In September 1992 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a psychotic mental illness, by Napoleon Cuenco, M.D., at the George Washington University Medical Center Department of Psychiatry. In his initial assessment Dr. Cuenco noted that I exhibited the mood-congruent psychotic features of loose associations and flights of ideas.
In January 1993 I wrote the following pleading, filed with the D.C. Department of Human Rights in an unlawful job termination complaint against my former employer, the D.C. law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. According to GW I was an unmedicated psychotic at the time I wrote the following pleading.
My then-treating psychiatrist, Suzanne M. Pitts, M.D., prescribed lithium for bipolar disorder, later in January 1993.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND
MINORITY BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
In the Matter of:
GARY FREEDMAN, COMPLAINANT
AKIN, GUMP, HAUER & FELD, RESPONDENT
DOCKET NO. 92-087-P(N)
COMPLAINANT'S REPLY TO RESPONDENT'S RESPONSE TO INTERROGATORIES AND DOCUMENT REQUEST
1. Respondent’s narration of facts concerning its hiring of Complainant (R. 1) misrepresents the nature of Complainant's employment and conceals Respondent's unlawful discriminatory practices in employment.
[Akin Gump's Response to Interrogatories can be found at:
Complainant, Gary Freedman, was initially assigned to work for the Respondent law firm, Akin, Gump, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P., on about March 3, 1988 by a temporary agency, Personnel Pool, Inc. During the period of about March 3, 1988 until June 10, 1988, Complainant worked for Respondent as an employee of an independent contractor in the capacity of a temporary legal assistant and was engaged in litigation support tasks for a specific client, Eastern Airlines.
On June 13, 1988, Complainant was hired directly by Respondent as a temporary legal assistant, and assigned to Respondent's Labor Section at an hourly rate of $13.00/hour (See Attachment A). In a discussion with Respondent’s then Legal Assistant administrator, Margarita C. Babb, immediately prior to his being hired, Complainant was advised by Ms. Babb that he would be assigned to litigation support tasks to be performed for the client Eastern airlines, but that when litigation support tasks for Eastern Airlines ceased, Complainant would be assigned to the Legal Assistant program.
Although Complainant billed most of his hours to litigation support tasks for the client Eastern Airlines during the period June 13, 1988 until about mid-year 1990 (when Respondent ceased its representation of Eastern), the actions of the legal assistant administrative staff, comprising Legal Assistant Administrator Maggie Sinnott and Legal Assistant Coordinator John D. Neary, were consistent with the promise made by Margarita C. Babb in June 1988 that Complainant would be assigned to substantive tasks in the legal assistant program upon completion of his assignment for the client Eastern Airlines.
Complainant was routinely invited to attend, and did attend, legal assistant staff meetings. The legal assistant administrative staff arranged for Complainant to attend Westlaw and Lexis training both on-site and off-site on a number of occasions. Complainant was invited to attend, and did attend, legal assistant seminars including a series of weekly writing seminars for legal assistants in February 1989 conducted by one of the Respondent's associates, Gary Rubin; a cite checking seminar for legal assistants held in about early 1989 conducted by one of Respondent's associates, Michael J. Mueller; and a legislative seminar held in about early 1989 conducted by one of Respondent's partners, Edward S. Knight (?). Also, Complainant was issued personalized Westlaw and Lexis access cards for use in computer searches of legal databases. The issuance of such access cards--indeed, all of the above activities--were unrelated to the Litigation support tasks on which Complainant was engaged during that period and inconsistent with Respondent's representation to the Office of Human Rights that Complainant was employed to manage documents for the client Eastern Airlines.
At the time Complainant was hired as a full-time legal assistant on August 1, 1989 (See Attachment B), Complainant was given, on about July 31, 1989, a legal assistant orientation by Legal Assistant Administrator, Maggie Sinnott. Ms. Sinnott asked the Complainant about his availability for travel and advised Complainant that Respondent would issue him a firm credit card. Ms. Sinnott's actions at the time of Complainant’s legal assistant orientation were inconsistent with Respondent’s assertion that Complainant was hired to work as a document coder on Eastern Airlines or that he would be assigned to the Litigation Support group upon the completion of his assignment for the client Eastern Airlines. The Legal Assistant Administrator's actions at the time Complainant was hired full-time in August 1989 were consistent with the understanding that Complainant was being hired to perform substantive legal assistant assignments that would commence once the temporary assignment for the client Eastern Airlines ended. The Legal Assistant administrator, in a memorandum dated July 28, 1989 to the Respondent’s Personnel Director and Director of Accounting (See Attachment B), expressly advises that Complainant had accepted a position with Respondent as a legal assistant assigned to the Respondent's Labor Section, and not as a document coder. The starting salary of $26,000 per hour, stated in the memorandum, is inconsistent with the "industry rate" for document coders, but competitive with the salary for legal assistants.
Despite Respondent's assertion that Complainant was hired for the specific purpose of working on a document production assignment for the client Eastern Airlines, Complainant was occasionally requested, by the Legal Assistant administrative staff, to interrupt his work for the client Eastern Airlines to performs assignments typically performed by other legal assistants and not by document coders. In late March 1989, for example, Complainant was requested to interrupt his work for the client Eastern Airlines to prepare a digest of a deposition transcript for attorney John Potter for a wrongful termination matter unrelated to Eastern Airlines (See Attachment C). On July 28, 1989, Complainant was requested by the Legal Assistant Coordinator John Neary to cite check a brief for attorney Merrill Spiegel [whose office, by the way, was adjacent to that of Dennis M. Race, Esq.--they may have shared a secretary (Barbara Rufener)--I'm not sure now] for a RICO matter for the client Craig Hall, unrelated to the client Eastern Airlines.
In March 1990, when Complainant was advised that he was to be reassigned from the Legal Assistant program to the Litigation Support group, his newly assigned supervisor, Chris Robertson, told Complainant that once he was assigned to the Litigation Support group, a supervisory position was a "distinct possibility." Complainant did not object to his transfer to Litigation Support because Chris Robertson's statement that a supervisory position in Litigation Support was a "distinct possibility" reasonably led Complainant to believe that opportunities for promotion would be available to him in Litigation Support. In fact, Complainant was not assigned to a supervisory position in Litigation support, nor was he routinely given substantive assignments in Litigation Support.
Complainant's reassignment to the Litigation Support group from the Legal Assistant program was for all practical purposes a demotion. The tasks available to Complainant in the Litigation Support group required even less advanced skills than those required by the legal assistant position for which he was originally hired, despite Complainant’s consistently exemplary performance evaluations (See Attachment C), Respondent's knowledge of Complainant’s education level and professional experience (See Attachment A), and Respondent’s promise in June 1988 that Complainant would eventually be assigned substantive tasks in the Legal Assistant program.
Further, Respondent’s transfer of Complainant to the Litigation Support group denied Complainant the opportunity to interact with individuals at his level of education and professional experience, adversely affecting Complainant's status as an employee. Opportunities for meaningful interaction with attorneys would have been available to the complainant had he been allowed to remain in the Legal Assistant program.
During a meeting between Complainant and his supervisor, Chris Robertson, during the week of about August 12, 1991, Complainant requested that he be reassigned to the Legal Assistant program so that he might have the opportunity to perform more substantive tasks. Complainant was never advised by Chris Robertson that she had followed up on Complainant’s request.
