Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Brillant: An Employee’s Tale

Most supervisors have dealt with an employee who believes his work performance is better than what it actually is. It’s a minority of employees who believe they are less than a “four-star” performer. But an employee who is so convinced of his personal value that he sues his employer for $75 million is a rarity, indeed. Yet, rare or not, that is precisely the case in Berry v. Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, LLP.

According to Berry, he had a “distinguished” and “remarkable” career in the technology sector. Having “conquer[ed] Silicon Valley,” he decided to turn his talents to the legal profession, abandoning his technology endeavors to attend the prestigous University of Pennsylvania Law School. Upon graduation, he accepted a position with an equally prestigous law firm, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman. Ready to conquer the world of private practice, according to Berry, he “immediately began doing superlative work,” and “repeatedly found ways to improve the efficiency of work, or even the outcome of cases.” Unfortunately, though, he feels his genius went unappreciated.

Berry claims that he was terminated after he sent an email to the firm’s partners requesting additional work. In the email, Berry stated that it had “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.” Interestingly, prior to sending the email, Berry had been expressly warned not to “be so arrogant.” Apparently, he did not heed that advice.

Upon termination, Berry was presented with an “unconscionable” Separation Agreement, which he signed only under “economic duress.” Under the agreement, Berry received two months’ salary in exchange for a complete waiver of claims. Notwithstanding having executed the waiver and release, Berry sued filed suit, alleging 14 causes of action.

The lesson for employers? Beware the employee who is, perhaps, a bit to aware of his own “superlative” work.

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