Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hogan & Hartson: The "Generating Overtime" Canard

I was employed as an agency-supplied temporary paralegal at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson from mid-September 1985 to late February 1988.  In May 1986 I was assigned to a document production task, along with a team of coworkers, for the client Mercedes-Benz.  In the beginning of July 1986 the other employees were reassigned to a different client and I was left to complete the Mercedes task.  The billing partner was Jerome Sonosky, Esq.  The senior partner on the Mercedes matter was Patrick Raher, Esq.  Firm associate Catherine J. Lacroix, Esq. interfaced with the document production team.  The paralegal assigned to the case was Sara Shea.

Sometime in July 1986 I was accused, falsely, by the Computer Applications Department Data Base Administrator, Espe Rebollar, that I was engaged in a scheme to generate overtime for myself by deliberately incorporating errors into my work product.  I wrote the following memo to refute that charge.

Arguably, the false and baseless allegation of wrongdoing lodged against me was a form of workplace harassment that is a feature of workplace mobbing.

In the book MOBBING: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, the authors identify mobbing as a particular type of bullying that is not as apparent as most, defining it as " . . . an emotional assault. It begins when an individual becomes the target of disrespectful and harmful behavior. Through innuendo, rumors, and public discrediting, a hostile environment is created in which one individual gathers others to willingly, or unwillingly, participate in continuous malevolent actions to force a person out of the workplace."

The authors say that mobbing is typically found in work environments that have poorly organised production and/or working methods and incapable or inattentive management and that mobbing victims are usually "exceptional individuals who demonstrated intelligence, competence, creativity, integrity, accomplishment and dedication".


TO:   Sheryl Ferguson

FROM:  Gary Freedman

RE:  Delays in Completion of MERCEPA

DATE:  July 20, 1986

The following memorandum is intended to document and explain the various delays and problems which have caused a bottleneck in the completion of the MERCEPA [Mercedes EPA Investigation] data base.

By the end of June 1986, the vast bulk of Batch 288 (which contains approximately 300 German language documents from Stuttgart) had been coded and was ready for data entry.  For some unexplained reason, data entry of these documents did not begin until Friday, July 11.  This delay in processing by CAD [Computer Applications Department] would not have caused difficulties in the completion of MERCEPA had it not been for the unanticipated deluge of documents that were received by H & H [Hogan & Hartson] well into July.  As of the end of June it was anticipated incorrectly, but not unreasonably, by all those engaged in the project, that Batch 288 represented the last batch of documents to be coded and processed for loading.
PROBLEM:  unexplained delay in processing Batch 288 by CAD, which made it difficult for CAD to process a large number of late-arriving documents, the arrival of which could not have been anticipated
The following portion of this memo details dates on which documents were received by the coder, turnaround time in coding, and date of submission of the documents to CAD.

On Wednesday, July 9, I resumed work on Mercedes full time after a hiatus occasioned by the client site visit to H & H (which lasted from July 1 through July 8).  During the hiatus, there were remaining only approximately 40 documents to be coded.  It was believed that the coding of these remaining 40 documents would complete all of the MERCEPA document coding.  However, during the hiatus, H & H received 3 boxes of test data comprising 92 test packets from the Ann Arbor lab.  I was informed of the existence of these documents on July 8 and was instructed by the CAD DBA [Data Base Administrator, Espe Rebollar] to code the documents when I resumed work on the project on July 9.  The documents had to be labeled & batched.  Sara Shea, the paralegal assigned to Mercedes, also instructed me to attach a label to each test packet indicating the corresponding record number in Batch 69.  (Batch 69 had been coded earlier and comprised Xerox copies of the front cover of each of the subject 92 test folders).  [Catherine] Lacroix[, Esq.] and Shea had not anticipated that the firm would receive the complete test packets.  Once they were received, however, Lacroix instructed that Batch 69 should be “ditched” and the 92 test packets be coded totally from scratch.  Coding of the documents was completed on Saturday, July 12.  The 92 IU’s [Information Units] were submitted to CAD first, Monday morning July 14.
PROBLEM: late submission of documents by the client; demand by attorney that each test packet be coded from scratch rather than simply interpolating the new data in the corresponding records of Batch 69, which was suggested by the CAD DBA