On October 23, 1991, in a meeting between Complainant and Earl L. Segal, the partner in charge of the Legal Assistant Program, Complainant again requested that the Respondent consider reassigning Complainant to the Legal Assistant Program (See Attachment D), implicitly stating a desire to be provided an opportunity to perform more substantive assignments. Only four working days after Complainant requested reassignment to the Legal Assistant program, Complainant was advised that the Respondent had decided to terminate his employment. The Complainant was involuntarily terminated on October 29, 1991 by the Chairman of the Respondent's Hiring Committee, Dennis Race, without cause.
During the entire period of Complainant's employment with the Respondent, Complainant was harassed, on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, by staff persons, associates, and partners of the Respondent (See Attachment E). The Legal Assistant Administrator, Maggie Sinnott, routinely acted in a sexually offensive manner when she saw Complainant. Complainant was subjected to sexually offensive behaviors by the Litigation Support Administrator, Chris Robertson (See Attachment E). Also, Complainant was told by a co-worker on May 3, 1989 that there was a rumor circulating among Respondent's employees that Complainant was a homosexual (See Attachment E).
Respondent's actions in failing to promote Complainant, in classifying Complainant in a way that deprived him of employment opportunities and adversely affected his status as an employee, and in discharging Complainant all constituted unlawful discriminatory practices in employment based on Respondent's perception that Complainant was a homosexual (See Attachment F).
2. Respondent's assertion that Complainant preferred to work in isolation (R. 1), or that he demanded to work in isolation (R. 5), misrepresents material facts concerning Complainant's office assignments (See Attachment G) and Complainant's reasonable request that he be permitted to work in a business-like environment.
During the period Complainant worked as an agency-supplied temporary employee, from about March 3, 1988 to June 10, 1988, Complainant worked on the second floor of Respondent's offices. Complainant was routinely kept separate from other agency-supplied temporary employees who were engaged on the same project as Complainant. On his second day with Respondent, March 4, 1988, for example, the then Legal Assistant Coordinator, Maggie Sinnott, on her initiative, and not at Complainant's request, reassigned Complainant from a conference room, "2 Wyatt," which Complainant had shared with other temporary employees, to a secretary's work station. On no occasion did Complainant request in any manner that he be isolated.
Shortly after being hired directly by the Respondent on June 13, 1988, Complainant was assigned to a private office on the fifth floor, which he occupied until March 17, 1989. Complainant’s assignment to a private office on the fifth floor was on the initiative of his supervisor. Complainant did not request in any manner that he be isolated.
From March 20, 1989 until October 1989, Complainant was assigned to an open, common area on the sixth floor, which he shared with two agency-supplied temporary employees [Stacey Schaar and Gwen Lesh]. The Legal Assistant Coordinator, John Neary, advised Complainant on about March 19, 1989 that the sixth floor office assignment was temporary and that Complainant would be permanently assigned to the terrace level with other legal assistants when that space became available to the Respondent in about May 1989. Complainant was never assigned to the terrace level as had been promised, which perpetuated his isolation.
During the period late October 1989 until April 5, 1991, Complainant was assigned to a large, group office on the ninth floor shared with other legal assistants. In March 1990 Complainant was reassigned from the Legal Assistant program to the Litigation Support group, but kept his office assignment on the ninth floor. In about March 1990, when the Litigation Support group moved from the twelfth floor to the terrace level, Complainant requested of his supervisor, Chris Robertson, that she allow Complainant to remain on the ninth floor. Ms. Robertson permitted Complainant to remain on the ninth floor, explaining to Complainant that there was no room for him on the terrace level. On no occasion while working on the ninth floor did Complainant request of any supervisor or any attorney manager that he be relocated to a private office.
On April 8, 1991 Complainant was moved, on the initiative of his supervisor, Chris Robertson, to the terrace level, which housed the Litigation Support group. During the week of about August 12, 1991, during an informal meeting called by Ms. Robertson, Complainant requested that she consider assigning Complainant to a private office or, in the alternative, that Complainant be reassigned to the Legal Assistant program. Complainant's request was prompted by a false accusation made against Complainant by a co-worker, which confirmed in Complainant's mind that his co-workers on the terrace level had a propensity to act in a malicious and irrational manner (See Attachment G).
Complainant's request of his supervisor that he be moved to a private office, made sometime during the week of about August 12, 1991, was the only occasion that Complainant ever requested of any supervisor that his office assignment be changed or that he be permitted to work in a private office. Also, Complainant's discussion with his supervisor on this occasion of certain harassing incidents that had occurred in March 1991, while Complainant was assigned to office space on the ninth floor, was the first time he had ever spoken to any supervisor about harassment by co-workers.
Complainant's request to be moved from the terrace level was reasonable in light of the unprofessional work environment on the terrace level. First, the special task for the client Hoechst-Celanese on which Complainant was engaged at that time--a task not performed by any other employees on the terrace level--required a quiet environment. Upon commencing the task on August 12, 1991, Complainant had been told by another legal assistant on the project, Katherine Harkness, that even the Respondent's library was too noisy.
Second, the litigation Support Administrator, Chris Robertson, by her own admission, was unable to control her employees' unprofessional behavior.
At the meeting between Complainant and Chris Robertson, during the week of about August 12, 1991, Ms. Robertson confided in Complainant that she felt she was powerless to control the noise situation in the office, which she conceded was a problem. She stated that she had even considered having all the employees' telephones removed to cut down on the excessive number of personal telephone conversations.
At weekly Litigation Support staff meetings Chris Robertson sometimes had to exhort her employees to arrive at the office by 9:00 a.m.--that some of the employees' customary arrival times of 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. were unacceptable. This anecdote indicates Chris Robertson's lack of control over her employees.
In the early afternoon during the summer of 1991, Chris Robertson stopped at Complainant's work station in the terrace to ask his opinion of all the "craziness" in the office, an issue she had addressed earlier that morning at a staff meeting.
During the summer of 1991 Chris Robertson directed that employees eat their breakfast at home and not at the office. Complainant complied, but other employees continued to eat their breakfast upon arriving at the office. Ms. Robertson had neither the inclination nor determination to ensure a business-like environment in the terrace level office.
Typical of the unprofessional behavior of Litigation Support employees is the following incident. During the summer of 1991 Gregory Courtney, without the knowledge or consent of another employee, Sherrie Patrick (who occupied a work cubicle next to that of Complainant), plastered an approximate 2' x 3' wall of Ms. Patrick’s work cubicle with photographs of scantily-clad male models that he had apparently spent some time culling from magazines. Later, Litigation Support employees Gregory Courtney, Sherrie Patrick and Renee Lloyd engaged in a voluble and disruptive banter about the photographs.
Complainant’s one request of his supervisor, during the week of about August 12, 1991, that he be moved from the terrace level was reasonable in view of fellow employees' disruptive, harassing, and unprofessional behavior and his supervisor's unwillingness or inability to control her employees' conduct.
3. Respondent’s narration of facts concerning Complainant's meeting with Earl L. Segal on Wednesday afternoon October 23, 1991 (R. 1) omits material facts.
On Wednesday afternoon October 23, 1991, Complainant sought out Earl L. Segal, the partner in charge of the Legal Assistant program, to request that Complainant be permitted to move to a private office or, in the alternative, that Complainant be reassigned to the Legal Assistant Program (See Attachment D). (Complainant had first gone to Mr. Segal's office on the fifth floor, but was told by a secretary that Mr. Segal's office had recently been moved to the ninth floor). Complainant related to Earl Segal in as discreet a manner as possible certain incidents of a harassing nature. Complainant's narration of harassing incidents was of incidental concern to him. It was not Complainant's intent to institute an investigation of harassment. Complainant did not expect, nor was he advised by Mr. Segal, that his narration of harassing incidents on this occasion would prompt a wider inquiry.
