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Dechert Settles with Former Associate in Retaliation Case
Former Dechert associate Ariel Ayanna and the firm have settled the retaliation case filed by Ayanna, according to The National Law Journal. In the case, Ayanna claimed that the firm’s ‘macho culture’ lead to him being terminated.
Judge Nathaniel Gorton, of the District of Massachusetts, was informed on February 11 that both sides reached a confidential settlement regarding the issue. Gorton agreed to seal the agreement after learning of it during a confidential sidebar.
“Counsel are to be commended. This could have been a lengthy trial. It would cost your clients a considerable amount of money. It’s always appropriate for parties to reach a settlement. It was a job well done,” Gorton said.
Lawyers for both sides declined comment following the hearing. The lawyer for Ayanna is Rebecca Pontikes, from Pontikes Law. The lawyer for Dechert is Danny Cloherty, from Collora LLP. A spokesperson for Dechert, Beth Huffman, said that the issue was resolved, but would not issue any other comments on the matter.
Dechert asked Gorton back in October for summary judgment on the retaliation claim filed by Ayanna based on the Family and Medical Leave Act. Ayanna was an employee of Dechert in the firm’s services practice group from September 11, 2006 to December 17, 2008.
Ayanna used paid paternity leave and FMLA time in order to care for his children and mentally ill wife following the birth of his second child. He was terminated from his job just four months later. A lawsuit was filed in December of 2010 that claimed, “the culture for men at Dechert is a ‘macho’ one which praises and encourages male associates and partners to fulfill the stereotypical male role of ceding family responsibilities to women.”
In the lawsuit, Ayanna asked for lost benefits, back pay, punitive damages, damages for emotional distress, and attorney fees and costs. In the lawsuit, Ayanna also requested that the court order Dechert “to institute and carry out policies, practices, and programs that eradicate unlawful stereotyping of male care-givers.”
When Gorton ruled in October, he said that Ayanna was told he was fired as a result of his ‘personal issues’ and his ‘fair’ rating. In his ruling, Gorton wrote, “A reasonable jury could find that the comment was directed at Ayanna’s recent need to take FMLA leave.”
Gorton dismissed Ayanna’s state law handicap discrimination claim in January of 2012, saying,
“The statute is… intended to regulate employers’ actions with respect to their handicapped employees and does not afford standing to non-handicapped employees based on their association with a handicapped person.”