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Suit by Ex-Bingham Associate Claims She Was Fired Because of a Rare Sleep Disorder

Posted Nov 29, 2011 10:26 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A former associate at Bingham McCutchen in California claims in a lawsuit that she was fired after she developed Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrome.

Ex-associate Hartwell Harris, who now has her own law firm in Santa Monica, says in the suit that Bingham initially placed her on short-term then unpaid leave before firing her in February 2011, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press, Above the Law and a press release. Before that, the suit alleges, Bingham refused proposed accommodations such as flexible work hours and telecommuting.

The suit claims disability discrimination and retaliation.

The Santa Monica Daily Press interviewed Dr. Susan Sprau about the disorder that causes a disruption of circadian rhythm. Sufferers have problems with the timing of sleep and often work night jobs to accommodate their changed sleep pattern. She advises her patients to avoid morning meetings and classes. "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.

Bingham disputes Harris’ allegations in a statement supplied to Above the Law and the Santa Monica Daily Press. “Bingham took Ms. Harris’ requests for accommodation seriously and accommodated them reasonably. It’s unfortunate that Ms. Harris selected this course, and we look forward to a favorable resolution of this matter,” the law firm said.

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