Monday, March 28, 2011

Akin Gump: Employment Discrimination

The following document is pages 350-353 of the record on appeal in Freedman v. D.C. Department of Human Rights, D.C.C.A. no. 96-CV-961 (Sept. 1, 1998).

RESPONDENT’S DISCRIMINATORY REFUSAL TO OFFER COMPLAINANT WORK CONSISTENT WITH COMPLAINANT’S ACADEMIC AND PROFESSIONAL CREDENTIALS

1. Complainant is licensed to practice law. He is a member of the bar of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and was awarded the degree of J.D. by Temple University School of Law. Complainant also holds the degree of LL.M. in International Legal Studies from The Washington College of Law, The American University. The field of International Law is a major practice area of the Respondent. Complainant is not a member of the D.C. bar.

2. During the period of Complainant’s employment with the Respondent, he was employed in a position far below his educational level and professional experience, notwithstanding the Respondent’s knowledge of Complainant’s qualifications. In March 1990, Complainant was reassigned by the Respondent to a position that required even less advanced skills than those required by the position for which he was originally hired, despite Complainant’s consistently exemplary performance evaluations.

3. During the period of Complainant’s employment with the Respondent he did not request in any manner that he be considered for an associate position or law clerk position. Upon being hired in June 1988 Complainant was cautioned by the Respondent’s then Legal Assistant Administrator, Margarita C. Babb, that he should not view his position as legal assistant as a stepping stone to an associate position. The Legal Assistant Administrator’s warning carried the implied threat of disciplinary action for failure to comply. Indeed, only four working days after Complainant requested of Earl Segal, the partner in charge of the Legal Assistant Program, that Complainant be considered for reassignment to the Legal Assistant program on October 23, 1991, Complainant was advised that the Respondent had decided to terminate his employment. The Complainant was involuntarily terminated on October 29, 1991 by the Chairman of the Respondent’s Hiring Committee, Dennis Race, without cause.

4. During a discussion with the then Legal Assistant Administrator, Margarita C. Babb, in June 1988, prior to being hired as a legal assistant, Complainant was advised that when the largely menial document coding assignment for the client Eastern Airlines was completed, Complainant would be assigned to the Legal Assistant group. In March 1990, however, as the quantity of work on Eastern diminished, Complainant was assigned to the Litigation Support Group to continue the menial task of document coding for other clients rather than being assigned to substantive tasks in the Legal Assistant group.

5. Although Complainant billed most of his hours to document production tasks for Eastern Airlines during the period June 1988 until about mid-year 1990, the actions of the legal assistant administrative staff were consistent with the promise made by Margarita Babb in June 1988 that Complainant would be assigned to substantive tasks upon the completion of his assignment for the client Eastern Airlines.

Complainant was routinely invited to attend, and did attend, legal assistant staff meetings. The legal assistant administrative staff arranged for Complainant to attend Westlaw and Lexis training both on-site and off-site on a number of occasions. Complainant was invited to attend, and did attend, legal assistant seminars including a series of weekly writing seminars for legal assistants in February 1989 conducted by one of the Respondent’s associates, Gary Rubin; a cite checking seminar for legal assistants held in about early 1989 conducted by one of Respondent’s associates, Michael J. Mueller; and a legislative seminar held in about early 1989 conducted by one of Respondent’s partners, Edward S. Knight (?). Also, Complainant was given personalized Westlaw and Lexis access cards for use in computer searches of legal databases; the granting of such access cards is not consistent with the work of a document coder

6. At the time Complainant was hired as a full time legal assistant in August 1989, Complainant was given, on about July 31, 1989, a legal assistant orientation by legal assistant administrator, Maggie Sinnott. Maggie Sinnott asked the Complainant about his availability for travel and advised Complainant that he would be given a firm credit card. Maggie Sinnott’s actions at the time of the legal assistant orientation were inconsistent with Respondent's assertion that Complainant was hired to work as a document coder on Eastern Airlines or that he would be assigned to the Litigation Support Group upon the completion of his assignment on Eastern Airlines. The Legal Assistant Administrator’s actions at the time Complainant was hired full-time in August 1989 were consistent with the understanding that Complainant was being hired to perform substantive legal assistant assignments that would commence once the temporary assignment on Eastern Airlines ended.

7. Despite Respondent’s assertion that Complainant was hired for the express purpose of working on a document production assignment for Eastern Airlines, Complainant was occasionally requested, by the Legal Assistant administrative staff, to interrupt his work on Eastern to perform assignments typically performed by other legal assistants and not by document coders. In late March 1989, for example, Complainant was requested to interrupt his work on Eastern to prepare a digest of a deposition transcript for attorney John Potter. On July 28, 1989, Complainant was requested to cite check a brief for attorney Merrill Spiegel. During the summer of 1990--after Complainant had been reassigned to the Litigation Support Group--the legal assistant administrator, Maggie Sinnott, who was at that time no longer the Complainant’s supervisor, requested that Complainant digest deposition transcripts. In mid-August 1991, the Complainant’s supervisor, Chris Robertson, on her initiative, arranged to have Complainant work on the Hoechst chemical analysis project, a task on which only other legal assistants--not litigation support employees--were assigned.

