Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Akin Gump: The Only Contemporaneous Documentation About My Job Termination

I worked as a paralegal at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld from March 1988 to late October 1991.  My employment was terminated effective October 29, 1991.  In February 1992 I filed an unlawful job termination complaint with the D.C. Department of Human Rights alleging that my termination was discriminatory under the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977.  The Department instituted an investigation; the firm filed a Response dated May 22, 1992, explaining the firm's reasons for the termination.

The following memorandum dated October 29, 1991 is the only contemporaneous documentation that memorializes facts about the termination.  It was written by Dennis M. Race, Esq., the lawyer who fired me.  Dennis Race was the lawyer in charge of employee complaints arising under Title VII so he was well aware of the documentation required to defend any legal challenge to a job termination.

The document is remarkable for what it omits.

1.  The name of the psychiatrist (Gertrude R. Ticho, M.D.) the firm reportedly consulted is not included.  The oblique tone of the memo is oddly consistent with the pleadings the firm filed with the Department of Human Rights which also do not identify the psychiatrist.  In fact, the firm only divulged the name of the psychiatrist about a year later in response to a supplementary interrogatory issued by the Department.

2.  The name of the Sheppard Pratt counselor the firm reportedly consulted is not included.  In response to a supplementary interrogatory issued by the Department the firm said that it could not recall the name of the counselor it spoke to.  Why is the name of the counselor not memorialized in the following confidential memo to file?

3.  The firm did not memorialize the names of employees who reportedly complained about my frightening, bizarre and disruptive behavior.  In response to a Department interrogatory the firm said it did not take any written statements from employees.

4.  The firm did not produce any memorial of my meeting with Dennis Race and Malcolm Lassman on October 24, 1991 at which I was directed to recount incidents of harassment.

5. Dennis Race states that he reviewed the termination decision with members of the Management Committee, but does not identify the persons he spoke with.

6.  The memo is dated October 29, 1991, the day of the termination, and appears to have been written before the termination meeting, in contemplation of the meeting: "Gary will be given an additional two weeks severance (a total of four weeks) not only to cover extra time to look for alternative work but also to help cover insurance costs which will be borne directly by him upon leaving the firm."   Why did Dennis Race write the memo in the morning before the termination meeting, which began at about 11:30 am?  Don't lawyers usually summarize the events of the day at the end of the business day?

7.  Why is there no written memorial of the termination meeting itself: who was present and what was said including my odd reaction of saying nothing in my defense?

8.  My paranoid suspicion is that this memo was not written on October 29, 1991, but written in May 1992 and that it was specifically tailored to the responsive pleadings to which it was attached as an exhibit. 

In April 1993 I provided a copy of the following memo to the U.S. Social Security Administration in support of my disability claim together with Akin Gump's Response.


TO: File
FROM: Dennis M. Race [initialed DMR]
DATE: October 29, 1991 CONFIDENTIAL
RE: Gary Freedman

In the course of investigating Gary's complaints about working conditions (none of which, by his own admission, involved activity or conduct which had a direct impact on him), I concluded that Gary's inability to work or interrelate with others is a substantial problem for the firm. There is only so much work that can be done without any interaction among our staff (which is what he requests) and his continued presence in the firm has been extremely disruptive. Reported outbursts and arguably bizarre behavior have made it uncomfortable and sometimes disruptive for many of his co-workers -- some of whom have voiced fear in working with or nearby him. In addition he is very difficult to supervise.

Malcolm Lassman and I have also discussed this matter, including Gary's work habits (as well as his habit of putting negative meanings to even trivial events i.e., "ideas of reference") with two outside consultants and both concurred that termination was the sound approach to take. One outside consultant also cautioned about the possibility of violence.

Accordingly, on the basis of disruptive work habits, unusual behavior and discussions with outside consultants, I believe that termination is warranted. Indeed, to do otherwise may prove to be negligent. I have discussed this with representatives of the Management Committee and our Administrative Staff and everyone concurs.

Gary will be given an additional two weeks severance (a total of four weeks) not only to cover extra time to look for alternative work but also to help cover insurance costs which will be borne directly by him upon leaving the firm.

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