Ayanna v. Dechert: Male Attorney Sues Law Firm for Macho Culture

Male attorney Ariel Ayanna Ariel Ahas sued his former employer, law firm Dechert, for its alleged "macho culture."

This is yet one more employment lawsuit against brand law firms, in which discrimination has been claimed. Previously, African-American Jacki Nelson sued Jones Day for allegedly being laid off based on her race and gender. Additionally, JoEllen Lyons Dillon sued Reed Smith for a culture in which assignments are allegedly doled out to female attorney on the basis of sexual favors, and child bearing is purportedly unwelcome.

As employment lawsuits go, Ayanna's "Ayanna v. Dechert" is fairly tame. But it's interesting because a male is contending he was penalized for using the Family and Medical Leave Act [FMLA]. In addition, Ayanna claims that Dechert violated his rights in terms of a Massachusetts sex discrimination law as well as the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The story, at least according to the plaintiff, is as follows: For a little more than two years Ayanna worked at Dechert's Boston office where he received good performance evaluations as well as a $30,000 bonus one year. During his second year of employment, his pregnant wife experienced a nervous breakdown. To pitch in and help, he used paid paternity leave, plus time allowed under the FMLA. That time off, he claims, cooked his goose with the firm, which has a "macho culture." Because it then withheld assignments from him after his time off, he couldn't meet his quota of billable hours (representing a situation similar to allegations regarding the treatment of some female attorneys at Reed Smith). Ayanna consequently contends he was canned.

This is not the first or only FMLA case brought by a man. His lawyer, Rebecca Pontikes of Pontikes & Swartz, reports there are a growing number of such lawsuits filed by males. The circumstances of this case are, however, rare enough that Ayanna might be invited to make the rounds on some talk shows. He may even morph into a hero of the working man, eventually delivering motivational talks regarding Family First initiatives, and make $30,000 a pop.

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