Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Akin Gump: Hostile Work Environment

The following document is an emended version of pages 187-201 of the record on appeal in Freedman v. D.C. Dept. Human Rights, D.C.C.A. no. 96-CV-961 (Sept. 1, 1998).  Following my termination by the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld effective October 29, 1991 I filed an unlawful job termination complaint against the firm with the D.C. Department of Human Rights.  The Department determined in September 1993 that there was no probable cause to believe that my job termination was unlawful under the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977.  The Department determined that my former employer had genuine and credible concerns about my mental health and stability based on a job harassment complaint I filed against my supervisor and coworkers in late October 1991, which the firm found was the product of the psychiatric “disorder” ideas of reference.  The Department’s no probable cause determination was affirmed by the D.C. Court of Appeals in a Memorandum Opinion and Judgment issued in Freedman v. D.C. Department of Human Rights on September 1, 1998.

Upon my termination by the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld on October 29, 1991, I wrote out every incident I could recall that seemed harassing or tended to show a pattern in behaviors by firm personnel that suggested that Akin Gump was a hostile work environment.  I wrote the document from memory.  I could recall the dates of some incidents, but not others.

While I worked at the firm I formed the belief that the manager of my apartment building, Elaine Wranik, entered my apartment when I was not home, inspected the apartment and reported back to Akin Gump’s managers what she saw.  I did not keep notes or a diary of events while I worked at the firm out of fear that Elaine Wranik would find the writings at my residence.

Hypermnesia, the heightened ability to recall, is itself a psychiatric symptom of trauma.  The fact that I was able to recall with vividness the details of events that occurred years earlier is circumstantial evidence that I experienced these events as traumatic.  If it is true, as Marshall McLuhan has said, that “the medium is the message,” then this writing -- specifically, how it came to be written -- is itself evidence of a hostile (and traumatic) work environment.

Akin Gump alleged that my perception that I was being harassed was a product of the psychiatric symptom, ideas of reference.  It is doubtful that a person who experiences ideas of references can recall those perceptions years later.

I submitted the document to the D.C. Department of Human Rights in about November 1991, a few weeks after I was terminated on October 29, 1991, with the intention of filing an unlawful termination complaint against Akin Gump.  The agency ultimately filed a complaint on February 4, 1992.

The D.C. Dept. of Human Rights determined in 1993 (Initial Determination: June 1993) (Final Agency Action: September 1993) that the work environment I described did not constitute a "hostile work environment" in violation of the D.C. Human Rights Act.  Freedman v. D.C. Dept. Human Rights, D.C.C.A. no. 96-CV-961.

The issue of whether the following conduct constitutes a subtle form of job harassment called “mobbing” was never litigated. There is no “anti-mobbing” statute in the District of Columbia.  An anti-mobbing bill was introduced in the California state legislature several years ago, but was not enacted.  The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has acknowledged the phenomenon of workplace "mobbing," which the court defined as a form of "group harassment" that involves "a process of abusive behaviors inflicted over time." Sousa v. Roque, Docket No. 07-1892-CV, August 21, 2009.

In fact I have developed the psychiatric problems typically associated with the consequences of workplace mobbing: Major Depression, PTSD, alcohol dependence, and paranoia.

1.  I began working at the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld (now Akin Gump Hauer and Feld) on Thursday March 3, 1988 as an agency-supplied temporary legal assistant.  On June 13, 1988 I began employment directly by Akin Gump as a temporary legal assistant.  In early August 1989 I was hired by the firm as a full time legal assistant with full benefits.  I was advised of my termination effective October 31, 1991, approximately one week after complaining to members of firm management of harassment by firm employees.

My work performance, as evidenced by six job evaluations dated November 19898 through May 1991, was exemplary.  On no occasion during my employment did a supervisory employee or member of management state to me, or communicate in any way, that there was any difficulty with my job performance or behavior in the firm.

[The D.C. Department of Human Rights made a specific finding of fact that my work performance was "above average or outstanding" throughout my tenure at the firm.  Mobbing victims are usually "exceptional individuals who demonstrated intelligence, competence, creativity, integrity, accomplishment and dedication."

Akin Gump admitted that my personnel file contained no reprimands, oral or written.]

2.  During my three and one-half years association with the firm attempts to be friendly with employees, including attorneys, were frequently met with a hostile reaction.  For example, one morning in about late June 1988, while walking behind attorney David Hardee, near whose office I worked for a time, I asked wither the plastic bag he was carrying contained his breakfast.  He responded in a rude tone of voice, “No, it’s drugs!”

One morning in late October 1988, I had a brief conversation with Lisa Hassell, who was David Hardee’s secretary.  The next morning I attempted to engage her in conversation again.  She seemed to freeze, and look over her shoulder into her bosses’ office.  I inferred that Mr. Hardee had told Ms. Hassell not to talk to me.

When I attempted to have a conversation with employees in the litigation support group, they would frequently respond in a rude manner or make homosexual references (see paragraph 35).

Incidents of this kind are too numerous to recount.

[David Hardee was a tax partner who had professional ties to Vernon Jordan.  Jordan served on the Board of Directors of RJR Nabisco, a client that Hardee represented.  The head of the firm's tax practice group was Charles Levy whose office was adjacent to that of Bob Strauss.  Hardee was active in Democratic party politics and attended the 1988 Democratic presidential nominating convention.  Hardee seemed consistently hostile to me, more so than any other attorney at the firm.
I was assigned to work in a private office on the fifth floor by my supervisor, Maggie Sinnott, on her initiative, in mid-June 1988, a brief time after I was hired as an Akin Gump temporary employee, effective June 13, 1988.  I did not request a private office.  It is interesting to note that Akin Gump alleged in an interrogatory response filed with the D.C. Department of Human Rights that I demanded to work in total isolation.  In this instance my supervisor isolated me, on her initiative.  I remained in this office, adjacent to that of David Hardee, until March 17, 1989.]

3.  For a considerable part of my employment with the firm, up until about early 1991, I was plagued by nuisance telephone calls.  The telephone would ring once, and no more.  I simply attributed this to people dialing a wrong number.  But my suspicion was piqued by the fact that the phenomenon appeared to stop at a certain point in time.

After installation of a firm-wide computer network, employees could send electronic messages (“E-mail”) to selected groups of employees or to all firm employees.  It seemed to me that many of these messages could have been interpreted to have had a double meaning, frequently sexual in nature, and they were aimed at me.  But this is a highly-speculative inference.

[The phrase "this is a highly-speculative inference" is significant.  Psychotics generally do not acknowledge that their representations about reality might be wrong.  Generally, psychotics speak with absolute certainty about the correctness of their view of reality.

Being "vigilant, suspicious, skeptical, and distrustful" can be signs of high ego strength.
My perceptions about my environment are consistent with the cognitive style of a person who accepts id drives and fears, and handles them through a strong ego, which is constantly engaged in reality testing. There are persons who reach out for every form of clue in their environment and retain almost every bit of information, which evidently helps to satisfy their need for intellectual control of their relationships with the outer world.  I may be one of those persons who is sensitive to every nuance of reaction from the outer world as it pertains to me. Myden, W. "An Interpretation and Evaluation of Certain Personality Characteristics Involved in Creative Production." In: A Rorschach Reader at 164-65. Sherman, M.H., ed. (New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1960). My responses on the Rorschach test were be detailed, expansive, and unconventional: consistent with the type of personality Myden describes.  In fact, I was accused of showing off on the Rorschach test by the George Washington University Medical Center Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science in May 1994.]

4.  On no occasion in my three and one-half years association with the firm did I ever go to lunch with an Akin Gump employee.  On no occasion in my three and one half years association with the firm was I ever asked by an Akin Gump employee to join him or her for lunch.  The few times I went to lunch with others were with agency-supplied temporaries, Gwen Lesh, John Falk, Sandra Jones, Conleth [last name?], and Dexter [last name?].  The three firm employees whom I asked to lunch initially agreed then later declined.  They were Dick Stanke, Jesse Raben, and Matthew Erskine.

Akin Gump is an organization of some 400 persons.

[Jesse Raben was a classmate and friend of Sandra Jones at Tufts University; they both graduated in spring 1988 with a degree in international relations.]

[Gwen Lesh was a law school graduate who passed the Maryland bar exam in 1989.  She was friendly with Stacey Schaar.  Both Schaar and Lesh were originally hired as Personnel Pool agency temps.]

