Former Santa Monica Attorney Settles Suit Alleging She Was Fired Because of Rare Sleep Disorder

Hartwell Harris says she has Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrome, but her firm, Bingham McCutchen, wouldn't accommodate her.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

An attorney who claimed she was fired from the Santa Monica office of a large law firm after developing a rare sleep disorder has settled the employment discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuit she filed against her ex-employer, court papers show.

A request for dismissal of Hartwell Harris' suit against Bingham McCutchen LLP was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of plaintiff Hartwell Harris on Tuesday by her attorney, Tamara Freeze.

The terms of the accord were not disclosed in the two-page document filed by Freeze, who today declined comment on the settlement. She said Harris now practices in Mississippi.

Harris worked for Bingham McCutchen as a litigation associate from May 2007 until February 2011, when she alleged she was fired after coming down with Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrome.

Hartwell sued the firm in November 2011, claiming that despite positive reviews in which she was said to have a "high level of enthusiasm" and praised for "attention to detail," Bingham McCutchen fired her after learning of her disability and need for accommodation until she returned to a normal sleep cycle.

In April 2013, a three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal denied Bingham McCutchen's attempt to have Harris' wrongful termination suit dismissed so the case could be put before an arbitrator.

The justices  unanimously agreed with Judge Mel Red Recana that Bingham's arbitration agreement -- which requires all of its employees to arbitrate their claims against the company rather than file lawsuits in court -- was invalid under the law of Massachusetts, the state under which Bingham had decided would control the employment contracts.

--City News Service

Apolinaire April 24, 2014 at 11:55 AM
Hartwell should have known that one cannot sleep on the job, either delayed or on time. Precious hours go to waste that are not billable to the client. One shouldn't even yawn on the job, if you want to have my opinion.


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