Complainant simply wanted to have his office assignment changed or, in the alternative, be reassigned to the legal assistant program.. Since mid-August Complainant had been working on a special project for the client Hoechst-Celanese, and had been permitted by his supervisor to work temporarily in a quiet, private area on the fourth floor. At the time of his meeting with Mr. Segal, Complainant was nearing the completion of the special project for the client Hoechst-Celanese, which meant that he would have to return to the terrace level. Earlier, in mid-August 1991, Complainant had asked of his supervisor, Chris Robertson, that he be moved to another office or he reassigned to the Legal Assistant Program. Because Complainant's supervisor did not indicate that she had pursued his requests, Complainant had concluded that it would be pointless to ask anyone other than Mr. Segal for a change in office location or job assignment. Complainant's request for reassignment to the legal assistant program was prompted at that time by the fact that his temporary assignment for the client Hoechst-Celanese was, unlike the work performed in Litigation Support, substantive in nature, and provided Complainant with considerable job satisfaction. Complainant believed that reassignment to the Legal Assistant program would provide more opportunities for satisfying and challenging tasks.
At the meeting on Wednesday afternoon October 23, 1991, Mr. Segal seemed receptive and sympathetic to Complainant’s requests, and did not question in any manner the interpretations that complainant ascribed to the incidents he narrated. Near the end of the conversation, Mr. Segal invited Complainant to stop by his office periodically so they could chat.
Complainant’s meeting with Earl. L. Segal was the first time that he had complained to an attorney manager about harassment, sought from an attorney manager a change in office assignment, or sought from an attorney manager a reassignment to the legal program or promotion of any kind.
4. Respondent's narration of facts concerning Complainant's meeting with Dennis Race and Malcolm Lassman on Thursday morning October 24, 1991 (R. 1) omits material facts and conceals Respondent’s failure to apply a hostile work environment analysis.
On Thursday morning October 24, 1991, shortly after 9:00 a.m. Complainant met with Dennis Race and Malcolm Lassman, two attorney managers of Respondent, in Mr. Race's office. The meeting was called by Mr. Race. Complainant had not requested to meet with Dennis Race or Malcolm Lassman. Mr. Lassman informed Complainant that Mr. Segal had told him about Complainant’s allegations of harassment, and that Malcolm Lassman wanted to hear Complainant's allegations in person. Mr. Lassman explained that Dennis Race was present because Mr. Race was the partner in charge of investigating allegations of sexual harassment.
Because Complainant had not been forewarned that he was to meet with anyone to discuss incidents of harassment, he was not prepared to discuss in detail an insidious pattern of harassment of three and one-half years duration (See Attachment E). Further, because of the insidious nature of the harassment, the mere narration of selected incidents could not possibly convey the cumulative effect of complex interrelated behaviors, which, viewed as a whole, created a hostile and intimidating work environment. See Robinson v. Jacksonville Shipyards, Inc., 760 F. Supp. 1486 (M.D. Fla. 1991). (See Attachment H).
Malcolm Lassman's and Dennis Race's expectation that Complainant make a convincing case on this occasion that he was a victim of harassment was unreasonable and, under Robinson, not legally cognizable. The expectations of Malcolm Lassman and Dennis Race were based on a flawed assumption: that an examination of selected incidents could establish whether Complainant was a victim of harassment. With respect to harassment based on a hostile work environment only an examination of the totality of the circumstances will establish whether harassment exists.
The failure by Respondent’s managers, as attorneys, to conduct an initial interview of Complainant appropriate to the standards of a hostile work environment analysis was improper.
5. Respondent's enumeration of the harassing incidents that Complainant was directed to relate to Malcolm Lassman and Dennis Race at the meeting called by Mr. Race on October 24, 1991 (R. 1-2) omits material facts and conceals the fact that Respondent accepted Complainant's allegations as stating a prima facie case of harassment.
Complainant discussed the following incidents of harassment at the meeting on October 24, 1991, called by Mr. Race, at which Complainant was directed, on the initiative of Messrs. Race and Lassman, to relate instances of harassment.
(a.) On the second day of Complainant's assignment with Respondent as an agency-supplied temporary employee, March 4, 1988, Complainant introduced himself to a male employee outside whose office Complainant was working at a secretary's work station. A brief time after Complainant introduced himself, a group of employees gathered in the office adjacent to the work station at which Complainant was working. The employees proceeded to engage in a lively and mildly-sexually suggestive discussion about the size of the male employee's chest and whether it was hairy or not. The discussion lasted about two minutes.
In response to a question by either Mr. Race or Mr. Lassman, Complainant stated that he believed that the male employee in question was either a legal assistant or staff person, but not an attorney. Complainant stated that he did not recall the name of the male employee. Complainant further stated, in response to a question, that he did not know the status of the other employees--whether they were attorneys, legal assistants, or staff persons. Complainant had to explain, in response to repeated questions by Messrs. Race and Lassman, that the incident had occurred on the second day of his assignment with the Respondent and that Complainant did not know the identity of many of Respondent's employees as of March 4, 1988. Messrs. Race and Lassman appeared to want to gather the names of as many harassers as Complainant could possibly name.
(b.) While walking down a hallway on the second floor, some time in about May 1988, an associate, Paul Wageman, who was walking toward Complainant, began to hold a pencil next to his genital area and proceeded to move the pencil up and down next to his genital area.
In response to a request by Mr. Race, Complainant stood and showed how Mr. Wageman manipulated the pencil as he was walking. Also, in response to a question posed by Mr. Race, Complainant explained that Mr. Wageman maintained eye contact during the interaction.
(c.) In mid-June 1988, at about the time Complainant was hired by the Respondent, Complainant was assigned a private office on the fifth floor. On the first morning in that office space as Complainant was getting a cup of coffee in an adjacent kitchen area, an attorney, whom Complainant later learned was a partner named David Hardee, said to Complainant, "I smell something sweet in here. Do you smell something sweet in here?" Complainant said, "No." Mr. Hardee repeated, "I smell something sweet in here."
Complainant stated that he ascribed a homosexual meaning to Mr. Hardee's comments. Mr. Race asked Complainant why Complainant ascribed a homosexual meaning to Mr. Hardee's comments.
(d.) Shortly after Complainant was moved to the sixth floor office space shared with agency-supplied temporary legal assistants Stacey Schaar and Gwen Lesh, on March 20, 1989, there began repeated references to Complainant’s friendship with Craig Dye, with whom Complainant had worked at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson.
Complainant expressly recalls having mentioned Mr. Dye; a reference to Mr. Dye would only have arisen in the context of a discussion of harassment based on perceived sexual orientation.
(e.) On a Friday in early spring 1990 (possibly March 30, 1990), Constance Brown advised Complainant that since there was little work to be done for the client Eastern Airlines, she had arranged that Complainant meet with the administrator of Litigation Support, Chris Robertson, on the following Monday morning (possibly April 2, 1990) and that Ms. Robertson would provide Complainant with work. On Monday morning, shortly after 9:00 a.m., Complainant reported to Litigation Support, which was housed on the terrace level, and met with Ms. Robertson for about 15 to 20 minutes. Ms. Robertson instructed Complainant on a particular task to be performed for the client MCA. This was Complainant's first interaction with Ms. Robertson in the relation of employee to supervisor; up until that time Complainant had worked predominantly for Constance Brown on tasks for the client Eastern Airlines. This was also the first time Complainant was assigned to work on the terrace level. At the conclusion of Complainant's conversation with Chris Robertson, she led Complainant from her office to a work station where Complainant was directed to perform the assigned task. Upon spotting the work station Ms. Robertson stated to Complainant, "You can sit here." This was at approximately 9:30 a.m. After sitting down at the desk Complainant looked into the trash basket next to the desk. The trash basket was empty except for a baby food jar. The baby food jar had been wiped clean before being placed in the trash basket, consistent with the jar having been brought from home by someone for the express purpose of placing it in the trash basket with the intent to harass.
