Lawyers are having a lot of fun at the expense of Ann Dooley, a former senior lawyer at Lite DePalma Greenberg after she tried to get jobless benefits after quitting her job. She said her boss yelled at her and she was constructively fired because she couldn't take being yelled at. Lost in the shuffle of this story is the fact that the hero of the story was actually her boss who was yelling at her because Dooley had committed the all-too-common practice of disrespecting her co-worker's maternity leave.
Dooley was of counsel — which is lawyer speak for a senior lawyer who isn't actually a partner — at Lite DePalma in Newark from 2005 until 2010. Per the New Jersey Law Journal:
On July 20, 2010, faced with a deadline on filings that were due in the class action on Aug. 2, 2010, Dooley reached out for assistance to partner Katrina Carroll, who was then nearing the end of a maternity leave and agreed to help Dooley, the opinion said.
Dooley did so "with the approval of her supervisor, Allyn Lite," but another partner, Joseph DePalma, the firm's managing member, discovered what she had done and "became angry," according to the opinion.
"He entered appellant's office and berated appellant for reaching out to an attorney on maternity/disability leave" and then returned to his own office "to calm down," the appeals court said.
First of all, getting yelled at from time to time is part of most jobs, and it's downright central to working in a law firm. A lot of smart know-it-alls are working up against deadlines and that's a powderkeg. The most reprehensible of lawyers actually pride themselves on how much they yell and bully people. And by "most reprehensible" I mean "most." Dumb editorial columns bemoan Millennials for being overly sensitive, but this was a senior lawyer. She should have known what it means to work in a law firm.
As we all know, you don't get jobless benefits when you quit. But Dooley had a plan, she would argue that her treatment at the hands of DePalma constituted "constructive termination" — in other words he basically fired her by forcing her to quit. Thankfully, the court came to the only logical conclusion and told her to grow the hell up.
Mere oversensitiv[ity] to criticism, whether warranted or not, which may be expected in the normal course of employment, is not sufficient justification for quitting a job.
Attempting to cast "getting yelled at" as tantamount to be fired is pretty demeaning to everyone who actually gets constructively terminated. Like employees facing systematic harassment or discrimination. A one-off incident of an irate boss should never be lumped in with those adversities.
Finally, and what no one is focusing on, is that DePalma was totally justified in ripping Dooley! Dooley had reached out to another lawyer and convinced her to work during her maternity leave. Admittedly, Katrina Carroll was a partner in her own right, but Dooley was a senior lawyer at the firm, and claims that she reached out to Carroll with the backing of named partner Allyn Lite. Even partners feel institutional pressure. Carroll may have been totally jazzed to work on this project, but much more likely she found herself in a position where she didn't think "no" was an acceptable answer.
DePalma lost his cool because Dooley (and his partner Lite) demonstrated their lack of respect for the firm's maternity leave policy, which they clearly viewed as advisory depending on their convenience. In this light, Dooley's whining about respect is all the more ludicrous — she only got yelled at because she couldn't be bothered to display basic respect for her co-worker.
Just because yelling is a more biting manifestation of disrespect doesn't make it the only one. In fact, unspoken assumptions and subtle intimidation are usually far worse.
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