5.  The perception that legal assistant administrator, Maggie Sinnott had me typed as a homosexual, and that her interaction with me was guided by that characterization remained with me throughout my employment.  Until the spring of 1991 she almost invariably glanced at my genital region when she saw me.  On occasion she would lunge her head foreword with a shaking motion, scowl, while simultaneously gazing at my genital area, as though she were boring a hole in my crotch.  At one point during my legal assistant orientation, in early August 1989, she rose slightly from her chair and glanced at my genital area.  (It was at the point in the conversation that she was discussing my availability for travel; she was perhaps trying to emphasize my “ineffectuality.”  Note that I had performed an assignment in Baltimore earlier, in about February 1989.)  I noticed that at a legal assistant happy hour at Stetson’s in early August 1989 Maggie went around introducing me to female employees but not any male employees.  This perhaps meant nothing, but it forms a curious counterpart to an incident at the firm Christmas party at the Four Seasons Hotel in December 1988.  On that occasion the one individual she introduced me to, other than Larry Tanenbaum, her husband, was the husband of legal assistant Jennifer Mesches, whose first name was Craig (see paragraph 17).

[Again, the phrase "This perhaps meant nothing" is inconsistent with the rigid thinking of persons suffering from  psychotic mental illness.

The feminization of Jews can be a feature of anti-Semitism.]

6.  On my second day on the job, on Friday, March 4, 1988, I introduced myself to a male employee outside whose office I was working at a secretary’s work station.  I believe the employee was either a legal assistant or staff person, but not an attorney;  I do not recall his name.

Shortly after I introduced myself, a group of employees (probably other legal assistants, secretaries, or staff persons--but not attorneys) gathered in the office adjacent to the work station at which I was working.  They proceeded to engage in a lively and mildly-sexually suggestive discussion about the size of  the male employee’s chest, whether it was hairy or not, etc.  The discussion continued for about two minutes.

Maggie had placed me at that work station at about 9:00 AM that morning.  (On my first day on the job, March 3, 1988, I worked in conference room 2 Wyatt with other temporary coders.  At about 9:00 AM, March 4, 1988, Maggie moved me, explaining that she personally found that she worked better in a quiet, private area.  I responded, “We think alike.”)

[It is interesting to note that Akin Gump alleged in an interrogatory response filed with the D.C. Department of Human Rights that I demanded to work in total isolation.  In this instance my supervisor isolated me, on her initiative, from other employees performing the same task.]

7. Some time in early April 1988 a legal assistant named Sandra Sussman, with whom I shared office space for a few days, told me that it was per perception that prospective legal assistants were hired more for their social skills and ability to fit in the group than for their professional ability.  She may have used the phrase “country club” to describe her perception of the Akin Gump legal assistant environment.

She stated that she felt she did not fit in because she was older (about 28 years old), more mature, and had a different background than the other legal assistants.  Ms. Sussman had served in the armed forces, and, if I recall correctly, was stationed in the Netherlands.

Ms. Sussman voluntarily resigned from the firm a few weeks later, in April 1988.

["Mobbing is typically found in work environments that have poorly organized production and/or working methods and incapable or inattentive management."  The D.C. Court of Appeals in the disbarment proceedings involving Akin Gump attorney Michael X. Morrell, Esq. chastised the firm's senior managers for their lax management style.

I was 34 years old when I was assigned to Akin Gump by a temporary agency in March 1988, considerably older than other firm paralegals.  I was hired as an Akin Gump temporary in June 1988 because I had existing skills that the firm needed.

Akin Gump fired a 50-year-old attorney Donald G. Gross in 2004, citing as a reason for the termination the "lack of fit" between Gross and other attorneys at the firm.  When I was terminated in October 29, 1991 by hiring partner Dennis M. Race, Race told me there was a "lack of fit" between me and other firm personnel.]

8.  On Friday May 6, 1988, Maggie Sinnott requested that I work overtime on Sunday May 8, 1988 to assist legal assistant Nancy Shaffer on an NFL matter.

I arrived at work on the afternoon of Sunday May 8, 1988 and completed the task for Ms. Shaffer in Ms. Sinnott’s office.  I remained at work until approximately 8:00 AM on the morning of May 9 at which time I was sent home by Ms. Sinnott.  The task was performed without complaint or protest, despite the fact that Ms. Shaffer was reputedly difficult to work with.  (Ms. Sinnott, herself, on the morning of May 9, characterized Ms. Shaffer as a “bitch.”)

On being advised of my termination by the firm on October 29, 1991 I was told that J.D. Neary, the legal assistant coordinator, and Maggie Sinnott found difficult to work with.

(Note that on a number of occasions while employed as an agency-supplied temporary, I worked at Maggie’s desk on weekends with her permission).

[It was while I was working at Maggie Sinnott's desk on this weekend in early May 1988 that I opened a drawer of Sinnott's desk and discovered a note with the name and telephone number of Ernst Ticho, Ph.D., a Washington, D.C. psychoanalyst.  Ernst Ticho, Ph.D. was the husband of Gertrude R. Ticho, M.D., a psychiatrist who reportedly advised Akin Gump just prior to my termination that my report of harassment was a product of paranoia and that I might become violent.  The Washington Post had published an article about the Tichos in about 1986 that discussed their interest in creativity, so I knew in May 1988 who Ernst and Gertrude Ticho were.  In an interrogatory response filed with the D.C. Department of Human Rights in my unlawful termination complaint, Akin Gump alleged that Malcolm Lassman, an attorney manager, was a friend of Gertrude Ticho's.]

[According to paralegal Lilliam Machado, Nancy Shaffer was fired by Akin Gump in June 1988 for "insubordination."]

9.  While walking down a hallway on the second floor, around May 1988, attorney Paul Wageman, who was walking toward me, began to hold a pencil next to his genital area and proceeded move the pencil up and down next to his genital area.

[The D.C. Department of Human Rights made a specific finding that I told Akin Gump about this incident.  The incident, characterized by the DHR as an "idea of reference," might be more accurately described as a lewd gesture.

A recent newspaper article discusses personality problems of Paul Wageman.  I do not know the circumstances under which Wageman left Akin Gump.]

10.  During a discussion with then legal assistant administrator, Margarita Babb, in June 1988, concerning my change in status from agency-supplied temporary legal assistant to Akin Gump temporary legal assistant, Ms. Babb stated, “The legal assistants at the firm tend to be cliquish, especially the legal assistants assigned to the Eastern case.  They may not accept you.”

The firm hired me despite their knowledge that I might experience difficulties with fellow employees.

[Margarita Babb's description of Akin Gump's paralegals as "cliquish" is consistent with the workplace exclusion associated with mobbing behavior.]

11.  In mid-June 1988, shortly after being hired as a firm temporary employee, I was  assigned a private office on the fifth floor.  On the first morning in that office space as I was getting a cup of coffee in an adjacent kitchen area, an attorney, whom I later learned was named David Hardee, said to me, “I smell something sweet in here.  Do you smell something sweet in here?”  I said, “No.” He repeated, “I smell something sweet in here.”

[See paragraph 2, above.]

[The D.C. Department of Human Rights made a specific finding that I told Akin Gump about this incident.  The incident, characterized by the DHR as an "idea of reference," might be more accurately described as innuendo.  Note also that the notion that Jews have an unpleasant sweet odor is stereotypically anti-Semitic.]

12.  In June 1988, at the time I was hired as an Akin Gump temporary legal assistant, J.D. Neary told me he would get together with me to give me a legal assistant orientation.  The orientation never took place.

[This incident may be evidence of workplace exclusion associated with mobbing behavior.]

13.  During the summer of 1988 I used to perform a certain task on Eastern for legal assistant Phil Feigen, who shared office space with legal assistant Jesse Raben.  One day Phil telephoned, requesting that I stop down to his office to pick up some work.  When I arrived, Jesse Raben was very friendly.  It was, in fact, the first time that Jesse was friendly with me since he had started working at the firm on June 13, 1988.  As Jesse and I engaged in some banter, J.D. Neary stopped at the doorway of the office.  Not saying a word, J.D. simply nodded at Jesse, as though cuing Jesse to a prearranged plan.  I took a stack of documents to a nearby Xerox room to make copies for the task I was doing for Phil.  Moments later, Jesse stopped by the Xerox room, and continued his banter in a lively manner.

The next day, I stopped at Phil’s and Jesse’s office to perform more of the same task I had been doing the previous day.  But this day, Jesse seemed more his normal self.

