Update: On August 16, 2013, Roy Lessy's lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice for failure to serve the firm. Lessy and a Patton Boggs spokesman both declined to comment.
Roy Lessy, a former partner at Patton Boggs, is suing the firm for discrimination, claiming he was treated unfairly and not paid money he was owed after he resigned because he had a disability.
Lessy, 69, worked at the firm for nearly seven years before he resigned in mid-2011. In a lawsuit filed yesterday in District of Columbia Superior Court, he accused the firm of failing to adjust his compensation formula to take his disability into account and, after he left, of wrongfully refusing to return money he contributed to the firm when he was first hired as promised.
Lessy, who is retired, and his attorney, Harvey Levin of Thompson Coburn, declined to comment.
The firm, in a statement, said it would "defend itself against these allegations and is confident it will prevail."
"The issues raised in Mr. Lessy’s complaint are, by and large, issues he never raised before voluntarily leaving our firm to join another law firm that he has since left. Patton Boggs is committed to a bias-free workplace and did nothing improper with regard to Mr. Lessy," the firm said. "Mr. Lessy attempted to assert some of his claims before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and they were rejected as untimely, and now it appears he is shopping for another forum."
According to the complaint, Lessy was hired as a partner at Patton Boggs in early 2004. He said he wasn't an equity partner, meaning he didn't share in the firm's profits or losses and didn't vote on firm decisions. His practice focused on antitrust and energy. Before joining Patton, Lessy was an attorney at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
When he joined Patton Boggs, Lessy was required to contribute nearly $190,000 in capital to the firm, according to his complaint, and he was told he would get that money back if he resigned in the future.
In April 2011, he said he suffered a "disabling back condition" that made it difficult to maintain his practice on a full-time basis. As a result, Lessy said he earned less. He accused the firm of not adjusting his compensation formula—in effect, punishing him for his disability.
The firm paid attorneys a draw—a type of salary—that would be matched against earnings they brought in, according to the complaint. When earnings were less than the draws, Lessy claimed the firm forgave the difference for nondisabled attorneys in the past.
Lessy resigned from the firm in August 2011. At the time, he said the firm owed him $128,287 in capital he contributed. The firm refused to return the money as originally promised after he resigned, he alleged, and he was told the firm was keeping the money because his earnings had been lower than his draw.
According to the complaint, Lessy was paid $93,225 for his work in 2011. Because the firm kept the capital, Lessy said he was left with a negative net compensation for 2011 of $35,062. In the months after he left, he said the firm required him to contribute nearly $23,000 in additional capital.
His lawsuit included a demand for nearly $150,000, plus interest and other costs.
The case is before Judge John Mott. A scheduling conference is set for September 13.