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Author Topic: Patent Attorney fired over sick day and vacation  (Read 1344 times)

examiner_bio

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Patent Attorney fired over sick day and vacation
« on: 02-22-18 at 07:32 pm »

I have a friend who was a patent attorney at very well known big law firm.  In early Feb., he was very sick Monday morning and texted his secretary and other colleagues that it was unlikely he would be in the office that day.  Nonetheless, a partner emailed him a project at 10 am and said it was required that the project be completed that day.  The partner insisted the work be turned around that day by him only (i.e.. nobody else had the time to do the project).  The partner also explicitly said in an email the work would be sent out in the evening.  So, my friend worked on the project, despite being quite ill with flu like symptoms (104 degree temperature).  He also went into the office later in the day to review the finished project with the partner.  Despite the partner's insistence, the partner did not turn around the project until Wednesday.

Next, my friend was expected to leave the office for vacation later that week, I believe on Friday evening.  He had told everyone of his vacation plans 6 weeks in advance.  On Wednesday (of the same week that he was sick), he sent a vacation reminder at 10:30 a.m.  At 12:45 p.m., he was notified of a meeting later that day where he was told to pack his bags.  During the meeting, the business manager acted ignorant, but did say the vacation communication played a part in the decision, as well as the time out of the office for the sick day.

I was just shocked about this story.  Is it really the case that patent agents and attorneys have no rights in an at-will agreement?  It seems abusive to me that a sick day and vacation memo are reasons to fire somebody.  The guy produces great work, but to me this was tragic at many levels.  He's now off searching for a job, but I think should land soon if he's just honest about what took place.  But, why would anyone want to work in these environments?  I now feel I should be on notice...
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Toot Aps Esroh

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Re: Patent Attorney fired over sick day and vacation
« Reply #1 on: 02-22-18 at 10:42 pm »

Generally, yes, it is the case that a patent agent or attorney in an "at-will" state has no more protections than any other worker.  We can be fired for "any reason or no reason", so long as we are not fired for some reason contravening recognized class protections.

With respect to your friend, being a law firm patent prosecutor, it seems that for the most part small foibles (although frankly nothing your friend had happen even rise to a "foible", in my opinion) are generally overlooked so long as such associate is profitable.

Outside of an extreme nutjob rogue partner firing people for no reason - which may have happened here - I would suspect your friend was running out of work (that is to say, the firm foresaw they were running out of work for him) and used this as an excuse to offload him.  But if your friend was profitable to the firm, assuming they were large enough to have a management committee, they {ETA -"they" is the committee} shouldn't permit such a rogue partner to just off people like that.

I don't know what else to say.  Situation definitely sucks. 
« Last Edit: 02-22-18 at 10:48 pm by Toot Aps Esroh »
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DCIPAgent

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Re: Patent Attorney fired over sick day and vacation
« Reply #2 on: 02-23-18 at 01:38 am »

Wow. I dont think all law firms are like that. I went to law school while working in a firm and had 1900 billable requirement which I didnt meet. My partners never brought it up. I have friends who don't have enough workload to meet 1900 but still the firms they work for continue to pay them. In such scenario, associates usually quit themselves if there isn't enough work. Honestly, I wouldnt want to work for a law firm who would fire me without sufficient notice or proper reason why I was being fired.
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MYK

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Re: Patent Attorney fired over sick day and vacation
« Reply #3 on: 02-23-18 at 07:51 am »

Sounds like the partner simply had it in for him.  If it hadn't been illness and vacation, it would've been something else just as lame.  At least the partner didn't make up something really toxic, like a sexual harassment accusation.
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"The life of a patent solicitor has always been a hard one."  Judge Giles Rich, Application of Ruschig, 379 F.2d 990.

Disclaimer: not only am I not a lawyer, I'm not your lawyer.  Therefore, this does not constitute legal advice.

ThomasPaine

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Re: Patent Attorney fired over sick day and vacation
« Reply #4 on: 02-23-18 at 11:39 am »

There's more to this story than your friend is telling you.
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examiner_bio

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Re: Patent Attorney fired over sick day and vacation
« Reply #5 on: 02-23-18 at 12:57 pm »

There's more to this story than your friend is telling you.

I'm not so sure.  His billing hours were on par for other associates.  The fact that the partner asked him to do work on the Monday he was sick, in my opinion, shows that he was still in demand at the office to some degree.  The second fact regarding the timing of the vacation memo reminder and the actual firing, in my opinion, leads more in the direction that this partner expected people to be in the office as much as possible.  It appears the timing of the vacation did not sit well with the partner and their workload.  In an alternative universe, it would be interesting to see what would have happened if no vacation memo reminder was ever sent.

The sad part is that my friend has three small kids and is now searching for something a lot more stable - at least he has the time to search thoroughly.
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OhioStateJD

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Re: Patent Attorney fired over sick day and vacation
« Reply #6 on: 02-23-18 at 10:39 pm »

There's more to this story than your friend is telling you.

Bingo.
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Robert K S

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Re: Patent Attorney fired over sick day and vacation
« Reply #7 on: 02-23-18 at 10:43 pm »

Unless a firm is institutionally dysfunctional or psychotically self-destructive it does not fire a profitable attorney over some sick time and leave that do not hurt a relationship with a client or otherwise damage business.  Going on one of the first two options as the prevailing theories, your friend shouldn't want to work there, anyway.
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This post is made in the context of professional discussion of general patent law issues and nothing contained herein may be construed as legal advice.

Jackoose

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Re: Patent Attorney fired over sick day and vacation
« Reply #8 on: 03-14-18 at 10:24 pm »

I think there was probably some personal dislike at play in this situation. Nobody gets fired for 1 sick day where they still complete the work on that day anyways.
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ChrisWhewell

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Re: Patent Attorney fired over sick day and vacation
« Reply #9 on: 03-14-18 at 11:22 pm »

Definitely a cut-throat trade, I wouldn't want to be a patent attorney.   Every one of them I ever met told me they were fired the day after having the sniffles.   So when you see a patent attorney, keep in mind there is some statistical chance they have a cold or flu at the time and are just hiding it, for job security purposes, said no sane person ever.
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Chris Whewell
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