[This incident may be evidence of legal assistant coordinator J.D. Neary "staging" the behavior of paralegals in the manner of a "puppet master."]

14.  On the afternoon of Sunday August 14, 1988 I worked overtime to digest the transcript of a deposition given by Mr. Farrell Kupersmith in the Eastern asset transfer litigation scheduled to commence hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Barrington Parker on Monday August 15, 1988.  I worked with  legal assistant Phil Feigen on this assignment.  To obtain guidance on this task I telephoned the residence of attorney Mr. Joel Cohn, who had taken the deposition of Kupersmith, but there was no answer.  I then telephoned attorney Mr. David Callet’s residence.  Mrs. Callet advised that Mr. Callet was at the office, where I was able to reach him and obtain the guidance I needed.

I worked until about 7:00 AM on the morning of August 15, 1988, and completed the deposition digest in time for use by the attorneys in connection with the scheduled hearing.

Upon leaving the office I left a note on Ms. Sinnott’s desk advising that I would be taking the remainder of the day off and explaining the reason.  Despite having worked all night, I good-naturedly noted that I was taking the day off to celebrate Napoleon’s birthday.

On being advised of my termination by the firm on October 29, 1991, I was told that J.D. Neary and Maggie Sinnott found me difficult to work with, and that I was sensitive to criticism, apparently wanting to complete assignments in my own fashion without regard for the firm’s needs.

[Eastern Airlines eventually lost the asset transfer litigation before Judge Barrington Parker.  I vaguely recall that on one occasion in 1988, Eastern billing partner Jack Gallagher sent legal assistant Antony Parchment to the home of Judge Barrington Parker (U.S. District Court) to deliver a box of documents re: Eastern Airlines litigation. Judge Parker had a conniption fit. "Don't ever come to my house again!!"  This incident may say something about Akin Gump's culture of intimidation.]

15.  In January 1989, during a lull in work on Eastern. Ms. Constance Brown, the legal assistant for whom I worked, advised me that she had spoken to another legal assistant, Ms. Kathleen Winslow, about allowing me to work for Ms. Winslow on Central Southwest Power.  Ms. Winslow said that this client was particularly concerned about costs, and she requested that I advise her of my hourly rate.  I told Ms. Winslow my hourly rate (despite the fact that I believed that that information was immaterial to the client since it was my understanding that clients were billed by the firm according to a “flat” legal assistant rate of approximately $60.00 per hour).

This incident occurred shortly after a discussion between me and Ms. Sinnott about my interest in working for the firm in a full time capacity.  I had told Md. Sinnott that I would be willing to accept a full time position with no increase in salary, since, as I put it, my current salary was very high for the type of work I did.  Ms. Sinnott said she would discuss the matter with “the powers that be.”

[I was eventually granted a full-time position with benefits in early August 1989.]

[There is a possibility that Kathleen Winslow was coached to ask me about my salary in January 1989.  Such coaching would be consistent with what I observed about Winslow's behavior about two months later.

Late in the afternoon of Friday March 31, 1989, Ms. Kathleen Winslow stopped by the office to talk to me. The conversation consisted of a non-stop discourse by Ms. Winslow about my gray hair and how its condition could be remedied with some hair dye. She also talked about my skin, and how, fortunately, I didn’t have any wrinkles yet. But if I did develop wrinkles, I could undergo cosmetic surgery. I had the impression that someone had coached Ms. Winslow to harass me, since her behavior for out of character. In that time frame I was working for Ms. Winslow, who was a legal assistant working in a quasi-supervisory capacity. Ms. Winslow prepared a job evaluation for me dated May 1989.

In late December 1986--around the time of my 33rd birthday (I was feeling old)--I died my hair. My coworkers at Hogan & Hartson saw this as evidence that I was trying to appear younger to sexually attract Craig Dye. In early 1987 (while I worked at Hogan), someone spread a false rumor that I had visited a tanning salon to look pretty for Craig. I have never been to a tanning salon.]

16.  Shortly after returning to my office from a lunch break on an afternoon in about February 1989, I discovered that a stack of documents, which had been placed in precise order, had been tampered with and were no longer in order.  I simply assumed that perhaps a legal assistant needed a certain document or documents and had inadvertently disturbed the order of the documents.

The following day I was discussing work issues with Ms. Constance Brown.  At the conclusion of the discussion, Ms. Brown said she sometimes felt there must be ghosts in the building because things seemed inexplicably to get mislaid or lost.  She asked me if I noticed that happening to me.  From this conversation, I inferred that perhaps the incident in my office the preceding day had not been as innocent as it had appeared at the time, and that someone had intentionally disturbed the documents in my office with the intent of eliciting some comment from me blaming a particular individual: the ultimate intent being an effort to adduce evidence of my “paranoia.”

[This incident may have been evidence of a form of workplace harassment known as "gaslighting."]

17.  Shortly after I was moved to the sixth floor office space shared with Stacey Schaar and Gwen Lesh, on March 20, 1989, there began repeated references, especially by Ms. Schaar, to my friendship with Craig Dye, with whom I had worked at the law firm of Hogan and Hartson.  The references centered on a supposedly homosexual interest I had in Craig  Apparently, some time in march 1989 an Akin Gump employee had had some contact with an employee or employees at Hogan, and information obtained from these communications was used to harass me at Akin Gump.  From late March 1989 until my termination on October 29, 1991, the harassing homosexual references to Craig continued interminably.  These references were used by various Akin Gump employees, including litigation support administrator Chris Robertson, a supervisory employee.

(A former Hogan attorney Douglas Rosenfeld, who began working at Akin Gump on March 13, 1989, may have served as a conduit of information between the two law firms.  Doug Rosenfeld was a friend of a former roommate of Craig’s, named Daniel Cutler, who also worked at Hogan, until about late April 1989.  Doug Rosenfeld left Akin Gump in the spring of 1990).

[I vaguely recall that Doug Rosenfeld prepared a letter of recommendation for Daniel Cutler for law school.]

18.  During my first few weeks in office space on the sixth floor in the early spring of 1989, legal assistants Gwen Lesh, Stacey Schaar and Adrianne Clarke Schmidt would gather each day for lunch at noon.  Their conversations were often sexual in nature, and would often feature details that seemed to derive from my personal life expressed in the form of double entendres.  On one occasion, these legal assistants seemed to be reviewing the contents of my apartment with detail and accuracy.

[I noticed that these harassing lunch time gatherings stopped after I complained to my sister about the behavior.]

19.  At the “All-Attorney’s Dinner” held at the Westin Hotel on the evening of May 3, 1989, I asked a fellow legal assistant, Jesse Raben, whether he had heard of the rumor about me at the firm.  He responded, “You mean the rumor that you’re a homosexual?”  Yea, I heard about that.”

I told a friend, Craig Dye, about the above incident during lunch on September 18, 1990.

20.  During the period March 20, 1989 to October 23, 1989, I worked on the sixth floor at a secretary’s work station in an open area outside the office of System 85 manager, Dick Stanke.

After a few months in that workspace, I observed that the following sequence of events occurred with regularity.  After I completed a conversation with someone, if Dick Stanke happened to be in his office, the door would close, remain closed for about a minute , then open again.  This happened with such regularity over a period of months that I inferred it was not mere chance--that Dick Stanke was, in fact, reporting to a third party what he observed.

On one occasion, legal assistant Stacey Schaar was having a conversation with someone about how to become friends with J.D. Neary.  She said, “J.D. loves football.  If you want to become friendly with him, play softball with him and engage him in conversation.”  During the course of Ms. Schaar’s conversation, which lasted about one to one-and-one-half minutes, I noticed that Dick Stanke was standing off to the side, apparently watching me, perhaps gauging my reaction.  At the conclusion of Ms. Schaar’s conversation, Dick Stanke walked back to his office and closed the door.  The door opened a brief time later.

[At that time the computer systems manager Dick Stanke and I resided in the same apartment building (3801 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC); the resident manager of the building was named Elaine Wranik.]

[Note incidentally that an individual who works at J.D. Neary's current place of employment (Maguire Woods in Richmond, VA) has shown a keen interest in what I have written about J.D. Neary on this blog, My Daily Struggles.]