Lacroix placed appointment calendars on my chair, apparently on the evening of Friday, July 11.  I found them on Saturday, July 12 with no note explaining what they were or how they were to be coded.  So that I could begin coding them at once, rather than waiting for instructions from Lacroix on Monday morning, I telephoned Lacroix at her residence on Saturday, July 12 for direction regarding coding of the appointment calendars.  Coding of the calendars began immediately on Saturday July 12 and continued unabated on Sunday July 13;  I worked until 9:00 PM Monday night to complete the coding of the calendars, which generated approximately 310 IU’s.  The IU’s were submitted to CAD first, Tuesday morning, July 15.  Data entry was begun Friday afternoon.  It should be noted that, as to coding, turnaround time was no longer than the time to code.  Also, CAD had been informed of the existence of the calendars on Sunday, July 13 (one day after I received them), at which time I discussed a problem regarding duplicate document numbers with Sheryl Ferguson.
PROBLEM:  late receipt of documents by firm; attorney’s request that each individual dated entry [of the diaries] be coded (and CAD’s request that blank entries be coded), which generated a huge number (310) of documents to be QC’d, keyed and proofed.

On Tuesday, July 15, an employee of the client, Mercedes (Mr. David Clark, chief engineer at the Ann Arbor Lab), spent the day at the firm reviewing test data in the firm’s possession and requested that certain  pages of “test result summaries” should be coded.  Sara Shea gave a copy of the 11 pages to be coded to me on Wednesday, July 16.  These were coded and submitted to CAD for processing on Friday morning, July 18.
PROBLEM: unanticipated late submission of documents by client, documents that are exceptionally difficult and time consuming to key

On Monday afternoon, July 14, the H & H secretary transcribing the Berlitz translations completed approximately 40 documents (in addition to the 40 documents cited on page 1 of this memo), which represented the remainder of the German documents.  I coded these documents on Tuesday, July 15 and submitted them to CAD first, Wednesday morning, July 16.  The turnaround time, as to coding, was no longer than the time to code.  (Upon coding the documents I noticed that 7 pages (3 documents total) had “blank spots”--portions of one tape were inaudible and could not be transcribed).  H & H sent the tape back to Berlitz to be retranslated; H & H received the corrected tape on Thursday July 17 and I was given the documents to code Friday morning.  The three documents were submitted to CAD at approximately 10:00 AM, Friday morning, July 18, thereby completing the coding of MERCEPA documents.
PROBLEM: delays in translation by Berlitz, possible delays in transcription at H & H
The above review indicates that this coder completed the coding of MERCEPA under unusual, and at times back-breaking, time constraints.  In order to expedite the processing of the project I worked several hours without compensation.  It is to be expected that the work product could not be error-free, and that demands by the CAD DBA that the work in fact should be error-free are unreasonable and unwarranted.  It is also rather insulting for the DBA to insinuate that I intentionally incorporated errors into the work product in order to generate overtime.  Certainly, it goes against reason to suggest that a person whose productivity is unusually high, and who is willing to work uncompensated hours, is concerned with “generating” overtime.
[appended post-it note:]  Sheryl: perhaps it would not be inappropriate to quote the German playwright, Schiller, who wrote: “The world loves to blacken the radiant and drag the sublime into the dust.”  The fact is that I doubt that any of the other coders could have completed MERC as I did.  Catherine [Lacroix] told me privately that I was chosen to complete the project because she believed that I was the one person who could get the job done the quickest.  I did not fail.


Gary Freedman said...

Hogan Connections:

Gary Freedman said...

During a casual chat with Espe Rebollar and coworkers, Espe was talking about the allegation that the Jews murdered Christ. Espe specifically said: "Everybody knows the Pope forgave the Jews for that years ago."

That anecdote speaks for itself.

Gary Freedman said...

The Schiller quote is from the playwright's Joan of Arc.

It was one of Freud's favorite quotes; that's how I remembered it.

Gary Freedman said...

Freud and Schiller: