Disability Law

Former BigLaw lawyer files suit claiming firm fired him because of nerve-compression disability

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A former lawyer at Arent Fox filed a lawsuit Wednesday that claims that his nerve-compression disability led the law firm to reduce his assignments, change his job duties, and then terminate his employment.

Cornell Crosby, an intellectual property lawyer, filed the disability discrimination suit in state court in Los Angeles, Law360 reports. He is seeking $300,000 in economic damages, along with damages for emotional distress.

Crosby alleges that the law firm violated California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act by retaliating against him based on his disability, his medical leaves and his accommodation requests.

Crosby says he began work at Arent Fox in April 2017 at a salary of $225,000 per year, not including a bonus.

He began experiencing pain in his left forearm in August 2017, as well as weakness, numbness and tingling in two of his fingers. He could not perform simple tasks such as buttoning his shirts, opening jars and turning a key in the lock. Sitting for long periods of time caused excruciating pain.

An MRI showed the pain was due to compression on of the nerves in his left arm. The first procedure, performed over the Labor Day weekend, was a failure. The pain intensified and, acting on his doctor’s recommendation, Crosby requested a medical leave from January 2018 through August 2018.

When Crosby returned to work, a questionnaire completed by his medical provider indicated that he could not engage in prolonged writing, typing and sitting. The questionnaire suggested that Crosby begin by working a part-time schedule, with a return to full-time work after a doctor’s evaluation.

Crosby says he requested accommodations that included a standing desk, dictation software, and the ability to take breaks when needed.

After his return, Crosby was told he would be working on patent responses rather than higher-fee patent drafting work. Other lawyers appeared to be overworked, but not many assignments were coming his way, the lawsuit says.

Despite the reduced work schedule, Crosby’s condition worsened. Crosby underwent a second surgery and took short-term disability leave from February 2019 through May 2019.

In June 2019, Crosby was told that his position was being eliminated because the work he was doing had “dried up” and his hours were low, according to the suit.

“As a result of Arent Fox’s wrongful termination, Mr. Crosby has suffered severe emotional distress,” the suit says. “Since his termination, Mr. Crosby has found it difficult to deal with his feelings of anguish and humiliation.”

Crosby’s suit says he has several years of legal experience in intellectual property, including seven years of practice at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and four years at Seyfarth Shaw.

Arent Fox released this statement: “We are aware of this lawsuit, and its claims are meritless. Because this involves pending litigation, we have no further comment at this time.”

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