Complainant explained to Messrs. Race and Lassman that the epithet "baby" is stereotypically anti-Semitic.
(f.) Some time in April 1991, when it was warm enough to eat lunch outdoors, Complainant began to eat lunch on a park bench at Dupont Circle. One afternoon upon Complainant's return to the office from lunch, at about the time he first began to eat lunch at Dupont Circle, as Complainant was seated at his desk, his supervisor, Chris Robertson, said, in a loud tone of voice to another employee, Melissa Whitney, seated near Complainant, "Are you wet?"
Complainant cannot specifically recall at this time whether he mentioned this incident to Messrs. Race and Lassman. If Complainant did mention this incident he would have explained that he interpreted the phrase "Are you wet?" as alluding to a state of sexual excitation.
(g.) Upon Complainant's return to the office from lunch one afternoon during the summer of 1991, his supervisor, Chris Robertson, offered Complainant a piece of chocolate, and stated to Complainant the peculiar phrase, "Here, you look like you need some chocolate."
Complainant specifically recalls that he told Messrs. Race and Lassman that he interpreted the phrase "Here, you look like you need some chocolate" as a reference to anal intercourse. Complainant specifically recalls his using the phrase "anal intercourse." (Cf. Monge v. Superior Court (Crown Gibralter), 176 Cal. App. 3d 503, 222 Cal. Rptr. 64 (Cal. App. Dist. 1986). An employer’s failure to investigate or correct an employee's complaint regarding an anonymous -- and sexually ambiguous -- phrase "How about a little head?" that was displayed on an employee’s computer terminal was found to support an action for wrongful termination and harassment. The court did not inquire as to whether the employee's sexual interpretation of the ambiguous phrase was an "idea of reference." (See Attachment I.)
(h.) In about early August 1991 an employee, Lutheria Harrison, who at that time was assigned to a work cubicle adjacent to that of Complainant, was talking to another employee, Beatrice Spates, about her July telephone bill, emphasizing the word "July." About two days later Lutheria Harrison, while seated at her desk, stated in a markedly audible tone of voice the children's rhyme, "Liar, liar, pants on fire." On another occasion a brief time later, Lutheria Harrison, upon entering Chris Robertson's office to attend a weekly Litigation Support staff meeting, sighed the Yiddish phrase, "Oy, veh."
Complainant stated to Messrs. Race and Lassman that he interpreted the word "July" as a homophone for the phrase "Jew lie," and that these anecdotes suggested that some of his co-workers may have had an anti-Semitic animus. Mr. Lassman requested that Complainant provide additional anecdotes that might suggest an anti-Semitic bias by employees. In response to Mr. Lassman's question, and not on Complainant's initiative, Complainant mentioned that the mascot of the Litigation Support group was a pig. (At this point Mr. Lassman turned to Mr. Race and said, "Dennis, you're not Jewish. Jews aren't allowed to eat pork.")
Complainant also told Messrs. Lassman and Race that the previous afternoon, Wednesday October 23, 1991, after Complainant had returned to his desk on the terrace level following Complainant’s meeting with Earl L. Segal, Gregory Courtney passed by Complainant's desk and was telling a story about a man with a "black skull cap." In response to a question posed by either Mr. Race and Mr. Lassman, Complainant stated that he did not know the identity of the employee with whom Gregory Courtney was talking.
(i.) On the afternoon of October 2, 1991 Complainant met with legal assistant Katherine Harkness in her private office on the fifth floor to review some work Complainant had been doing under her direction. Complainant was seated in front of her desk. Ms. Harkness was in back of her desk, but leaning over it, supporting her torso with her elbows. As she was reviewing the work she proceeded in a continuous motion to gyrate her hips and rub her pelvic region against the desk in a sexually suggestive manner while simultaneously expressing her work-related comments in the form of double entendres. This lasted for about two to four minutes.
(j.) Some time in about early 1990, while Complainant was riding alone in an elevator with a partner, David Eisenstat, Mr. Eisenstat began to pace back and forth and whistle, all the while glancing at Complainant.
Mr. Race asked Complainant why Complainant interpreted Mr. Eisenstat's behavior as relating to Complainant. Mr. Race, offering a possible explanation for Mr. Eisenstat's behavior, stated that Mr. Eisenstat is an "intense guy." Complainant added that he believed that Mr. Eisenstat may be Jewish, and stated that the anecdote concerning Mr. Eisenstat raised a question as to whether the harassment was based on an anti-Semitic animus.
During the entire period of the meeting, which lasted about 35-40 minutes, both Mr. Race and Mr. Lassman seemed to have a keen interest in each of the anecdotes that Complainant related. The interest of the attorney managers did not appear to wane as the meeting progressed. Both Mr. Lassman and Mr. Race asked questions or made comments about each of the anecdotes.
At one point in the meeting Mr. Race, in an attempt to clarify the issues raised by Complainant’s narration, broke the Complainant's allegations of harassment into categories.
In a statement Complainant prepared a brief time after his termination (See Attachment E), and before the filing of the Complaint, Complainant wrote: "I reviewed with Mr. Race and Mr. Lassman various incidents of sexual harassment and incidents that were arguably anti-Semitic in nature. Mr. Race noted that the harassment began early in my employment with the firm in March 1988, and involved various classes of individuals including attorneys, legal assistants, and supervisory personnel. Mr. Race also noted that my allegations of harassment fell into three categories, namely, sexual, anti-Semitic, and general harassing acts." (A final version of Complainant’s statement, from which the above lines are quoted, was submitted by Complainant to the Office of Human Rights in late November or early December 1991.)
At no time during the meeting did either Mr. Lassman or Mr. Race indicate in any manner that they believed that Complainant was exaggerating, fabricating, had some ulterior motive, or was motivated by any animus against anyone. Neither Mr. Race nor Mr. Lassman indicated in any manner that they believed that the Complainant's perceptions were the product of a mental disturbance. Both attorney managers appeared to be sympathetic and receptive to Complainant's narration, although Mr. Race stated some skepticism about the meanings that Complainant ascribed to some of the anecdotes.
On his own initiative, and not at Complainant’s request, Dennis Race advised Complainant that he would investigate Complainant's allegations of harassment.
Mr. Race's offer to investigate, on his own initiative and not at Complainant's request, indicates that Mr. Race believed at that time that the facts as stated by Complainant formed the basis of a prima facie case of harassment.
6. Respondent's assertion that Complainant admitted that the incidents of harassment that Complainant stated at his meeting with Dennis Race and Malcolm Lassman on October 24, 1991 did not have a direct impact on him or his employment with Respondent (R. 2) is immaterial.
In the case of harassment based on a hostile work environment, the material issue is not the severity or effect of individual acts of harassment, but the pervasiveness of the harassment and the cumulative effect of hostile and intimidating behaviors. Robinson v. Jacksonville Shipyards, Inc., 760 F. Supp. 1486 (M.D. Fla. 1991).
"[A discrimination] analysis cannot carve the work environment into a series of discrete incidents and measure the harm adhering in each episode. Rather a holistic perspective is necessary, keeping in mind that each successive episode has its predecessors, that the impact of the separate incidents may accumulate, and that the work environment created thereby may exceed the sum of the individual episodes. 'A play cannot be understood on the basis of some of its scenes but only on its entire performance, and similarly, a discrimination analysis must concentrate not on individual incidents but on the overall scenario.' Andrews, 895 F.2d at 1484. It follows naturally from this proposition that the environment viewed as a whole may satisfy the legal definition of an abusive working environment although no single episode crosses the Title VII threshold." Robinson, 760 F. Supp. at 1524.