[According to the psychoanalyst Leonard Shengold, M.D., obsessive spying is a form of paranoia; instead of the formulation "They are all spying on me" the individual masters the fear of being watched by making someone else a victim of obsessive scrutiny, thereby also usurping the maternal role by exhibiting an overconcern with every aspect of the victim's behavior.  Shengold, L. Soul Murder: The Effects of Childhood Deprivation and Abuse at 224 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989).  Note the mix of paranoia and latent homosexuality in such behavior: the man who spies on another man attempts to master his paranoia and also adopts the mother's role in relation to another male.]

21.  One day during the summer of 1989, while working in office space shared with legal assistants Stacey Schaar and Gwen Lesh, Ms. Lesh had a vivid telephone conversation with her brother about a sexual encounter he had had the previous evening with a female.  She said, among other things, “You used a rubber, didn’t you?  You used a rubber, I hope.”  Shortly after this telephone conversation, Stacey Schaar arrived in the office with Xerox copies of a newspaper article about a homosexual encounter that had allegedly occurred between an attorney in the firm’s Dallas office and a male prostitute.  Ms. Schaar proceeded to distribute a copy of the article to me and others in private offices in the vicinity.

[During the summer of 1989 Gwen Lesh handed me a copy of Playgirl magazine (which features photos of nude male models) and asked me to check out a questionnaire in the magazine.  Stacey Schaar or Gwen Lesh had also shown the magazine to Dick Stanke.  Even if one reasonably dismisses the proposition that I was a specific target of harassment, arguably, Akin Gump was at times an inappropriately sexually-charged environment.  See Robinson v. Jacksonville Shipyards, Inc., 760 F.Supp. 1486 (1991).

Typical of the sexually-char
ged atmosphere in the Litigation Support Department is the following incident from 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.  See record on appeal: COMPLAINANT'S REPLY TO RESPONDENT'S RESPONSE TO INTERROGATORIES AND DOCUMENT REQUEST.]

22.  The perception that I was harassed or harangued, by legal assistant Stacey Schaar was shared by agency-supplied temporary legal assistant Dexter [last name?].  Once, sometime in September or October 1989, Dexter told me that Stacey had telephoned and wanted me to call her.  Dexter said, “I’m warning you, it’s just more harassment.”

[Paranoia is an idiosyncratic belief.  Generally speaking, other people in the environment do not confirm the persecutory perceptions of paranoid individuals.]

23.  On an afternoon during the week of July 10, 1989 (probably Wednesday July 12, 1989), Maggie Sinnott requested me to work overtime in the evening to assist legal assistant Clay Bailey on a task for Frontier Airlines.  I worked all night, without complaint or protest, and had to be sent home just after 9:00 AM the next morning by J.D. Neary.

On being advised of my termination by the firm on October 29, 1991 I was told that J.D. Neary and Maggie Sinnott found me difficult to work with.

24.  The one occasion I was called for an assignment by J.D. Neary, to the best of my recollection, was also the only time I was requested to cite check a brief.  I believe this was Friday July 28, 1989, just after management had decided to grant me full time status, which was to begin in early August 1989.  I met with J.D. and Stacey Schaar in J.D.’s office on the morning of July 28, 1989 at which time he gave us portions of a Craig Hall/RICO matter brief, prepared by attorney Ms. Merrill Spiegel.  I spent the remainder of the day on the assignment.  Around noon, J.D. stopped by the library, patted me on the back, and asked how I was doing.  There were no negative comments from the attorney or J.D. about the quality of my work.

The following week, Merrill Spiegel requested that some auto-cite cite checking be done on the brief. I advised Ms. Sinnott that I did not have sufficient experience on auto-cite, declined the assignment, and gave the brief back to Ms. Sinnott.

[This incident disconfirms Maggie Sinnott's report to Dennis Race during management's harassment complaint investigation in late October 1991 that Maggie Sinnott found me difficult to work with, that she was afraid of me, and couldn't work with me.  Note that Akin Gump omitted any reference to Dennis Race speaking with Maggie Sinnott and J.D. Neary immediately prior to my termination; in doing so, Akin Gump would have had to admit that management investigated the possibility of promoting me in the period immediately prior to the termination.]

25.  Upon being hired as a full-time legal assistant in early August 1989, I gave a box of chocolates to legal assistant administrator, Maggie Sinnott and a necktie to legal assistant coordinator, J.D. Neary.  I attached to J.D.'s gift a note stating, in part, “I could use all the coordinating I can get.”  In a thank-you memo addressed to me dated August 7, 1989, J.D. wrote, in part, “If you ever need any ‘coordinating’ don’t hesitate to call me” (see paragraph 35).

26.  It is the firm’s policy to provide legal assistants a box of business cards, personalized note pads, and a name plate.  At my legal assistant orientation in early August 1989 Ms. Sinnott told me that business cards and personalized note pads would be issued; neither these items, nor a name plate were ever provided.

[This incident may be evidence of exclusion associated with mobbing behavior.]

[Note that the act of stripping a Jew of his personal identity can be a feature of anti-Semitism.]

27.  Beginning some time in September 1989 co-workers began to use the name "Chris” with unusual frequency in conversations with me. On October 14, 1989 I moved to office space on the ninth floor, and introduced myself to another legal assistant who was also moving into that office space that day. He introduced himself as Chris Montague. I later learned that Chris Montague had been hired in September 1989 at about the same time co-workers seemed to begin using the name “Chris” with unusual frequency in conversations with me. Chris was a very good-looking, athletic male in his early 20’s.

[Chris Montague, originally from Billings, Montana, was a roommate of Jesse Raben's for a time.]

28.  A curious incident occurred on the afternoon of November 14, 1989, the day on which I was to have lunch with a non-employee friend, Craig Dye, and legal assistant Jesse Raben.  (Jesse declined to have lunch at the last minute saying he had to complete cite-checking a brief).  Late in the afternoon, after lunch with Craig, Maggie stopped up to my desk explaining that the firm had just received an inquiry from Phil Bakes, president of Eastern.  She was seeking me out for any information I might have to assist the firm in responding to Bakes’ inquiry.  This was the first and only time while working on Easter that I was posed such a request.

(Note that lunch with Jesse and Craig would have conflicted with my image as pathologically unsociable or homosexual).

(Note also the parallel between (1) interfering with someone’s relations with males, then arguing, in turn, that he has no male friends (with the implication of defective masculinity), and (2) not providing substantive assignments, then arguing, in turn, that the employee simply doesn’t have the required experience.  In concrete terms, compare (1) being introduced only to female employees at a legal assistant happy hour with (2) being offered work on “Code-a-phones” (as task performed for Eastern that involved the tape recording of telephone "800” messages by a legal assistant for later transcription by a secretary) as Maggie did shortly after I was hired on a full-time basis in August 1989).

[When I had lunch with Craig Dye on November 14, 1989 I told Craig that Jesse Raben couldn't join us; I said specifically, "Jesse weaseled out."  Later, in December 1989, at the firm's legal assistant Christmas luncheon at the Westin Hotel I sat at a table with firm legal assistant (and office roommate of Jesse Raben's) Phil Feigin.  While speaking to a third party at the luncheon table Phil Feigin used the phrase "He weaseled out," while glancing over at me.  I formed the belief that Craig reported my conversations with him to someone at Akin Gump.]

[I believe that Maggie Sinnott's late afternoon visit to my desk on November 14, 1989 was intended as an ego-bolstering maneuver ("You see, we think you are a very important person here at the firm.  When the President of Eastern Airlines calls with an information request, we come to you.  Feel free to leave work early.  You won't get in trouble.") that is dynamically related to the incident in the fall of 1990 when my direct supervisor Chris Robertson had me touch her breast.

Some time around late September or October 1990, Chris Robertson , while handing me some folders containing documents relating to the client National Football League (NFL), pulled the folders back towards herself in such a way that, as I was reaching for them, I touched her breasts. The incident occurred in the terrace level adjacent to the receptionist’s desk.

The documents in question concerned trademark litigation involving the client National Football League, a client represented by Tanenbaum. 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.]

29.  During the firm Christmas party on December 14, 1989, at the Westin Hotel, while I was talking to legal assistants Chris Montague and Gary Zanfagna, attorney Larry Tanenbaum glanced at my genital area.

Some time during the summer of 1990 while riding in an elevator, as Mr. Tanenbaum spoke with legal assistant Stacey Papa about playing softball with the "guys,” he glanced at my genital area.

Around 5:30 on PM on about August 1, 1990 Mr. Tanenbaum started to whistle at me as he entered the elevator in which I was riding.  This incident occurred just shortly after I asked summer research assistant, Matthew Erskine to lunch.  Larry Tanenbaum was Maggie’s former husband and a recovering alcoholic.

