When the Media Machine is Out of Your Hands
From a seat in the marketing department, what would you do?
This morning, I picked up the Daily Journal to find an article about a former Bingham associate who claims she (and others) were drugged at firm events. She filed a discrimination complaint alleging that “the law firm didn’t do enough to investigate alleged druggings of attorneys by a former employee and/or attendee of firm events and keep its female attorneys safe.”
According to Above the Law, the following internal email was circulated inside Bingham.
BINGHAM MCCUTCHEN LLP — MEMORANDUM — MCAD COMPLAINT AGAINST THE FIRM
From: William G. Southard Sent: Thursday, May 08, 2008 2:20 PM
To: zz personnel dc; zz personnel har; zz personnel hk; zz personnel la; zz personnel lon; zz personnel ny; zz personnel oc; zz personnel sf; zz personnel sm; zz personnel sv; zz personnel tk; zz personnel wc
Cc: zz management committee
Subject: MCAD Complaint Against The Firm
I’m sure many of you have seen or heard about today’s media reports concerning a filing yesterday by Michelle Moor with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. Because the reports and the filing contain alarming allegations, we thought it appropriate to respond briefly about the personal safety issues raised in Ms. Moor’s filing. While we empathize with the concerns raised by Ms. Moor, we want to address the allegations contained in the media. Because of the pending legal process, we are constrained in what we can say, but we do want to stress the following.
First, Ms. Moor reported that at the 2007 associates Christmas party at an off-site location she was given a date rape drug which made her ill and required treatment at an emergency room. The events occurred in a public restaurant with a very large number of people present over the course of the event, including numerous people unaffiliated with the firm. Our initial desire was to begin an immediate investigation, however, Ms. Moor asked us to refrain because she did not want her privacy compromised and because she felt that it would be difficult to determine the identity of the offending party at such a public venue. Only after Ms. Moor was comfortable with proceeding did we undertake the investigation. Ultimately, we could not determine, and Ms Moor could not say, who might have introduced the drug, how the drug was ingested or whether the person who did this had any affiliation with the firm. We did, however, conclude that the events, whatever their genesis, furnished an important reminder to all of us that issues of personal safety arise in all aspects of present-day life. As a result, commencing in January we began to plan to better inform all of our personnel about safety measures that they can take, and are conducting personal safety training sessions for all lawyers and staff in the Boston office. We will expand the reach of those efforts to the rest of the firm. We also engaged in outreach to concerned personnel in the Boston office to detail what had transpired, and sent out an email to all Boston personnel informing them of the off-site incident and advising them of the need to be aware of these types of concerns. We have today in Boston issued a response similar to this one to address Ms. Moor’s allegations.
Second, Ms. Moor purports to describe a second incident that occurred at some point in the past involving the drugging and rape of an associate. We investigated this assertion, though Ms. Moor refused to identify the associate whose story she purported to relate. Without any identifying information we had no way of verifying the report or reaching any conclusions about it. We have very recently been contacted by the associate referenced by Ms. Moor. Without going into details, we have learned Ms. Moor’s information is fundamentally inaccurate.
Third, Ms. Moor complains of comments made in her presence by a firm staff member concerning date rape drugs and she accuses the firm of not acting appropriately in response to them. The allegations of a failure by the firm to act are unfounded. When the firm learned of the comments, an exhaustive confidential investigation was undertaken over a period of several weeks, not only because the reported comments were inappropriate, but also because of the prior events at the Christmas party. At no time in the investigation was the firm able to conclude there was any connection between the inappropriate comments and the events at the Christmas party. Upon completion of the Firm’s investigation, the staff member identified by Ms. Moor was terminated.
We are very disappointed that Ms. Moor resigned from the firm and that she has filed her complaint, and we disagree strenuously that there is any basis, factual or legal, for any of her claims. The thrust of Ms. Moor’s MCAD complaint — that the firm was unresponsive to the concerns she raised — is simply untrue. Despite Ms. Moor’s complaints, the safety of firm personnel is of paramount importance to us, as the current safety training efforts and numerous other programs reflect.
Given the pendency of the complaint, please maintain this information as confidential. Please feel free to contact Ralph Martin or me with any questions you may have.
When the media machine is out of your hands, what would you do in a situation like these?