Respondent’s failure to analyze the totality of the Complainant's hostile work environment, and Respondent’s concentration instead on the severity of individual incidents, was improper. Respondent asserts in the Response (R. 2) with respect to the meeting on October 24, 1991 between Complainant and Respondent's attorney managers: "When asked whether these or any of the incidents he mentioned had a direct impact on him or his employment with Respondent, Claimant [sic] answered that they did not." Respondent’s statement is itself an admission that Respondent's attorney managers failed to conduct an initial interview of Complainant appropriate to the standards of a hostile work environment analysis, and that Respondent's attorney managers improperly focused their attention on individual incidents rather than on the totality of the circumstances.
In his meeting with Earl L. Segal on Wednesday afternoon October 23, 1991, Complainant expressly stated that the actions of his co-workers made it unpleasant for him to work in his existing environment (See Attachment D). Respondent’s failure to conduct an investigation of Complainant's allegations of harassment appropriate to a hostile work enjoinment standard renders Respondent's investigation fatally flawed. Further, Respondent's flawed investigation constitutes a ratification by Respondent's attorney managers of the hostile work environment created by its employees.
7. Respondent’s assertion that Dennis Race and Malcolm Lassman suggested to Complainant on October 24, 1991 that Complainant seek counseling from Respondent’s Employee Assistance Program (R. 2-3) is denied.
Neither Denis Race nor Malcolm Lassman suggested to Complainant on October 24, 1991 that Complainant seek counseling from Respondent's Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Mr. Lassman asked Complainant at one point in the meeting whether Complainant had ever sought counseling at Respondent’s EAP. Complainant stated that he had visited a counselor at Respondent's EAP.
Assuming either Malcolm Lassman or Dennis Race had suggested that Complainant seek counseling, such a recommendation would constitute an admission that any psychological difficulties that Complainant had were slight and remediable and that the Respondent had an interest in their remediation. An admission that Complainant’s psychological difficulties, if any, were remediable and that his employer had an interest in their remediation indicates that Complainant's behavior, perceptions, and demeanor during his meeting with Messrs. Race and Lassman on October 24, 1991 did not suggest gross psychopathology that would necessitate Complainant’s immediate termination.
But, in fact, neither Mr. Lassman nor Mr. Race made such a recommendation and a review of Complainant's narration of the meeting suggests that such a recommendation would not have been consistent with the comments made at the meeting by Respondent's attorney managers.
8. Dennis Race, in his investigation into Complainant's allegations of harassment (R. 3), failed to exercise due diligence. The wrongful decision to terminate and the flawed investigation upon which it was based constitute a ratification by Respondent's managers of the hostile work environment created by its employees.
(a.) Dennis Race's failure to appreciate the implications of harassment based on a hostile work environment led him to ascribe undue weight to statements made by Complainant's co-workers. Mr. Race failed to consider the possibility that statements made to him by Complainant's co-workers were in retaliation for Complainants allegations of harassment. In effect, the false and malicious statements made to Mr. Race by employees were simply a continuation of the harassment. Further, Mr. Race did not provide Complainant an opportunity to respond to statements made by co-workers. Complainant met with Mr. Race on only two occasions: on Thursday October 24, 1991 when Complainant was asked to describe incidents of harassment to Messrs. Race and Lassman and on October 29, 1991 when Mr. Race advised Complainant that Respondent had decided to terminate his employment.
(b.) The memorandum dated October 25, 1991 from Complainant’s supervisor, Chris Robertson, to Dennis Race, purportedly detailing Complainant’s difficulties with his co-workers, is replete with gross distortions and intentional misstatements of material facts; certain of the statements contained in the memo are contradicted by Respondent's own business records (See Attachment G). Indeed, a statement contained in the opening line of the memorandum ("I am concerned about [Complainant's] interaction with other coworkers within the last few months") was contrary to Dennis Race's personal observations. In the months immediately prior to Complainant's termination, from mid-August until October 29, 1991, Complainant worked in an office on the fourth floor not far from Dennis Race's office, and had virtually no interaction with Litigation Support coworkers on the terrace level. On October 29, 1991, Mr. Race commented that he used to see Complainant hard at work whenever he passed by the office where Complainant was working. Thus, the opening sentence of Chris Robertson's memo was disconfirmed by Dennis Race's personal observations. Chris Robertson's memorandum dated October 25, 1991, the day after Complainant met with Dennis Race and Malcolm Lassman, was clearly retaliatory. Dennis Race's failure to provide Complainant an opportunity to respond to the memorandum by his supervisor was improper.
(c.) Complainant's Performance Evaluations were consistently exemplary (See Attachment C). Complainant’s ability to work with others was consistently rated average or above average. The contradiction between statements about Complainant in the Performance Evaluations and statements made by Complainant's supervisor and other employees at the time of the investigation should have raised some question in Mr. Race's mind about the credibility of Complainant’s accusers.
(d.) Dennis Race's consultations with mental health professionals served no purpose and raise a question as to whether Mr. Race and Mr. Lassman were simply attempting to establish a cover for an unlawful termination.
A mental health professional who has not evaluated a client in person is not competent to offer an opinion as to an individual's mental state; indeed, for a physician to offer a medical opinion regarding someone he has not evaluated personally may constitute a breach of medical ethics. (On September 1, 1992, after Complainant’s termination, Complainant underwent a psychiatric evaluation at the George Washington University Medical Center. Even after a one-hour in person evaluation the psychiatrist was unable to state a diagnosis of Complainant (See Attachment J)). Dennis Race's consultations with mental health professionals, really an "evaluation of Complainant by proxy," could not have provided a professional opinion of sufficient reliability upon which to base an employment decision.
Further, any information concerning Complainant that Mr. Race provided the mental health professional, and upon which the mental health professional was expected to rely, was the product of Mr. Race's own faulty investigation. Mr. Race's conclusion that the interpretations Complainant placed on his observations were "ideas of reference" begs the question. If Complainant's work environment was in fact hostile, the negative interpretations Complainant placed on incidents would not be "ideas of reference" but realistic observations. But in failing to conduct an adequate investigation, Mr. Race was never able to determine whether Complainant’s observations were realistic or deluded.
If Respondent's attorney managers believed that Complainant’s difficulties with his co-workers were the product of a mental disturbance, the managers should have required Complainant to undergo an in-person psychiatric examination, with the understanding that the results of the physician's evaluation would be made available to Respondent per Complainant’s execution of a release. The Respondent's attorney managers did not take this course of action. Dennis Race might also have requested that Complainant execute a release that would have allowed him to consult with one or more of the mental health professionals that Complainant consulted during his employment (See Attachment K); Mr. Race did not take this course of action. (On one occasion during the summer of 1991, while Complainant was seeing a psychologist, Complainant invited his supervisor, Chris Robertson, to attend a session. Ms. Robertson gave a non-committal reply.)
Despite Respondent's assertion that it feared Complainant was potentially violent, Dennis Race did not contact Complainant's sister, whose telephone number was retained by the Respondent’s personnel department. The Respondent's managers, as attorneys, would have been aware that their failure to contact a close relative of a potentially violent employee, whose violent propensities were thought to be the product of a serious mental disturbance, might be deemed negligent.
Finally, in spite of respondent's willingness to confer with consultants, Respondent made no effort to contact any experts in the field of sexual harassment. Such experts might have provided Respondent with guidance on how to conduct an investigation or useful information regarding the nature of the harassment. Organizations that provide information, guidance, and referrals to experts in the field of sexual harassment in the work place include the Alexander Hamilton Institute and the American Psychological Association. Also, the American Arbitration Association provides fact-finding teams for neutral investigations of workplace disputes, including sexual harassment. Respondent did not contact any such organizations.
Respondent's grossly inadequate investigation of Complainant’s allegations of harassment and the wrongful termination decision upon which it was based constitute a ratification by the Respondent's managers of the hostile work environment created by its employees.
9. Respondent's narration of the circumstances surrounding the representations it sought from mental health professionals regarding Complainant's mental status (R. 3) omits material facts and may conceal possible violations of criminal statutes.
Respondent's failure to name the mental health professionals from whom it sought representations regarding Complainant’s mental status is a material omission.
During the course of Complainant’s employment with Respondent, Complainant consulted with various mental health professionals in private practice including a number of psychiatrists and two psychologists (See Attachment K). Any disclosure of confidential mental health information to the Respondent by any of the mental health professionals with whom Complainant consulted would be in violation of the District of Columbia Mental Health Information Act, D.C. Code Sect. 6-2002 (Disclosures prohibited; exceptions) and would subject the offending mental health professional to criminal prosecution for commission of a misdemeanor under D.C. Code Sect. 6-2062 (Criminal penalties for violation of the District of Columbia Mental Health Information Act). Further, Respondent's actions in seeking representations from any of the mental health professionals whom Complainant consulted raise the possibility of a violation by the Respondent's attorney managers of D.C. Code Sect. 6-2062 (Criminal penalties for violation of the District of Columbia Mental Health Information Act) as well as certain criminal statutes including D.C. Code Sect. 22-105 (Persons advising, inciting, or conniving at criminal offense to be charged as principals).
On three occasions during his employment with Respondent, Complainant consulted with mental health counselors at Respondent's Employee Assistance Program (Sheppard Pratt Employee Assistant Programs (See Attachment K). Any disclosure of confidential mental health information to the Respondent by a mental health counselor employed by the Sheppard Pratt Employee Assistance Programs would be in violation of the District of Columbia Mental Health Information Act, D.C. Code Sect. 6-2002 (Disclosures prohibited; exceptions) and would subject the offending mental health counselor to criminal prosecution for the commission of a misdemeanor. Further, Respondent's actions in seeking a representation from a mental health counselor at Sheppard Pratt raise the possibility of a violation by the Respondent's attorney managers of D.C. Code Sect. 6-2062 (Criminal penalties for violation of the District of Columbia Mental Health Information Act) as well as certain criminal statutes including D.C. Code Sect. 22-105a (Conspiracy to commit crime) and D.C. Code Sect. 22-105 (Persons advising, inciting or conniving at criminal offense to be charged as principals).
10. Respondent's assertion that Dennis Race advised Complainant at the termination meeting on October 29, 1991 that it did not have a position similar to his job tasks for client Eastern Airline (R. 4) and that "there did not appear to be a good fit" with other employees (R. 5) is misleading and conceals Respondent's discriminatory denial of opportunities for promotion.
Complainant’s education, background and professional experience qualified him for consideration for three types of positions with Respondent: legal assistant, law clerk, or associate.
In response to Complainant’s request that he be considered for reassignment to the Legal Assistant program Dennis Race advised Complainant at the termination meeting on October 29, 1991 that he had spoken to Legal Assistant Administrator, Maggie Sinnott and Legal Assistant Coordinator, John D. Neary about such a reassignment. Mr. Race advised Complainant that both Ms. Sinnott and Mr. Neary had told him that they could not work with Complainant, that they found him difficult to work with, and that they were afraid of Complainant.
(The Response omits details concerning Complainant’s request or reassignment to the Legal Assistant program and the comments Dennis Race made at the termination meeting regarding Complainant’s request for reassignment. Respondent, however, admits that Complainant made a request for reassignment to the Legal Assistant program (See Attachment D [Memo of Earl. L. Segal to Personal File dated October 23, 1991])).
Dennis Race failed to investigate the possibility that the comments of Ms. Sinnott and Mr. Neary may have been made in retaliation for Complainant's allegations of harassment or may have been an unlawful discriminatory practice aimed at depriving Complainant of employment opportunities.
The actions of Ms. Sinnott during the summer of 1990 are at variance with her assertion at the time of Mr. Race's investigation that she could not work with Complainant, or that she was afraid of him. Sometime during the summer of 1990, after Complainant had been reassigned to the Litigation Support group, Maggie Sinnott went out of her way to advise Complainant that transcript digesting work was available--work typically performed by other legal assistants and not Litigation Support employees. At that time Maggie Sinnott was no longer Complainant’s supervisor. Maggie Sinnott's comments about Complainant to Dennis Race at the time of the job termination, which contributed to Mr. Race's conclusion that "there did not appear to be a good fit" with other employees, was apparently not made in good faith.
Mr. Race's statement that it did not have a position similar to Complainant’s job tasks for the client Eastern Airlines or that "there did not appear to be a good fit" conceals the fact that Mr. Race did not investigate the possibility of having the Complainant employed on other positions for which he is qualified, namely law clerk or associate.
Mr. Race's failure to investigate the possibility of employing Complainant in the position of law clerk or associate was an unlawful discriminatory practice (See Attachment F).
Complainant is licensed to practice law. He is a member of the bar of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and was awarded the degree of J.D. by Temple University School of Law. Complainant also holds the degree of LL.M. in International Legal Studies from The Washington College of Law, The American University. The field of international law is a major practice area of the Respondent.
During the entire period of Complainant's employment with the Respondent Complainant was harassed, on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, by staff persons, associates, and partners of the Respondent. As a result of the harassment, Complainant formed the belief that his employment with the Respondent was in jeopardy.
The hostile work environment to which Complainant was subjected deprived him of the opportunity to seek a position with the Respondent for which he was qualified. Other employees of the Respondent, however, were not similarly deprived of employment opportunities. The limitation on Complainant’s opportunities for promotion was discriminatory.
Jan Fraser-Smith, an agency-supplied temporary employee, who began her assignment with the Respondent at about the same time as the Complainant, in March 1988, and who worked as a document coder on the same project as the Complainant, was later hired by the Respondent as a law clerk. Though Complainant is qualified to work as a law clerk he was never offered such a position. The harassment that Complainant suffered during his employment, which carried the implied threat of termination, precluded Complainant from requesting a more substantive position with the Respondent.
Sometime in 1990, Brian Burns, a legal assistant who had been employed by the Respondent since about 1985, was granted a position as associate. Complainant believes that Brian Burns is not a homosexual. During his employment with the respondent as a legal assistant, Brian Burns was consistently granted substantive assignments that eased his transition from legal assistant to practicing attorney. In effect, Brian Burns' position with the Respondent was an "associate-track" legal assistant position. Complainant's education and professional experience also qualified him for an associate-track legal assistant position with the Respondent; a like position was never offered to Complainant. The harassment that Complainant suffered during his employment, which carried the implied threat of termination, precluded Complainant from requesting an associate-track legal assistant position.
In a letter dated February 7, 1985, before Complainant’s employment with Respondent, Complainant submitted a resume to the Respondent's Hiring Committee requesting consideration for an associate position. The Respondent's Hiring Committee advised the Complainant by letter dated February 14, 1985 that, regrettably, it had to deny Complainant's request for an interview despite his excellent credentials because of the limited number of openings then available (See Attachment F).
