Law Firm Ordered to Pay $600,000 for Bias Against Mentally Ill Attorney
December 16, 2010
At first brush it appears to me that the Administrative Law Judge has gotten things wrong. If the attorney, mentally ill or otherwise, is charging unusual charges on the firm’s credit card and the is attempting to pass on the charges to the client–a possible ethical violation which can be imputed on the entire law firm–what else other than firing the attorney can the law firm do? It appears to me that the ethical issues should have been resolved before the employment issues were to be considered.
The New York State Division of Human Rights has awarded a former contract partner at Hill Betts & Nash nearly $600,000 after an administrative law judge found that the firm discriminated against him due to his mental health issues.
The former partner, James M. Hazen, filed papers this month in Manhattan Supreme Court to enforce the divisions final Oct. 27 order and award further damages beyond what the division granted. Hazen, who suffered from bipolar disorder, was fired by the Manhattan-based law firm in 2006 after ringing up unusual charges on a company credit card, an administrative judge ruled in 2008.
Hill Betts, a 112-year-old firm, has maintained that it fired Hazen because of the credit card expenses, which it said he tried to pass on to clients. In 2006, the firm referred Hazen to the 1st Department Disciplinary Committee.
Hazens lawyer, William H. Roth, said the disciplinary committee had put its proceedings on hold pending the resolution of the employment litigation. Roth declined further comment.