Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Temp decides he never wants to work again

Apparently, a temp is suing a law firm for racial discrimination, claiming that he was let go from a project attorney position when white project attorneys were kept on:
A former project attorney at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton has sued the firm for racial discrimination after it cut his job while his white colleagues avoided furloughs and layoffs.
Lyle Silva, a 41-year-old lawyer from Bowie, Md., who is black, took a job as an at-will lawyer with Cleary's Washington office in mid-2011 and worked there for about a year, according to the complaint filed Tuesday in Washington federal district court.
Silva’s legal projects involved a banking regulation matter and a federal investigation into a West Virginia coal mine explosion. Silva said he received positive feedback throughout his time at the firm—even written 'thank you' notes and praise from his supervisor and a $2,500 bonus at the end of 2011.
The coal mine-related work ended at the firm in July 2012, the complaint said, and Silva would need a new assignment. Instead, he and another project attorney, a Hispanic woman, were furloughed.
Within two weeks, the firm had cut Silva's and the female attorney's positions, the lawsuit said. The firm reassigned project attorneys who were white to new tasks within the firm, Silva said.
I couldn't address the merits of his case, as I have no knowledge of it, although I do know a project attorney at Cleary who is, as far as I know, still employed. Project attorneys are essentially staff attorneys -- they are full-time employees who do the document review work most firms farm out to temps. When there is no work, though, they get fired just the same as temps when a project ends. Job security is not a feature of that sort of employment any more than it is in Temp Town.

I actually kinda-sorta know the guy, having been on at least two projects with him (he was on this project for a while).  I really wouldn't comment on him based on my personal experience, as none of my observations relate to this time at Cleary and I have no desire to become involved in this litigation nor to become a target of litigation myself. However, it is public knowledge that he appeared on "Donald J. Trump Presents: The Ultimate Merger in which former Apprentice baddie Omarosa tries to find love." I was on a project with him right after he had filmed the show. He seemed quite proud of it. You can read all about it here.

The law firm issued a statement to the ABA Law Journal, which was quoted at Above the Law:
We are aware of the lawsuit and believe that the complaint is without merit. The plaintiff filed a complaint approximately two years ago with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which dismissed the matter last September.
The statement is understandably self-serving, and does not mean the suit has no merit, but racial discrimination suits in at-will employment generally haven't gone well for the employees, as the National Law Journal notes and Above the Law documents.  The plaintiff better have a pretty good statistical case to show discrimination if there is no other evidence of racial bias. Dismissals that come when a project is downsized to comport with the amount of work available tend to be kind of random in my experience. Maybe this one's different, but it will not be an easy case to prove. And it is worth remembering the old saying, a man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client.

I find it difficult to believe that Silva won't run into a lot of trouble getting work in Temp Town after this. Most agencies now have large corporate parents. Once they find out about at temp suing for racial discrimination, I would expect legal departments in those corporate parents to send legal memos to the agencies they own advising about avoiding hiring potentially litigious employees. Silva might end up needing to find another line of work.

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