Thursday, August 05, 2010

Workplace Mobbing: You Look Like You Need Some Chocolate

In its Initial Determination in Freedman v. Akin, Gump, Hauer & Feld (June 30, 1993), my unlawful job termination complaint, the D.C. Department of Human Rights made the following Finding of Fact:

4(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.”

I recently came across the following one-page document among my papers.  It appears to have been written in 1992:


The following lists prior events at Akin Gump that I associate with my supervisor's offer of a piece of chocolate on a day during the summer of 1991.

1.  In December 1988 I attended the firm Christmas party at the Four Seasons Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, near Georgetown.  I talked with Jesse Raben at the party.  At that time I was assigned to a private office on the fifth floor near the office of David Hardee, a partner.  The day after the Christmas party, Lisa Hassell, David Hardee's secretary, who occupied a work cubicle just outside my office, engaged in a lot of loud carrying on that featured a lot of sexual double entendres.  Late that afternoon, Lisa Hasell offered me a piece of candy, which I vaguely recall was a piece of chocolate.  It was exceedingly rare for Lisa Hassell to initiate any social interaction with me.

2.  During the summer of 1989 Jesse Raben was scheduled for day-long computer training in the sixth floor training room adjacent to my work station on the sixth floor.  I talked with him that day;  I think it was that day that he warned me about the health hazards of chewing on cigars.  He was wearing jeans that day--Jesse looked good in jeans.  Later that afternoon, an unidentified lone male stated as he passed by my desk, "He caught a big one."  Jesse Raben is about 6'5" in height.

3.  On November 14, 1989 Jesse Raben was supposed to join Craig [W. Dye] and me for lunch.  Jesse Raben had to decline at the last minute.  Late that afternoon, the legal assistant administrator, Maggie Sinnott stopped by my desk on the ninth floor.  She told me that the firm had just received a telephone request from the president of Eastern Airlines, Phil Bakes--that Phil Bakes was interested in any documents in the firm's possession regarding some union activity.  At the time I found the incident unusual.  This was the only occasion I had been posed such a request by Maggie Sinnott or anyone.  (Also, in view of Maggie Sinnott's professed fear of me, one wonders why she did this.) (I formed the paranoid feeling that she was engaged in ego bolstering, as if she were symbolically saying "You're an important person here.  When the president of Eastern Airlines has a document request, I seek you out.  If you want to leave early without permission, it's OK--nothing will happen to you.  I want you to know that we think you're indispensable."  I had the paranoid feeling she felt that she was building on my request that Jesse Raben join Craig and me for lunch, which she may have interpreted as already having bolstered what she perceived as my feeble masculinity.  Note the symmetry between Maggie Sinnott's professed fear of me and her apparent attribution of intense fear to me, consistent with her possible use of confidence building, or ego bolstering, actions as a manipulative ploy.)

Note another instance of what I saw as ego bolstering, or confidence-building, behavior:

I continue to believe that in September or October 1990 my female supervisor (Robertson), who was handing documents to me, pulled the documents back towards herself in such a way that, as I was reaching for them, I touched her breasts, see Brief of Appellee District of Columbia at 11, and that the supervisor's conduct was intentionally sexual in nature. The documents in question concerned trademark litigation involving the client National Football League, a client represented by Tanenbaum. [Larry Tanenbaum, Esq. had been married to Maggie Sinnott, the firm's legal assistant administrator.]  The incident occurred a day or two before I was scheduled to visit my sister and her family in New Jersey. I formed the belief at that time, and continue to believe, that Robertson intended that the transaction serve as an ego-bolstering maneuver, overdetermined in nature and consistent with certain predicate thinking. I believe that the content of the documents Robertson handed to me (relating to the "masculine" sport of football) was insidiously related to her act of having me touch her breast. I believe that Robertson was trying to bolster my sense of masculinity so that I would gain the assurance to make frank comments to my family about my perceptions of coworkers, without fear of reprisal; or, perhaps, take more days off from work than I had originally requested. In terms of predicate thinking I applied the following formula: football = touching female breast = masculinity = absence of castration fears = ability to talk frankly without fear of reprisal or job termination = engage in other risky behavior that might endanger job security (such as taking time off from work). Contrariwise, we have the following formulation: homosexuality = castration fears = job insecurity = fear of job termination = strict adherence to rules (cf. Orthodox Jews) out of fear of being seen and punished = fear of taking risks. Robertson was later found to have made a racially-inappropriate statement about a minority person, and was alleged to have colluded with another supervisor in the discriminatory termination of a black employee. McNeil v. Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, no. 93-0477 (D.D.C., Nov. 29, 1993). Robertson reportedly told her employees, in the period immediately following my job termination, that she was afraid I might return to the firm’s premises to kill her.

See also the following report that is contained in a document I submitted to the U.S. Social Security Administration:

One morning during the summer of 1991 employees made repeated references that seemed to relate to legal assistant Jesse Raben, with whom I had been somewhat friendly, and who had left the firm in the spring of 1990 to attend law school. I inferred that perhaps Jesse had had some communication with a firm employee and had referred to me in the communication. Upon returning to the office from lunch that afternoon, Chris Robertson offered me a piece of chocolate, with the peculiar statement, “Here, you look like you need some chocolate.” The statement could perhaps be interpreted as a reference to anal intercourse. Ms. Robertson’s statement was strangely reminiscent of my written message to [legal assistant coordinator] J.D. Neary in early August 1989 (“I could use all the 'coordinating' I can get.”) and J.D.'s written response dated August 7, 1989, “If you ever need any ‘coordinating’ don’t hesitate to call me” (see paragraph 26).

[I was hired as a full-time employee in August 1989. I had given a box of chocolates as a gift to Legal Assistant Administrator Maggie Sinnott (together with a note of appreciation) and a necktie as a gift to J.D. Neary (together with the aforementioned note.)]

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

President Ronald Reagan wanted to end Social Security disability coverage for mental illness. Maybe he was onto something.