Dennis Race's statement that "there did not appear to be a good fit" between Complainant and other employees conceals Respondent's discriminatory failure, or refusal, to investigate the possibility of employing Complainant in other positions for which he qualified.
11. Respondent's assertion that Dennis Race advised Complainant at the termination meeting on October 29, 1991 that Complainant could not function in a group setting or work with other legal assistants (R. 4) omits material facts and obfuscates the fact that Complainant was a victim of harassment.
Complainant's difficulties in working in a group environment stemmed from his supervisor's inability or unwillingness to ensure a business-like working environment and were not the result of any psychological disabilities of Complainant.
Complainant's Performance Evaluations consistently rated Complainant's ability to work with others average or above-average (See Attachment C). None of the Performance Evaluations indicate in any manner that Complainant had difficulties working with other employees.
During the fall of 1989, Complainant was assigned to train and supervise a group of about five agency-supplied temporary employees to expedite the coding of some 200,000 pages of documents for the client Eastern Airlines (See Attachment C).
The Performance Evaluation dated November 6, 1989 describes Complainant's interaction with the temporary employees in the following manner: [Complainant] inspired the group who were always eager to work and adopted [Complainant's] own sense of commitment to the case" (See Attachment C).
That Complainant's difficulties with his co-workers were the result of a hostile working environment created by other employees and not self-created is evidenced by the fact that during the entire period of Complainant's employment with Respondent he maintained periodic social contacts with co-workers at his former place of employment, the law firm of Hogan & Hartson. Complainant periodically met for social engagements with four former co-workers: Craig Dye, Daniel Cutler, Michael Wilson, Esq., and Cindy Rodda.
Complainant's attempts at social interaction with employees of the Respondent were generally fruitless. Three employees of Respondent whom Complainant asked to lunch initially agreed but later declined. The few times Complainant went to lunch with others were with agency-supplied temporary employees. (See Attachment E).
Further, Dennis Race's assertion that Complainant could not work with other legal assistants was based in part on the bad faith statements of the Legal Assistant Administrator, Maggie Sinnott--statements whose veracity Dennis Race failed to question. During the early part of Complainant's employment, Ms. Sinnott routinely kept Complainant isolated from other temporary employees who worked on the same project as Complainant. Maggie Sinnott's assertion at the time of Mr. Race's investigation that she could not work with Complainant because she found him difficult to work with is inconsistent with Ms. Sinnott's earlier actions during the summer of 1990 when she actually sought out Complainant despite the fact that at that time she was no longer Complainant's supervisor and, further, had about 60 other legal assistants under her supervision who could have performed the same task.
Respondent fails to note that attorneys were eager to work with Complainant. On Thursday August 8, 1991, Complainant's supervisor, Chris Robertson, upon advising Complainant that she had arranged with attorney Mary Ellen Conner that Complainant work temporarily on a project for the client Hoechst-Celanese, stated: "I spoke with Mary Ellen Connor about your working on Hoechst chemical analysis. She said she's enthusiastic about the idea of having you work on the project."
12. Respondent’s assertion that Complainant was very difficult to supervise (See Attachment L) is denied.
Respondent's Performance Evaluations contain repeated references by supervisors to Complainant's cooperative spirit and contain no references whatsoever to difficulties in supervising him.
The following is a compendium of supervisors' evaluations of Complainant:
"There is no task too much to ask of Gary." "It is nice to gave Gary around. He is always stable in the mist [sic] of other inconsistencies." "Gary is dependable ." "He is always enthusiastic ." "I appreciate the job that Gary has done and look forward to other projects with Gary's help." "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." "Great pressure buffer. I can be at ease knowing Gary will prevail." "Gary is a self-starter in all respects." "Gary is the soul of dependability and responsibility." "He is a self-starter and thoroughly dependable" (See Attachment C).
In May 1991 Complainant's supervisor Chris Robertson made the following statements about Complainant:
"Always know he can be relied upon to complete a project with no supervision, and it will be done accurately and efficiently." "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" (See Attachment C).
On three occasions during his employment Complainant worked through the night to ensure the completion of tasks to which he was assigned. He willingly worked through the night, without complaint or protest, on May 8-May 9, 1988, August 14-August 15, 1988, and during a week in early June 1989 (See Attachment E).
On Friday March 17, 1989 Legal Assistant Coordinator John Neary advised Complainant that he was to be moved from the private office he occupied on the fifth floor to an open, common area on the sixth floor, effective Monday March 20, 1989. Despite the fact that he was losing a private office Complainant carried out the move, without complaint or protest, on Sunday March 19, 1989. On Monday March 20, Legal Assistant Administrator Maggie Sinnott said to Complainant: "Thank you for being so cooperative."
Compare Complainant's spirit of cooperation and his willingness to follow supervisors' directives with the following. During the summer of 1991 the Litigation Support Administrator, Chris Robertson, advised her employees that she was instituting a policy under which employees would be required to complete daily production reports indicating the quantity of work performed. Litigation Support employees (other than Complainant) protested this reasonable policy and, under pressure from her employees, Chris Robertson abolished the daily production reports. (The policy was later reinstituted).
14. Respondent's assertion that Complainant's job performance was not an issue in Respondent's decision to terminate Complainant (R. 5) is contrary to assertions made by the Respondent at the time of the termination and is evidence of Respondent's lack of good faith.
At the termination meeting on October 29, 1991. Dennis Race expressly criticized the quality of Complainant's work. Mr. Race stated that although Complainant's work for the client Eastern Airlines had been good, the quality of his work had deteriorated. Mr. Race also reported statements made by co-workers that Complainant failed to make corrections in his work when he was directed to do so.
Mr. Race reiterated these comments to Complainant during a telephone conversation the following morning, October 30, 1991 (See Attachment M), after the termination. (The document designated "Attachment M," dated September 25, 1992, was prepared before Complainant became aware, upon receipt of the Response on December 23, 1992, that Respondent had disavowed its earlier statements denigrating the quality of Complainant's work.)
15. Respondent’s assertion that its concerns about Complainant's inability to interact with co-workers and volatile behavior were addressed by his immediate supervisor, Christine Robertson during several conferences with Complainant (Interrogatory Response No. 11) is denied.
During the week of about August 12, 1991 Complainant's supervisor, Chris Robertson asked to meet with Complainant to address an incident that had occurred earlier that morning (See Attachment G). Ms. Robertson advised Complainant that a Litigation Support employee, Gregory Courtney, had reported to her that Complainant had told Mr. Courtney to "shut up." Complainant denied the accusation and explained that he had told Mr. Courtney, who was engaging in a disruptive conversation with a coworker, to "hold it down." On this occasion Chris Robertson did not state that her comments constituted a reprimand, nor did Complainant interpret his supervisor's comments as such. Respondent admits that, in fact, no warnings, either written or oral, were issued to Complainant during his employment (See Attachment N). Complainant's meeting with his supervisor during the week of about August 12, 1991 was the only interaction with a supervisor during the entire period of Complainant's employment that even remotely resembled a reprimand.
Respondent's assertion that during Complainant's transition from a legal assistant position to his work with Litigation Support, Complainant had several discussions with his supervisor, Chris Robertson, about problems relating to Complainant's interaction with co-workers and occasional outburst is false (See Attachment G). At the time of Complainant’s transition to the Litigation Support group, in March 1990, Complainant had no discussion with his supervisor about problems with co-workers. [The Performance Evaluation prepared in May 1990 records no such discussions or concerns.]
