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:
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.
Laurence J. Hoffman
Dennis M. Race
AKIN, GUMP, HAUER & FELD, L.L.P.
1333 New Hampshire Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036
Dated: May 22, 1992
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
My Commission Expires February 14, 1994
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.