Law Firms

Retaliation Claim Allowed in 'Macho Culture' Suit by Fired Dechert Associate


A former Dechert associate who maintains he was fired partly because of the firm’s macho culture will be allowed to proceed with a retaliation claim.

Ariel Ayanna claims the firm retaliated against him, for taking leave to care for his children and mentally ill wife, in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act. In an Oct. 17 ruling (PDF), U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton of Boston allowed Ayanna’s retaliation claim but dismissed his sex discrimination claim under state law, the National law Journal reports.

Ayanna had alleged in his most recent complaint that “the culture for men at Dechert is a ‘macho’ one which praises and encourages male associates and partners to fulfill the stereotypical male role of ceding family responsibilities to women.” The firm has said that its lawyers are not required to conform to any stereotypes, including macho ones.

Gorton deemed Ayanna’s claims “somewhat dubious at this stage” but said he had presented enough evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact.

In Ayanna’s favor: The associate was told he was being fired because of a “fair” rating and “personal issues,” a comment that could be construed to refer to his FMLA leave. Also in his favor: The firm cited low billable hours in 2008, but Ayanna had met billable targets the previous year, unlike other associates fired around the same time as Ayanna. There is also a dispute, Gorton said, over whether the firm withheld work assignments in retaliation for the FMLA leave, causing Ayanna’s billable hours to drop.

Prior coverage:

ABA Journal: “A Lawsuit Claims ‘Macho’ Culture Led to Associate Dad’s Firing”

ABAJournal.com: “Dechert: Our Culture Is Not Macho, and We Don’t Encourage Stereotypical Roles”

ABAJournal.com: “Suit by Fired Associate Claims Dechert’s Macho Culture Punished Paternity Leave”

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