[During the summer of 1991 a litigation support coworker Rebecca Jackson told me that she was dating Larry Tanenbaum.  Apparently, Tanenbaum had a penchant for developing sexual relationships with firm employees; note the projective element in Tanenbaum's apparent imputation of a sexual motive to my social overtures to firm employees.]

[According to Westhues (2002) mobbing “is an impassioned, collective campaign by co-workers to exclude, punish, and humiliate a targeted worker.”   If the excluded outsider attempts to affiliate he may enrage members of the dominant group (see paragraph 6, above) who seek to preserve the outsider's status of isolation. Shunning behaviors by group members can be a form of projective identification that preserves the outsider's status of isolation in a group whose dominant ideology places a special premium on affiliation. Cf. Stern, F. Gold and Iron: Bismarck, Bleichröder, and the Building of the German Empire at 476 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977) (the outsider who serves as a repository of the projected forbidden sexual ("he is a homosexual") and aggressive impulses ("he is potentially violent") of the dominant group will arouse feelings of rage in group members by his attempt to affiliate or his attempt to minimize the differences between himself and the dominant group. The outsider's attempts to affiliate will enrage members of the dominant group who have projected onto him "entities from [their] psychic world," and by projecting them to the outside can better protect themselves from these inner threats.) (These dynamics serve to maintain the outsider in a permanent state of social disenfranchisement (a symbolic castrative act), see T.I. Rubin, Anti-Semitism: A Disease of the Mind : A Psychiatrist Explores the Psychodynamics of a Symbol Sickness at 99 (New York: Continuum Intl Pub Group, 1990).]

30.  On a Friday in early spring 1990 (possibly March 30, 1990), Ms. Constance Brown advised me that since there was little work to be done on Eastern, she had arranged that I meet with the administrator of litigation support, Ms. Chris Robertson on Monday morning (possibly April 2, 1990) and that Chris would provide me with work.  On Monday morning, shortly after 9:00 AM, I reported to litigation support, which was housed on the terrace level of the building, and met with Chris for about 15 to 20 minutes.  Chris provided instruction on a particular task that I was to do for MCA.  This was my first contact with Chris Robertson in the relation of employee to supervisor; up until this time I had worked predominantly for Ms. Constance Brown on Eastern.  This was also the first time I was to work in the terrace level office.  At the conclusion of my conversation with Chris, she led me from her office to a work station where I was to perform the assigned task.  Upon sitting at the work station, Chris said to me, “You can sit here.”  This was at approximately 9:30 AM.  After sitting down at the desk I 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.

[Coincidentally, the client MCA was later purchased by Edgar Bronfman, an individual active in numerous Jewish causes; Bronfman has served as Chairman of the Anti-Defamation League and has headed the World Jewish Congress. 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).]

[On March 30, 1990 the following article, titled “Eastern’s Creditors Threaten to Move For Liquidation,” appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

"Eastern Airlines’ unsecured creditors have threatened to call for a bankruptcy-court liquidation of the beleaguered carrier if Eastern’s parent, Texas Air Corp., doesn’t take a bigger role in current efforts to reorganize it.

But Texas Air officials, in turn, have told the creditors’ committee that it can’t make the kind of wide-ranging financial assurance apparently being sought, according to people familiar with the case.

The sudden standoff is an outgrowth of the disclosure earlier this week by Eastern President Phil Bakes that the airline couldn’t meet the terms of a settlement reached only a month earlier. That agreement called for repaying unsecured creditors about 50 cents on the dollar. . . .

According to people close to the latest discussions, Eastern’s creditors are weighing other possible responses, including backing the appointment of a trustee by the court. A trustee would replace Eastern’s managers and run the airline’s day-to-day operations. The idea has been proposed before and was strongly backed by Eastern’s unions and bitterly opposed by Eastern and Texas Air management. Until now, creditors have also resisted the notion. Creditors are further understood to be pressing their advisors to search for a possible buyer of Eastern, a move they haven’t previously pushed. . . ."

The deteriorating situation regarding Eastern may have contributed to the perception by certain Akin Gump employees that I was now particularly vulnerable. [See also "Eastern Airlines, Unable to Meet Terms For Unsecured Creditors, Plans Cost Cuts,” The Wall Street Journal, March 28, 1990 (reporting that the bankruptcy-court saga recently seemed to be heading toward conclusion)]

31.  Late in the morning or early afternoon on Friday April 13, 1990, Maggie Sinnott stopped up to my office on the ninth floor and was talking to a legal assistant about the bates-numbering of some documents.  She repeated the word “bates” again and again. Which I read as a reference to masturbation, and referred repeatedly to an employee (whom I assumed to be a temporary legal assistant) whose name sounded Irish in derivation.  There may have been other sexual allusions.

The previous week, on Thursday April 5, 1990, I had prepared a creative piece after 5:30 PM on the firm’s computer network to show to my psychiatrist, Dr. Stanley Palombo, during the next scheduled session with him on Friday April 6, 1990.  The piece contained veiled allusions to anti-Semitism.

It was my feeling on April 13, 1990 that Maggie was attempting to arouse my anger so that I would express some negative comments about Irish Catholics to Dr. Palombo during my scheduled session that  afternoon: comments that Dr. Palombo would then relate back to management.

(Repeated use by co-workers of words and phrases I had used in my sessions with Dr. Palombo, together with allusions by co-workers to issues I had raised in my weekly sessions, during the period January 1990 to December 1990, led me to believe that Dr. Palombo routinely discussed my case with firm management, possibly Mr. Malcolm Lassman.  Dr. Palombo repeatedly denied to me having had any such communications.  Dr. Palombo would no doubt have been aware that such communications--without my consent--would have violated the confidentiality provisions of The District of Columbia Mental Health Information Act, D.C. Code sections 6-2001 to 6-2062, and it was therefore unlikely that he would have admitted having had contacts with my employer.)

[In this incident it was my belief that Sinnott repeatedly referred to an employee with an Irish name to arouse my anger.  I inferred that in Sinnott's mind, my allegations that I was a victim of anti-Semitism were a projection of my supposed hatred of Irish Catholics.  In fact, I don't hate Irish Catholics, I hate Irish Protestants.]

[On April 14, 1990 I sent a letter to the Anti-Defamation League inquiring about anti-Semitism in the workplace.]

[On Monday afternoon April 16, 1990 I formed the belief that Akin Gump legal assistant coordinator J.D. Neary had a surreptitious consult with Dr. Stanley R. Palombo at Dr. Palombo's office.]

[My belief that Dr. Palombo divulged confidential mental health information about me to Akin Gump is not idiosyncratic, but rather an unproven inference that was deemed reasonable by a coworker at the firm.  On the evening of July 3, 1993 litigation support coworker Pat McNeil offered the following observations about Akin Gump's respect for doctor-patient confidentiality:

McNeil: Well, the psychiatrists that you were seeing . . . do you know if they ever talked to your psychiatrists?

Freedman: They wouldn't admit to talking to them.

McNeil: Well, what about your, have you talked to your psychiatrist? Do you have confidence in your psychiatrist? Are you still seeing the same. . .?

Freedman: I'm seeing a different. . . I'm seeing a psychiatrist right now, somebody at GW.

McNeil: Oh, 'cause I was getting ready to say, I would change psychiatrists, 'cause you never know when he may, ah, violated your confidentiality, violated your rights.

Freedman: Hm-hm.

McNeil: Well, the psychiatrists that you were seeing when you were at Akin Gump, did he or she ever admit to talking to Akin Gump about you?

Freedman: No, they wouldn't admit it. I thought they were though. I had that feeling.

McNeil: You have that feeling that they may talk to them.

Freedman: Yea. But they wouldn't admit it, 'cause it's illegal to do that.

McNeil: Right, it is illegal.

Freedman: So, they're not going to admit it.

McNeil: That is something!

Generally, the persecutory beliefs of paranoid individuals are not shared by other persons in the environment.]

32.  During the summer of 1990, while Chris Robertson was on vacation, there was a dearth of work in the litigation support group.  At that time, Chris Robertson, the litigation support administrator, was my supervisor.  I asked Maggie for an assignment, and performed a Westlaw/Lexis search for attorney Mr. Jerry Rothrock.  Mr. Rothrock was satisfied that my completed search was thorough and that it fully met his needs.

(It was only later that I was advised by Chris Robertson not to go outside the litigation support group for work.  Chris said there was always something that could be done within litigation support.  I complied.)

