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Ex-Associate Waived Breach of Employment Contract Claim, Says NY Firm

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Jonathan Cooper
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It is rare indeed that you can hear one side of a story, and get an overwhelming feeling that you would like to rule against that person. But reading the details of the allegations in the breach of contract and wrongful termination suit brought by an associate attorney against his former law firm in Berry v. Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, is exactly one such case.

Indeed, I can't help but wonder how this associate managed to last 8 months at the law firm before they fired him.

According to his own complaint, Berry admits that he refused to help one of the firm's partners (and his boss) perform document review, because this task was beneath him. In fact, he went so far as to reduce his objection to performing these "menial" tasks to writing, and sent an e-mail to over 10 of the firm's partners claiming, "[A]fter working here for several months now it has become clear that I have as much experience and ability as an associate many years my senior, as much skill writing, and a superior legal mind to most I have met."

In seeking to dismiss the lawsuit at its outset, however, Kasowitz Benson makes the following critical point:

Berry accepted severance payments in exchange for waiving his right to sue.

In that regard, New York's courts have long and consistently upheld broadly-worded agreements that release an employer from all liability arising from the employee's termination. See, e.g., Skluth v. United Merchs. & Mfrs., Inc., 163 A.D2d 104, 559 N.Y.S.2d 280 (1st Dept. 1990).

Call me skeptical, but I don't see how Berry's complaint survives this motion to dismiss.

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