Bloomberg Employee Claim Highlights Need for Candor

Earlier this week, Brian Martinez filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York, claiming that Bloomberg L.P. terminated his employment because he was regarded as disabled and because he is gay, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and employment discrimination laws of New York State and City. 

In a nutshell, Martinez was the victim of domestic abuse, which caused him to suffer a nervous breakdown.  He took two leaves of absence to address his psychological issues and, during the second, Bloomberg eliminated his job in a restructuring.   (Read the Bloomberg Complaint.pdf.)  In the Complaint, Martinez claims that the restructuring was a mere pretext, and that Bloomberg actually fired him because they continued to view him as psychologically disabled even though he was cleared to return to work, and because he is homosexual.

I don't know, or even have an opinion about, whether Bloomberg illegally discriminated against Brian Martinez.  A complaint only give you a piece of the story.  It is possible that Bloomberg has the leaves of absence and the restructuring papered to death and its defense tied up with a bow.  But I was struck by a few allegations in the Complaint that highlight a teachable moment for litigation avoidance in employment.  They are:

1.  Martinez had suffered from domestic abuse for several months before his first leave of absence began. 

2.  Martinez received a positive performance review about 2 weeks into his first leave, but his bonus was not consistent with what it should have been for his performance and his department. 

3.  Martinez asked several times for an explanation of the discrepancy in his bonus, but kept being put off. 

What's the lesson?  Being "nice" instead of candid will get you sued.

I'm not abusing punctuation; I put "nice" in quotations because you really are not being nice to anyone.  If someone isn't performing, you have to tell him even if it means hurt feelings.  Nobody wants to be the meanie, but sugar-coating performance issues is like social promotion in grade school.  Eventually, someone will figure out that Johnny can't read, and it does Johnny no good to be illiterate.  Don't be a jerk about it, but say what needs to be said and help the employee be successful.

My Jedi mind powers tell me that Martinez had a really bad year.  He was being abused at home and had a high-pressure job.  Something had to give, and it was probably his job performance.  But, if the Complaint is to be believed, you would not know that from his performance evaluation or the non-answers he received concerning his bonus.  

Another LSAT Disability Discrimination Lawsuit?

Less than a week after a lawsuit was filed claiming that the Law School Admissions Test discriminates against the legally blind, a Weslyan University senior, Meghan Larywon, filed a suit Thumbnail image for pencil test.JPGclaiming that the Law School Admissions Council (the group that administers the LSAT) discriminated against against her by refusing to give her double time to take the test and 15 minute breaks between sections.  (Here is the complaint: Larywon Complaint.pdf.) 

According to the Complaint, Ms. Larywon suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder and Processing Speed Disorder, which affect her ability to read and process visual information under time pressure.  On the strength of the complaint and supporting affidavits Judge Briccetti issued an Order to Show Cause why Ms. Larywon should not get the accommodation she seeks for the LSAT being administered on June 6.  (Here is the OSC:  Larywon OSC.pdf.)  The hearing was scheduled for this afternoon, but no decision is listed on Pacer yet. 

The documents substantiating Ms. Larywon's disability are not publicly available (nor should it be), so I can't say whether I think the accommodation is justified or not. 

But I understand the LSAC's skepticism.  The controversy over the frequency of ADD diagnoses rages on and Ms. Larywon's own history does not help.  In her academic career, Ms. Larywon was never classified as needing, or actually received, services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  The fact that Ms. Larywon and her family were able to manage her disability without invoking IDEA or implementing an Individualized Education Program can suggest a wonderful relationship between school and parents, but it can also suggest a private school's willingness to accommodate anyone for anything.  I know plenty of kids with learning disabilities, and they all have IEPs. 

We'll have to wait and see what Judge Briccetti says about it.

Rajaratnam Convicted on All 14 Counts

A jury in the Southern District of New York convicted Raj Rajaratnam, founder of Galleon Group, on all counts of securities fraud and conspiracy.  His scheme was nothing if not audacious -- pay insiders at top American businesses for insider information.  This article by Michael Rothfeld and Chad Bray in the sums it up nicely. 

I doubt Rajaratnam will get the maximum sentence for his crimes (about 205 years).  But I suspect he will find the next 25 years of his life rather unpleasant.  As it should be.

You see, securities fraudsters hold a special place in my heart.  I had the misfortune of working for one who is currently serving a 20-year sentence.  When the firm I worked for fell apart (almost overnight following his arrest), I was high enough on the food chain that my continued employment somewhere was never really an issue, and low enough on the food chain that my professional reputation survive unscathed. 

I hope the innocent former Galleon employees are as lucky.