Ariel Ayanna is a former associate attorney for the Boston office of Dechert, LLP. His first year at the firm went by splendidly. He received a positive evaluation and a bonus for his work. During his second year as an associate in the firm's financial services department, however, things turned sour.
When his wife's existing mental condition worsened, and she gave birth to the couple's second child, Ayanna did what any "real man" would do: He took care of his wife and children. He took paternity and FMLA leave from Dechert and handled his personal affairs. However, when he returned to work, he alleges that the firm withheld work from him, citing his supposed tendency to allow his personal life to interfere with work.
A few months later, when he didn't reach his billable hour mark, he was let go.
Ayanna's initial lawsuit claimed gender discrimination resulting from the firm's "macho" culture, where male partners and senior associates would brag about never missing a day of work for their children. He also claimed retaliation for taking legally-entitled leave. According to the ABA Journal, the discrimination claims were tossed last year. Earlier this week -- as the case was on the verge of going to trial -- the remaining claim settled on undisclosed terms.
Even when the legal job market wasn't nonexistent, associates felt insane pressure to work inhuman hours. Some saw the more-than-80-hour work weeks as a right of passage. The stress is even greater now; knowing that if this job ends, there's little else out there.
Even so, that shouldn't require one to abandon his or her familial responsibilities, waive leave that is provided by law, or give up other legal protections provided to other Americans.
Being a lawyer doesn't make you above or below the law.