8. During the entire period of Complainant’s employment with the Respondent, Complainant was harassed, on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, by staff persons, associates, and partners of the Respondent. As a result of the harassment, Complainant formed the belief that his employment with the Respondent was in jeopardy, which, combined with the warning of the Legal Assistant Administrator, militated against his inquiring as to a position as associate or law clerk.

9. Jan Fraser-Smith, an agency-supplied temporary employee, who began her assignment with the Respondent at about the same time as the Complainant, in March 1988, and who worked as a document coder on the same project as the Complainant, was later hired by the Respondent as a law clerk. Though the Complainant is qualified to work as a law clerk, he was never offered such a position. The harassment that Complainant suffered during his employment, which carried the implied threat of termination, precluded Complainant from requesting a more substantive position with the Respondent.

10. In March 1990, when Complainant was advised that he was to be reassigned from the legal assistant group to the Litigation Support Group, his newly-assigned supervisor, Chris Robertson, told Complainant that once he was assigned to the Litigation Support Group, a supervisory position was “a distinct possibility.” In fact, Complainant was not assigned to a supervisory position in Litigation Support, nor was he routinely given substantive assignments in litigation support.

11. During a meeting between Complainant and his supervisor, Chris Robertson, during the week of about August 12, 1991, Complainant requested that he be reassigned to the legal assistant program so that he might have the opportunity to perform more substantive tasks. Complainant was never advised by Chris Robertson that she had followed up on Complainant’s request.

12. On October 23, 1991, in a meeting between Complainant and Earl L. Segal, the partner in charge of the Legal Assistant Program, Complainant again requested that the firm consider reassigning Complainant to the Legal Assistant Program, implicitly stating a desire to be provided an opportunity to perform more substantive assignments. Four working days later, on October 29, 1991, Complainant was advised that the Respondent had decided to terminate him.

13. Some time in 1990, Brain Burns, a legal assistant who had been employed by the Respondent since about 1985, was granted a position as associate. Brian Burns is a member of the D.C. bar. Complainant believes that Brian Burns is not a homosexual. During his employment with the Respondent as a legal assistant, Brian Burns was consistently granted substantive assignments that eased his transition from legal assistant to practicing attorney. In effect, Brian Burns’ position with the Respondent was an “associate-track” legal assistant position. Complainant’s educational level and professional experience also qualified him for an associate-track legal assistant position with the Respondent; a like position was never offered to Complainant. The harassment that Complainant suffered during his employment, which carried the implied threat of termination, precluded Complainant from requesting an associate-track legal assistant position.

14. In a letter dated February 7, 1985, before Complainant’s employment with the Respondent, Complainant submitted a resume to the Respondent’s Hiring Committee requesting consideration for an associate position. The Respondent’s Hiring Committee advised the Complainant by letter dated February 4, 1985 that, regrettably, it had to deny Complainant’s request for an interview despite his excellent credentials because of the limited number of openings then available.

15. Brian Burns is employed as an associate in the Respondent’s tax group. During Complainant’s employment with Respondent the tax group was headed by a partner named David Hardee, who has since withdrawn from the partnership. During my tenure with the Respondent I experienced a number of harassing interactions with David Hardee, arguably evidencing an anti-homosexual bias by David Hardee.

16. Some time during the summer of 1989, The Washington Times reported on an alleged homosexual incident involving an attorney in the Respondent’s Dallas office. Complainant does not know the outcome of the incident, specifically, how the Respondent’s management dealt with the attorney involved, or how the handling of the matter reflected management’s attitudes and policies regarding attorneys suspected of homosexual activities.

17. Some time in the first half of 1990, while riding alone in an elevator with a partner of the Respondent, David Eisenstadt, Mr. Eisenstadt proceeded to pace back and forth and whistle, all the while glancing at me. I experienced David Eisenstadt’s behavior as offensive and intimidating. David Eisenstadt is the husband of the Respondent’s attorney recruitment administrator, Nina Eisenstein. Around noon on October 29, 1991, after having been advised of my termination, shortly after I got off the elevator in the lobby area to leave the building, Nina Eisenstein gazed at my genital area.

[Lilliam Machado, Esq. was employed as an Akin Gump paralegal and later hired as an associate.  I believe that Sanford Ring, Esq. was employed as an Akin Gump paralegal and later hired as an associate.  Glenda Creasy Walden was employed as an Akin Gump paralegal; I believe she may have been later hired as an associate.  F. Robert Wheeler, Esq. was hired as an agency-supplied temporary to perform a clerical task for the client Eastern Airlines; he was later granted an associate position.  Mr. Wheeler had practiced law previously.]

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

There seems to be some confusion in my writings about precisely who headed the firm's tax practice group. I refer to both David Hardee and Charles Levi as the head of the tax practice group. In fact, I am not sure who had the position.