33.  During the summer of 1990, while assigned as a legal assistant in the litigation support group under Chris Robertson, I received a telephone call from Maggie [Sinnott] while Chris was on vacation.  Maggie advised me that there was transcript digesting available that I could do.  Maggie’s offer of an assignment seemed peculiar in that I was no longer one of her employees.  (Her telephone call seems even more peculiar in light of Maggie’s statement  to management just prior to my termination on October 29, 1991 that she couldn't work with me; one wonders, in view of her stated reluctance to deal with me, why Maggie would have gone out of her way to offer me an assignment).  Per Maggie’s telephone call, I met with Ms. Constance Brown together with legal assistants Sandra Jones and David Berkowitz in Ms. Jones’ office on the fourth floor to discuss the possibility of digesting some toxic tort litigation deposition transcripts.  I advised Ms. Brown that since Chris was my supervisor, I would need Chris’ permission to work outside litigation support.

(My “LMS” attorney time record should reflect a meeting with Constance Brown re discussion of transcript digesting some time during the summer of 1990 while Chris Robertson was on vacation).

34.  In mid-March 1991 two apparently related incidents, perpetrated anonymously, occurred on successive days.  One morning, probably during the week of March 11, 1991, upon arriving at my desk on the ninth floor, I noticed that someone had taken a dagger shaped letter opener from a drawer in my desk and had positioned it with the blade inserted between the pages and had positioned it with of a bound volume of documents and with the handle protruding from the bound volume.  The letter opener, positioned as it was, gave the impression of a symbolic stabbing.  The next morning, upon arriving at the office, I observed that someone had strewn my desk with pieces of a paper napkin, which  had been shredded into tiny bits.  Also, on a piece of 8.5” x 11” paper placed on my desk, someone had written in bold, upper case letters the phrase, “WHITE TRASH.”

[The above incidents may be evidence of a form of harassment known as gaslighting.  See paragraph 16, above.]

(The bound volume of documents in which the letter opener had been placed was a compilation of exhibits for litigation concerning a client, LL&E.  The 8.5” x 11” piece of paper on which the phrase “WHITE TRASH” had been written was the reverse side of a computer printout relating to the client LL&E.  At that time I was working on LL&E under the direction of Ms. Lutheria Harrison, a black employee assigned to the litigation support group.  It is possible that some third party perpetrated the acts described above in an attempt to prompt me to complain to a supervisory employee or member of management, with the ultimate intent to make it appear that I harbored a racial animus against black employees.  Such contrived “evidence” of a putative racial animus could then be used to counteract any allegations I might make that other employees’ harassing acts were motivated by anti-Semitism.  That is, other employees could argue that my allegations of anti-Semitism were simply a projection of my own unacknowledged racial bias.)

[See paragraph 31, above.]

[On Friday March 15, 1991 I was scheduled to see a Jewish psychologist Steven Stein, Ph.D. who specialized in work with Holocaust survivors.  Dr. Stein had been recommended by the firm's employee assistance provider, Sheppard Pratt.  I had the belief that my treating mental health professionals divulged the content of my reports to the firm's senior managers and that supervisory employees attempted to manipulate the content of what I reported to the mental health professionals.  See paragraph 31, above.]

[On a Saturday morning in early March 1991 I telephoned my friend Craig W. Dye at his home. We talked for about a half hour. I formed the belief that Craig recorded that telephone conversation and thereafter provided Akin Gump a copy of the tape. I believe that the tape of that telephone call was played for Bob Strauss.  The tape of the telephone call if played for Akin Gump's supervisors would have enraged them.  See paragraph 29, above.]

35.  On about April 8, 1991 I was moved from office space on the ninth floor to he terrace level, where the litigation support group was housed.  (I remained in the terrace level until early August 1991, at which time I moved temporarily to he fourth floor, with my supervisor’s permission, to work on a task not  typically reformed on the terrace level).

[On Friday April 5, 1991 Malcolm Lassman, the Akin Gump manager who reported to the management committee about matters relating to legal assistants, held a meeting of the firm's legal assistants.  It was the only meeting of legal assistants chaired by Lassman in my three-and-one-half year tenure.  In the previous days rumors had been circulating that the firm was planning to lay off legal assistants because of the national economic recession.  Lassman assured the legal assistants that the firm had no plans to lay off any legal assistants.  The firm's supervisors may have formed the belief that my job was vulnerable in early April 1991.

Note the possibility that my job termination six months later, in late October 1991, was motivated by economic factors: that my de facto lay-off was disguised as a termination (really a "termination-of-convenience").]

The time spent in the terrace level was particularly difficult for me.  Attempts to be friendly with co-workers were often met with a hostile reaction.  One afternoon, to cite just one example, I had a seemingly-normal and uneventful interaction with an employee, Ms. Dudley Patrick.  The next day as that employee walked past my desk, she yelled out in an offensive manner, “scumbag!”  Employees would frequently gather near my desk and engage in rowdy and raucous conversations.

[See paragraph 21, above.]

There were interminable references that I interpreted as relating to my friend Craig Dye, such as “I could just die,” “golden boy” (Craig has light-colored hair), etc.

[See paragraph 17, above.]

Some time in April 1991, when the weather got warmer, I started to sit at DuPont Circle to eat lunch and read the newspaper or just relax.  One afternoon upon my return to the office from lunch, after a day or so of my new springtime lunch routine at DuPont Circle, as I was seated at my desk, my supervisor, Chris Robertson, said in a loud time of voice to another employee nearby, “Are you wet?” 

[I reported to firm managers in October 1991 that I thought the statement "Are you wet?" was directed at me and was a reference to a state of sexual excitation.  Compare paragraph 21, above.]

One morning during the summer of 1991 employees made repeated referenced 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 my return to the office from lunch that afternoon, Chris Roberson 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 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 25).

[See Monge v. Superior Court (Crown Gibralter Graphic Center, Inc.), 176 Cal. App. 3d 503 (1986).  I cited Monge in COMPLAINANT'S REPLY TO RESPONDENT'S RESPONSE TO INTERROGATORIES AND DOCUMENT REQUEST that I filed with the D.C. Department of Human Rights in January 1993.]

During one of the weekly litigation support staff meetings, during the spring or summer of 1991, which were conducted by Chris Robertson, I was seated on the floor in front of Chris’ desk,  A male employee, Barry Geia, stood up and walked past me, his hips passing directly in front of my line of sight.  I then sat down in a chair in front of Chris’s desk, whereupon Chris started to whistle at me.

In about early August 1991 an employee, Ms. Lutheria Harrison, who sat at a desk adjacent to mine, was talking to another employee about her July telephone bill, emphasizing the word “July.”  (The word “July” could be read as a homophone for the phrase “Jew lie.”)  This seemingly meaningless incident assumed some small measure of significance about two days later when the same employee, while seated at her desk, stated in a markedly audible tone of voice the children’s rhyme, “liar, liar, pants on fire.” Then, on another occasion a brief time later, the same employee, upon entering Chris Robertson’s office to attend a weekly staff meeting, sighed the Yiddish phrase, “Oy, veh!”

The few incidents cited above simply serve to give the general tenor of  a type of harassing and degrading interaction that occurred on daily basis while I was working in the terrace level.

[In fact, the anti-Semitic use of the word July as a homophone for the phrase "Jew lie" is fairly common.  One would think that a state human rights agency would have been aware of that.]

[The following is a third-party description of the goings on in the Terrace Level, a work environment that I found "unpleasant."

See Complaint, McNeil v. Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld.  I provided the D.C. Department of Human Rights a copy of the McNeil Complaint as an Exhibit to my Petition for Reconsideration of No Probable Cause Finding in Freedman v. Akin, Gump, Hauer & Feld.  The DHR had evidence that the environment in Akin Gump's litigation support department was disruptive and unprofessional and that persons not suffering from mental illness found it to be so.

12. In July, 1991, Ms. Robertson called a meeting of three of the black employees under her supervision, including plaintiff, and asked them if they thought she was prejudiced against blacks. She explained that her black male receptionist had accused her of being prejudiced against blacks and she wanted to know whether they shared that view. All three employees responded in the affirmative and provided her the reasons they felt that way, giving her examples of the way she treated blacks differently than whites.

13. In March 1991, two black employees in the Litigation Support group in which plaintiff worked were laid off allegedly because of budget cuts. Within a very short period of time thereafter, their positions were filled by white employees. Plaintiff does not believe the black employees laid off were offered reinstatement to their former positions.

