The pandemic changed society in a number of ways, but in terms of our working lives, the biggest impact of COVID was the ubiquity of working from home. That ushered in a number of other trends the media was quick to pick up on, namely quiet quitting — that is, the practice of doing the bare minimum at work and not overextending oneself on behalf of their employers, and surreptitiously working multiple job remotely.
Now both those practices may have their day in court.
Yesterday, New York-based litigation firm Napoli Shkolnik sued one of its attorneys, Heather Palmore and her law firm The Palmore Group P.C., for multiple counts including breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty of loyalty, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty of loyalty, injurious falsehood, unjust enrichment, declaratory judgment, and constructive trust.
According to the complaint, Palmore quiet quit her job at the plaintiffs law firm while she worked at her own practice:
In the pursuit of personal pecuniary gain, Defendant Palmore misrepresented her skillset, experience, and book of business to obtain a position with Napoli Shkolnik, where she took advantage of the new remote work environment to “quiet quit” her job, and simultaneously worked for two law firms at once, both Plaintiff and the Defendant Palmore Law Group, in violation of her Employment Agreement and New York law.
The complaint alleges the defendant’s law firm operated in competition with her employer:
Ms. Palmore wrongfully joined both trends [quiet quitting and working multiple jobs remotely], collecting a one of the most substantial draws in the entire firm from Napoli Shkolnik, while performing little to no work for Napoli Shkolnik, and while directly competing with the firm by simultaneously running Defendant Palmore Law Group, P.C. These actions were in direct violation of her employment agreement, in breach of her fiduciary duty of loyalty to Napoli Shkolnik and designed to enrich herself at Napoli Shkolnik’s expense.
The complaint goes on to allege that Palmore’s timesheets were also fabrications unsupported by the legal work the defendant accomplished:
As set forth herein, computer records demonstrate that Ms. Palmore has been active on her computer for mere minutes a day on the overwhelming majority of workdays in 2023, despite submitting daily time records falsely representing that she spent hours performing legal research and drafting and “outlining” documents.
In shocking fashion, in some instances Palmore fabricated and submitted blatantly false daily time records representing that she had already completed a full day’s work before business hours.
Further, the complaint accuses Palmore attempting “to extort money from the firm by making false and defamatory claims of discrimination directed to ‘others’ without any factual basis” once her “scheme” was discovered.
Wigdor Law partner David Gottlieb has a markedly different take on the events that occured:
“Napoli Shkolnik filed this completely bogus preemptive lawsuit only after Ms. Palmore raised serious claims of discrimination against the firm and was preparing to file her own action.” Gottlieb said. “This preemptive lawsuit is a transparent and ill-advised attempt to try to gain some perceived strategic advantage, but it is obviously an act of blatant retaliation. We will be moving forward with Ms. Palmore’s lawsuit in short order, which will include claims based on this retaliatory conduct.”
While Lucas Markowitz of Offit Kurman, attorney for Napoli Shkolnik, said of the suit, “As we state in our papers, Ms. Palmore misrepresented her skillset, experience and book of business to obtain a position with Napoli Shkolnik. She then directly competed with Napoli Shkolnik by leading her own law firm. When Napoli Shkolnik began to uncover these misrepresentations, Ms. Palmore defamed the firm in an attempt to extort additional funds.”
Read the full complaint below:
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon @Kathryn1@mastodon.social.