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Ex-employee Files Suit Against Former Law Firm
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Hartwell Harris, a resident of Santa Monica, has filed a lawsuit against her former employer for wrongful termination. Harris claims she was fired for developing a rare sleeping disorder, removing her from a job at an international law firm. The firm in question is that of Bingham McCutchen LLP, which is headquartered in Boston and operates offices in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Harris claims she received poor performance reviews after being diagnosed with her rare sleeping disorder.

Harris began suffering from a bad back that eventually required spinal surgery and physical therapy. She was forced to take time off from work because of the surgery and therapy. Harris claims that she was subjected to reviews in the middle of year that were biased and based on rumors. Harris was diagnosed with Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrome, or DSPS, in April of 2010.
A short-term disability leave was granted by her law firm, which then placed her on unpaid leave before firing her in February of 2011. Harris claims in the lawsuit that her firm did not accept the accommodations recommended by her doctor. Those accommodations included flexible work hours and/or telecommuting. Harris received her law degree from UC Berkeley and attended Princeton University.
“I was really disappointed because I had worked really hard to get where I was,” Harris said. “I was really disappointed for a long time afterward because I did a lot of research to find a place to work where I would stay for my career.”

  
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When Harris was fired, she was working on securities litigation but now runs her own law firm based out of Santa Monica.
“Bingham took Ms. Harris’ requests for accommodation seriously and accommodated them reasonably,” a statement from the firm said. “It’s unfortunate that Ms. Harris selected this course, and we look forward to a favorable resolution of this matter.”

The law firm that fired Harris is well known around the world, especially in financial centers in New York, London, and Tokyo. The law firm works with companies such as BMW, Nokia, Bank of America and General Motors and their clients. The law firm also works with individuals such as J.K. Rowling and Larry King.

Dr. Susan Sprau, of the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital’s Sleep Disorder Center, had the following to say:

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“You have to realize that when you are working against your body’s natural biology, it is an uphill battle and there isn’t a quick or easy or perfect fix,” she said. “People who have this problem tend to take night jobs.”

Doctor Sprau said that those diagnosed with DSPS can improve their situation if they make adjustments to their schedules. Sprau said that the most effective adjustments are to schedule classes and meetings in the afternoon, not the morning, so the patient can have a chance to adjust to being awake.





 

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