14. In August 1991, plaintiff informed Ms. Robertson that she had recently learned that she (plaintiff) was pregnant with her second child. Ms. Robertson responded that she did not understand why blacks have so many babies.

15. Plaintiff had a very difficult pregnancy and eventually lost her baby through a miscarriage. Although she had medical documentation supporting her request for eight weeks of maternity leave after the delivery, she was told by defendant's personnel administrator, Laurel Digweed, that she did not qualify for maternity leave because her baby died. Meanwhile, plaintiff had a terrible time coping with the emotional pain of losing her baby, in addition to the physical recovery from the miscarriage.

16. The incident leading up to plaintiff’s discharge commenced on April 7, 1992. Plaintiff was called in by Ms. Robertson and told that a coworker had complained that plaintiff was abusing the personal phone call privileges by taking too many personal calls and that she talked so loudly on these calls that she disrupted the work of other employees. Plaintiff denied engaging in such conduct and urged Ms. Robertson to check with other employees if she had any doubt about who was telling the truth on the matter. Plaintiff asked who it was who complained, and Ms. Robertson identified a white coworker by the name of Isabelle Schotz.

17. When Plaintiff returned to her work area, Ms. Schotz approached her and asked why she had a meeting with Ms. Robertson. Plaintiff told her it was confidential in nature and she did not want to talk about it.

18. On April 9, 1992, plaintiff was asked to meet with Laurel Digweed from Personnel. Ms. Digweed told plaintiff that she had been advised by Ms. Robertson that plaintiff had called Isabelle Schotz a "Jewish bitch" and that the two of them then got into a shoving and fighting match. Plaintiff denied calling Ms. Schotz any such name, or that she got into any kind of fight and suggested that Ms. Schotz be called to the office to clear the matter up, since plaintiff did not believe that she would fabricate such assertions in her presence. Ms. Digweed responded that Ms. Schotz had no reason to lie about the incident and that she would have to write plaintiff up for the incident and place the memo in her personnel file. Plaintiff continued to argue that this was not fair, and Ms. Digweed told her to "shut [her] god damn mouth up bitch." Plaintiff then left the office since she felt that she did not have to put up with that type of abuse

36.  On the afternoon of October 2, 1991 I met with legal assistant Katherine Harkness to review some work I had been doing under her direction,  I was seated in front of her desk.  Kathy 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.

[Harkness, several other legal assistants, and I were assigned to a special project for the client Hoechst-Celanese whose billing partner was David Callet.  Callet had been a senior attorney on Eastern Airlines litigation.  Callet, Earl L. Segal, and I were graduates of the Pennsylvania State University.  I was assigned to Hoechst in about mid-August 1991.

Segal described the above-incident in a memo to his file as follows: "He first described to me an incident with a women (whose name I did not inquire, and who name he did not disclose), who was conferring with him over his work. He described to me that while he was sitting at his desk, for a period of approximately fifteen (15) minutes she was leaning over his desk while "gyrating her hips" against the edge of his desk, and that he believed that she may have been masturbating in front of him."

In Akin Gump's Response to Interrogatories filed with the Department of Human Rights on May 22, 1992, Dennis Race described the incident as follows:  "a female co-worker stood by him swinging her hips so as to provoke him."  (Akin Gump did not produce any contemporaneous documentation of my harassment complaint that I lodged with Race and Lassman on the morning of October 24, 1991).

In November 1991 I described the above incident to an EEOC investigator Franklin C. Jones who said it was his opinion that the above incident was prima facie evidence of sexual harassment.

The Department of Human Rights in its Initial Determination (June 30, 1993) adopted my version of the incident verbatim, but categorized the incident as an "idea of reference" per the employer's Response.]

[Bob Strauss withdrew from the partnership in late August 1991 to assume his position as U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union.  It was my subjective inference that firm personnel (particularly the supervisory staff) believed that I was somehow being "protected" by Bob Strauss.

The image of Jews as being protected by powerful figures is a notable feature of anti-Semitism.  The theme recurs in the relations between the United States and the State of Israel, where the U.S. is seen as the sine qua non of Israel's existence ("Without the United States, Israel wouldn't last a minute!").  Ironically (or uncannily), Bob Strauss served as Special U.S. Ambassador to the Middle-East Peace negotiations during the Carter Administration.

While I worked at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson (1985-1988), when the department supervisor Sheryl Ferguson announced she was leaving the firm (on February 12, 1987), one employee said to me about another employee (Matthew Allender) who was seen as being "protected" by Ferguson: "Once she's gone (i.e., Ferguson) he (i.e., Allender) won't last a minute; we'll see to that."]

37.  On the afternoon of October 23, 1991 I med with attorney Mr. Earl L. Segal in his office to discuss some of the incidents of harassment that had occurred while I was employed at the firm.  Mr. Segal is the partner who oversees the legal assistant program, and is the individual to whom J.D. Neary and Maggie Sinnott report.  This was the first time in the three and one-half years at the firm that I had ever spoken to an attorney about the harassment that I was experiencing.  I requested that I be placed in a private office so that I would not have to face litigation support personnel on a daily basis.  I also requested that Mr. Segal consider the possibility of my being reassigned to the legal assistant group under J.D. Neary and Maggie Sinnott, so that I would no longer have to work for Chris Robertson in litigation support.  Mr. Segal appeared to listen sympathetically to my grievances, and seemed to entertain my requests in a sincere manner.

38.  On the morning of October 24, 1991, I was called to the office of Mr. Dennis Race to review with him, and Mr. Malcolm Lassman, the incidents I had discussed with Mr. Segal the previous afternoon.  Mr. Race is the partner responsible for the investigation of allegations of sexual harassment.  Mr. Lassman, a founding partner of the firm, is the member of the firm's management committee who reports to the committee on issues relating to legal assistants.

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 association 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.

Mr. Lassman said he would get back to me.

[Neither Race nor Lassman indicated in any way that they suspected my report was a product of mental illness.  Indeed, the above report of Race's analysis suggests that he viewed my harassment complaint as bona fide.  I wrote this document in late 1991 before I was apprised via Akin Gump's Response to Interrogatories (dated May 22, 1992), which I received in the mail in late December 1992, that the firm had allegedly determined that my harassment complaint was symptomatic of mental illness.]

39.  About noon on Tuesday October 29, 1991 I was called to Mr. Race’s office.  Present in addition to Mr. Race were the personnel administrator, Ms. Laurel Digweed, and my supervisor, Christine Robertson.  Mr. Race advised me that the firm’s management committee had decided to terminate me.  Mr. Race explained that there was a “lack of fit” between me and other firm personnel.  He said that my allegations of harassment had been investigated and could not be substantiated.  He added that during the course of his investigation employees had made allegations about me including statements that I was overly sensitive to criticism and that I simply ignored directions to correct my work.

[In the Response to Interrogatories (May 22, 1992) Akin Gump alleged that the quality of my work was not a factor in the decision to terminate.  Akin Gump's denial that my work quality was a factor in the termination decision is at odds with the extreme defensiveness I display concerning my work performance in a lengthy memo that I submitted to the Department of Human Rights in September 1992 before I was apprised of Akin Gump's denial in late December 1992.]

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

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

2. I never thought you were a violent person.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[The decision to terminate had apparently been made the previous afternoon, Monday October 28, 1991; the severance check was dated October 28, 1991.  Precisely why the firm waited until the following noon to terminate a "potentially violent" employee is not clear.]

Chris Robertson said nothing during the course of this meeting; she added nothing by way of corroboration or amplification.

[After the termination meeting I returned to the litigation support department in the firm's terrace level office.  I was greeted by my supervisor Chris Robertson who casually asked that I remain at the office to complete the task I was working on prior to the termination.  I politely said, "I don't work here anymore."  After I left the office Robertson reportedly gathered her employees to advise them that the lock on the door of the office suite was being changed because Robertson was afraid I might return to the office to kill her.  Robertson's defamatory allegation, of which the Department of Human Rights was apprised (see above statement of Pat McNeil), was clearly a self-serving, retaliatory, histrionic display.  Note that Robertson's professed fear of me is consistent with coworkers' reactions to a target of mobbing.]

As for my request for private office space, Mr. Race said this was not practicable from the firm's standpoint.  And, with regard to my request that I be reassigned to the legal assistant group, Mr. Race stated that J.D. Neary and Maggie Sinnott told him they could not work with me, that they found me difficult to work with, and that they were "afraid" of me.

