. I never thought you were a violent person.

3. [Noting that I posted therapists' appointment cards at my desk:] I heard people say, "He must be crazy, he's always going to a psychiatrist."

4. [Quoting comments by another coworker, Carletta Diggins, concerning my termination:] Carletta said, "I wonder what they did to Gary? Gary was such a nice person. He was really a quiet person. He didn't bother anyone." I told Carletta, "as good of a person as Gary is -- his work speaks for itself, it couldn't have been his work -- what did he do?" She said, "I don't know, Pat."

5. [States facetiously:] All of a sudden you became this crazy person. When you were hired you weren't crazy. When do you think you became crazy?

6. [Concerning Dennis Race's investigation of my allegation of harassment:] Dennis Race didn't question anybody in the Department. He never talked to me. If he did an investigation, wouldn't you think that he'd have talked to various ones in the Department? I don't know of anyone in the Department he talked to. Maybe he only talked to selected people Chris Robertson picked, Chris' favorites. [Note that Pat McNeil's conjecture suggests a violation by my supervisor, Chris Robertson, of D.C. Code sec. 1-2525(b), prohibiting the aiding or abetting of retaliation.]

7. All I know is that Chris said, "You all know that Gary is gone. And they're coming to change the locks, because we're afraid Gary may come back and he may try to kill me." I never pictured you to be a person who would do something like that.

8. Lutheria Harrison and Sherri Ann Patrick were promoted to paralegals. [Lutheria Harrison and Sherri Ann Patrick fit in the category of "Chris Robertson's favorites."]

Freedman v. D.C. Dept. of Human Rights, Record at 41.

Gary Freedman said...

In March 1996 I advised the D.C. Superior Court and the D.C. Corporation Counsel that I possessed tape recordings of telephone conversations in which Dr. Ticho denied talking to Dennis Race or anyone at Akin Gump; in which Sheppard Pratt (Alana Baptiste, Esq.) denied speaking with Akin Gump and stated about Akin Gump's allegation of a communication with Sheppard Pratt prior to my job termination: "That just sounds so fabricated."

I provided the MPDC (J.E. Williams, 2d Dist.) a copy of those tapes in April 2004.

Gary Freedman said...

Letter to D.C. Superior Court Judge regarding nonrecord evidence that Akin Gump engaged in fraud:

http://dailstrug.blogspot.com/2011/06/akin-gump-what-was-dc-corporation.html

Gary Freedman said...

The Response to Interrogatories was signed by Laurence J. Hoffman, Esq., managing partner, Akin Gump

Gary Freedman said...

The complete administrative and court docket in Freedman v. D.C. Department of Human Rights can be found at the following site:


http://dailstrug.blogspot.com/2011/03/freedman-v-dc-dept-human-rights-docket.html