None of Complainant’s Performance Evaluations memorialize any serious concerns by any of Complainant’s supervisors regarding his interactions with co-workers (See Attachment C). (The Performance Evaluation dated October 24, 1991 states concerns regarding Complainant’s interaction with co-workers (See Attachment O). The Performance Evaluation dated October 24, 1991, immediately prior to Complainant's termination, is, however, invalid according to Respondent’s written policy and, further, may not even be authentic (See Attachment G)). [The firm's written policy requires that the supervisor and employee certify that a performance evaluation was discussed by the parties. The performance evaluation in question contains no such certification, and in fact I did not see the evaluation until Akin Gump produced the evaluation to the D.C. Department of Human Rights.]
16. Respondent’s assertion that Complainant did not raise the issue of sexual orientation at any time prior to the filling of the Complaint (R. 5-6) is denied.
On October 24, 1991, at the meeting called by Dennis Race, Complainant was directed to relate incidents of harassment to Messrs. Race and Lassman. The fact that the Complainant was ascribing a homosexual meaning to certain of the incidents would be obvious to a reasonable person based on the nature of the incident described or based on the incident’s relation to all of the incidents described viewed in their entirety.
--Complainant described an incident in which a group of employees, gathered near Complainant’s work station, discussed the anatomical features of a male employee’s chest in a mildly-sexually suggestive manner.
--Complainant described a male attorney moving a pencil up and down next to this genital area while maintaining eye contact with Complainant.
--Complainant ascribed a homosexual meaning to a male attorney’s use of the word “sweet.” Mr. Race asked Complainant why Complainant ascribed a homosexual meaning to the incident.
--Complainant interpreted comments by co-workers as relating to his friendship with Craig Dye. Complainant may have used the phrase “homo crap” in discussing this incident.
--In discussing his supervisor’s offer of a piece of chocolate to Complainant, Complainant expressly used the term “anal intercourse,” a clear reference to sodomy.
Moreover, as already discussed, Respondent’s failure to exercise due diligence in its investigation of Complainant’s allegations of harassment and its decision to terminate on the basis of a faulty investigation constitute a ratification by the Respondent of the hostile work environment created by its employees. An essential ingredient of the hostile work environment, which Respondent ratified by its actions (or inaction), was the rumor spread by Respondent’s employees that the Complainant was homosexual (See Attachment E). [In fact, in later litigation of this case the D.C. Corporation Counsel admitted that there was a rumor at the firm that I was homosexual. Why did Dennis Race's investigation in 1991 not uncover a fact later affirmed by the Corporation Counsel's Office?]
17. The Performance Evaluation dated October 24, 1991 (See Attachment O) constitutes an unlawful discriminatory practice.
The Performance Evaluation dated October 24, 1991, immediately prior to Complainant’s termination on October 29, 1991, is invalid according to Respondent’s written policy. Complainant’s supervisor, Chris Robertson, did not discuss this Performance Evaluation with the Complainant. Nor was Complainant provided a copy of the Performance Evaluation prior to his termination. The first time Complainant became apprised of its existence was upon Complainant’s receipt of the Response on December 23, 1991.
Chris Robertson’s failure to discuss the Performance Evaluation with Complainant is contrary to the Respondent’s written policy as set forth on page 2 of the evaluation form:
EMPLOYEE PARTICIPATION: Please show this evaluation to the employee you supervise and indicate on the last page whether this has been done. If the employee disagrees with your evaluation or has additional information believed to be pertinent you should include those comments in the section captioned “EMPLOYEE COMMENTS.”
Page 6 of Respondent’s evaluation form expressly directs the supervisor to provide a written justification if for any reason the supervisor has not discussed the evaluation with the employee.
Not only was the Performance Evaluation dated October 24, 1991 not discussed with Complainant prior to his termination, but the supervisor did not state a written justification for her failure to discuss the evaluation. In the case of each of the eight Performance Evaluations prepared prior to the one in question Complainant was given a copy of the Evaluation at about the time it was prepared.
Chris Robertson’s failure to indicate on the form her reasons for not discussing the evaluation with Complainant is contrary to Respondent’s written policy and is therefore a per se unlawful discriminatory practice.
Complainant also has reservations regarding the authenticity of the document (See Attachment G).
18. The termination meeting on October 29, 1991 was conducted in an intimidating manner that could have had no other purpose but to elicit behaviors and statements from the Complainant that could provide a post hoc justification for an unlawful termination decision.
During the course of the termination meeting on October 29, 1991 Dennis Race made intimidating -- and false -- accusations against Complainant regarding Complainant’s conduct as an employee and Complainant’s job performance.
Respondent, by virtue of its Response, has subsequently disavowed those accusations.
At one point in the meeting Dennis Race told Complainant that employees, presumably supervisory employees, had placed statements in his personnel file regarding instances of unprofessional conduct. Mr. Race stated to Complainant: “These are things you don’t know about.” Mr. Race did not show any such statements to Complainant, identify the parties who had written the statements, or summarize the content of the purported statements. In fact, Complainant’s personnel file contains no record of either oral or written reprimands (See Attachment N).
Dennis Race also expressly criticized the quality of Complainant’s work. He stated that the quality of Complainant’s work had deteriorated after the cessation of Complainant’s job tasks for the client Eastern Airlines. He added that during the course of his investigation Complainant’s co-workers had stated that Complainant failed to correct errors in his work when directed to do so. Mr. Race’s statements made on October 29, 1991 regarding the quality of Complainant’s work (See Attachment M) are inconsistent with the assertions in the Response that the quality of Complainant’s work was not an issue in they decision to terminate.
Dennis Race’s false accusations made at the time of the termination meeting could have had no other purpose but to intimidate and enrage Complainant in the hopes of provoking an incident that would provide a post hoc justification for a knowingly wrongful termination decision.
19. Complainant’s professional and business-like conduct at the termination meeting and in the period immediately thereafter raises a serious question as to whether Respondent could have retained a good faith belief that Complainant was violent and paranoid (R. 6) or that the allegations made by co-workers were credible.
Complainant’s conduct at the termination meeting and in the period immediately thereafter (See Attachment M) was professional and business-like. Respondent’s description of Complainant as a violent and paranoid individual with serious interpersonal difficulties in no way correspondents to Complainant’s conduct at the termination meeting -- a meeting that was understandably stressful. The fact that Complainant maintained his composure and reason during and after the termination meeting raises a serious question as to whether Respondent could have retained a good faith belief that Complainant suffered from a psychological or emotional problem of such severity so as to justify a lawful termination. Complainant’s conduct also raises a question as to whether Respondent could have retained a good faith belief in the credibility of those co-workers who professed a fear of Complainant.
Respondent’s failure to reconsider its decision to terminate, as requested by Respondent in the period immediately following the termination (See Attachment M), was improper. Complainant’s conduct at the termination meeting and in the period immediately thereafter provided substantial evidence that the stated justification for the termination was not sound.
20. Complainant’s preliminary objections to Respondent’s Response to Interrogatories and Document Request were stated in a verified letter to the Office of Human Rights and Minority Business Development dated and delivered December 28, 1992. A copy of the letter is appended to this Reply as Attachment G.
I, Gary Freedman, having read the above Complainant's Reply to Respondent's Response to Interrogatories and Document Request to be filed in Docket No. 92-087-P(N) affirm that the statements herein are true and correct to the best of my knowledge.
I, Gary Freedman, having read the documents appended as Attachments A through O to the aforementioned Reply, affirm that those documents prepared by me are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and those documents prepared by others are faithful reproductions.
Gary Freedman [signed]
SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN to me this 5th day of
Janet D. Courtney [signed]
My Commission Expires: 1/31/96