[In the Response to Interrogatories, Race omitted probative evidence of my lack of employability -- namely, the fact that supervisors were "afraid" of me and could not work with me; to do so would have established that Race spoke with Sinnott and Neary about promoting me to the legal assistant program in the period after I lodged a harassment complaint on October 24,1991: a complaint that, according to Race in May 1992, was on its face clearly the product of mental illness of a severity that rendered me unsuitable for employment, let alone deserving of promotion.  (Segal admitted that he investigated the possibility of promoting me to the legal assistant program immediately after I spoke with him on October 23, 1991.)]

[Sinnott's and Neary's professed fear of me is consistent with coworkers' reactions to a target of mobbing.]

[Akin Gump did not allege in its Response to Interrogatories that Race advised me at the termination meeting that he and Lassman had spoken to a psychiatrist (Gertrude R. Ticho, M.D.) who advised the firm that my harassment complaint was the product of the "disorder" ideas of reference and that I might become violent.  Akin Gump did not provide me any information that would have prompted me to file a timely application for disability benefits with the employer's Long-Term Disability Income Plan provider, Unum Life.]


Gary Freedman said...


Kenneth Westhues, 2006

Below is a checklist of 16 indicators or measures that I have used in my research, and offered on workshop handouts entitled, "WAMI, The Waterloo Anti-Mobbing Instruments (PDF)." In the introduction to my 2006 book, The Prevention and Remedy of Mobbing in Higher Education, I apply these 16 indicators systematically to two different mobbing cases, to illustrate variations on common themes. There is nothing sacred about the list. In my book, The Envy of Excellence, the 16 indicators are boiled down to ten. Perhaps the most important indicator is shown here as No. 12, the enlargement of some real or imagined misdeed or fault in order to smear the target's whole identity, so that he or she is seen as personally abhorrent — a totally alien other, a dangerous, repugnant entity that turns the stomachs of good and decent people.

1. By standard criteria of job performance, the target is at least average, probably above average.

2. Rumours and gossip circulate about the target’s misdeeds: “Did you hear what she did last week?”

3. The target is not invited to meetings or voted onto committees, is excluded or excludes self.

4. Collective focus on a critical incident that “shows what kind of man he really is.”

5. Shared conviction that the target needs some kind of formal punishment, “to be taught a lesson.”

6. Unusual timing of the decision to punish, e. g., apart from the annual performance review.

7. Emotion-laden, defamatory rhetoric about the target in oral and written communications.

8. Formal expressions of collective negative sentiment toward the target, e. g. a vote of censure, signatures on a petition, meeting to discuss what to do about the target.

9. High value on secrecy, confidentiality, and collegial solidarity among the mobbers.

10. Loss of diversity of argument, so that it becomes dangerous to “speak up for”or defend the target.

11. The adding up of the target’s real or imagined venial sins to make a mortal sin that cries for action.

12. The target is seen as personally abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities; stigmatizing, exclusionary labels are applied.

13. Disregard of established procedures, as mobbers take matters into their own hands.

14. Resistance to independent, outside review of sanctions imposed on the target.

15. Outraged response to any appeals for outside help the target may make.

16. Mobbers’ fear of violence from target, target’s fear of violence from mobbers, or both.

In August 1989 a coworker, Stacey Schaar, said to me: "We're all afraid of you. We're all afraid you're going to buy a gun, bring it in, and shoot everybody." Stacey Schaar was terminated for gross misconduct in May 1990.

A brief time after I was fired in late October 1991 my supervisor reportedly told her employees that she was afraid I might return to the office to kill her. (Earlier in the day she had asked that I remain in the office, after the termination notice, to complete the work I had been doing before the termination meeting that morning. The supervisor's statement that she feared for her life was clearly a self-serving, histrionic display.)

Firm management filed a sworn statement with the D.C. Dept. Human Rights (May 22, 1992) alleging that it had been warned by a psychiatric consultant that I might become violent. The psychiatrist later denied talking to the firm at all.

Note that a typical feature of mobbing is that company management may come to side with the mobbers.

Gary Freedman said...


I'm laughing all the way to thebank, as they say!

The McClendon Center is a disaster! My chart at the McClendon Center states: "Client's paranoia and delusions led him to believe he was being harassed at work. He made a complaint that was investigated. Client was fired after the investigation contradicted his reports of harassment. Client stopped working at 37 after delusions interfered with his ability to work." Tell me this isn't a fraud on the Social Security Administration and D.C. Medicaid.

Gary Freedman said...

Even if what I describe isn't harassment or mobbing, can you really say the person who wrote this is delusional or psychotic? That's what the D.C. Corporation Counsel said more or less. Isn't that a fraud on the Social Security Administration?

Gary Freedman said...

The evidence of harassment or hostile work environment presented to the DHR was so compelling that DHR's refusal to find probable cause of a violation of the D.C. Human Rights Act raises substantial concerns that Akin Gump colluded with DHR to make a finding favorable to the firm.

The DHR Director, Margie Utley, was later disbarred for acts involving moral turpitude.

The Justice Department in 2010 had a conniption fit when I alleged in this blog that Margie Utley was corrupt, and sent out two US Marshals to intimidate me.

The Attorney General is a friend of Vernon Jordan, a senior manager at Akin Gump.

Gary Freedman said...

Psinet (

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Gary Freedman said...

Paul Wageman:

I want to weigh in on this morning’s post about Chairman Wageman as a staffer who has worked closely with him over the past three and a half years. There’s no denying the fact that our Chairman is one of the most polarizing figures in Texas transportation right now. You were on the money with your subhead entitled, “Loved or hated.” However, there were other statements that were not accurate, such as when you said he was “erratic.”

That’s simply not the truth. His reactions to issues presented to the Board are predictable and measured. I’d be interested to know of specific times when he’d exhibited “erratic” behavior or changed his position. And since you said he was “notoriously erratic,” I’m assuming you have multiple examples. I’d also like to know examples of times that Chairman Wageman “ratted” when “chips were down.” I’d even be curious as to why you called him a “swing vote” in the procurement issue? When did he indicate he’d ever vote another way? Also, where did you get that he treats staff like “errand boys?”

Our current executive director, Allen Clemson, vehemently disagreed with that assertion. Finally, staff instituted procurements because the contracts were coming to an end, not because of criticism of the relationships.

Whoever your sources are seem to be biased. I’d like to help you balance your article for your readers.

While you did mention his accomplishments, I’d also like to add some other descriptors to the dialogue. In my interaction with Chairman Wageman, I’ve found him to be fair. If I messed up, he didn’t spare me. He expected me to acknowledge and correct my mistake and then to make sure that it didn’t happen again. He was consistent with everyone. He is smart, dedicated and very committed to any cause he undertakes – from leading the NTTA to coaching his twin daughters’ softball team.

A reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently credited him with “saving the NTTA from irrelevancy.” Without a supportive staff, Wageman would not have been able to accomplish so much and if he were such an ominous figure, staff would not have been willing to work so hard to accomplish these things.

NTTA staff has seen a lot of change over the past four years.

We’ve had very public bouts with formidable opponents that threatened the NTTA’s relevance. However, we’ve always known we had a solid leader that was a force to be reckoned with. I’ve talked to many staffers who felt that the Chairman’s high expectations forced them to become stronger professionals.

As his time on the board winds down and the discussion about Paul Wageman’s legacy begins, I want to make sure that those outside the agency, who cannot possibly know the complete story, get an accurate portrayal of the forceful man that accomplished so much in so little time.

And, no, the Chairman did not direct or participate in this response!

RESPONSE: Back in November last year Chairman Wageman said the NTTA had become "lazy" in not competing consultant services and in simply renewing old contracts repeatedly. NTTA routinely paid established contractors three times what competitive or in-house staff could do much of the the work for. HNTB engineers cost NTTA nearly half a million dollars each for a year's work compared to $150k for a staff engineer. Major savings should be possible with a mix of extra in-house staff and newly competed service contracts, Wageman was saying.

For Wageman to then vote as he did at the last meeting as chairman to void completely the procurement of new service contractors seems to us to be erratic and to be ratting on those he'd encouraged to bid and ratting on those who conducted the procurements.

His critics say this is typical but Ms Coffelt fairly calls us on generalizing from this one example, and we are pleased to publish an alternate view - editor.

TOLLROADSnews 2010-08-11

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