A lawsuit against Patton Boggs that made headlines for its description of a firm with a purported drinking culture has ended, according to recent court filings. The plaintiff, a former business development coordinator at the firm, dropped her claims against the firm in January and settled claims against a former firm employee last week.
The terms of last week's settlement between the plaintiff Kristine Colombo and a former employee in the Patton Boggs' information technology department are confidential. In January, Colombo voluntarily dropped her claims against the firm, with each side agreeing to cover their own fees and costs.
In a complaint filed last April in District of Columbia Superior Court, Colombo claimed that the male IT employee assaulted her and made inappropriate comments during a firm-sponsored happy hour event in the office informally known as "Third Thursdays." She said the firm's culture included frequent social events where attorneys and staff would drink, a claim that the firm denied in its answer to her complaint.
After Colombo complained about the incident to human resources, she alleged that she faced retaliation, a hostile work environment, and was eventually unjustly fired. The firm countered that it received complaints about Colombo's behavior, including that she would drink during work hours. She was fired in September 2011 for disruptive behavior and failing to uphold "Client Service Principles," the firm said.
Colombo's attorney, Carla Brown of Charlson Bredehoft Cohen Brown & Sakata in Reston, Va., said today that the evidence didn't develop in a way that made sense to continue the case against the firm. She declined to discuss the settlement with the IT employee. "At the end of the day, I think it was a difficult thing for Ms. Colombo to step up and make the allegations. I think she has to be proud of herself for what she did," Brown said.
Lead counsel for Patton Boggs, Steven McCool of Mallon & McCool, said that "after extensive discovery in this case, it was made clear to Ms. Colombo's counsel that her claims against my client, Patton Boggs, were baseless. In our view, Ms. Colombo made the prudent decision in dismissing her case with prejudice instead of pursuing her unsubstantiated claims further."
A spokesman for Patton Boggs did not immediately return a request for comment.
Local solo practitioner Nat Polito, who represented the IT employee, declined to discuss the settlement involving his client. He confirmed that his client left the firm to pursue other opportunities in the IT field.