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Hoff v. Wiley Rein, LLP

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

February 12, 2015

ALVIN HOFF, APPELLANT,
v.
WILEY REIN, LLP, APPELLEE

Argued January 6, 2015

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CAB-8914-12). (Hon. John M. Mott, Trial Judge).

Jolly C. Anaba for appellant.

Robert L. Duston, with whom Carolyn Due was on the brief, for appellee.

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, FISHER, Associate Judge, and FERREN, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 562

Ferren, Senior Judge.

Alvin Hoff, formerly an at-will employee at the Wiley Rein law firm, seeks reversal of the trial court's dismissal of his two-count lawsuit against the firm. He claims: (1) " wrongful termination" of his employment because he refused the firm's demand to violate a criminal law,[1] and (2) " retaliatory discharge" because that refusal, contrary to the direction of his supervisor, was protected by the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (DCHRA).[2] More specifically, appellant Hoff, a former records coordinator for appellee Wiley Rein, claims that he was fired unlawfully because he had not been willing to enhance, and thus falsify, the performance evaluation of another employee at the request of Hoff's supervisor, who allegedly had tender feelings for that employee. Hoff contends that the trial court erred in granting Wiley Rein's motion to dismiss on the ground that he had failed to plead facts sufficient to support either count in his complaint. Perceiving no error, we affirm.

I.

In reviewing the grant of a motion to dismiss,[3] we take as true the following facts alleged in the complaint.[4] Hoff was

Page 563

employed by Wiley Rein as Coordinator in the Records Department. Among his responsibilities, Hoff drafted periodic performance evaluations for employees in his department. Hoff reported directly to his supervisor, Douglas Smith.

At a meeting with both Hoff and Smith, the firm's Director of Operations, Derek McCleskey, told them both to give Gloria Ward, an employee in the Records Department, an " unsatisfactory" employment evaluation and to " place Ward on " PIP,'" which we understand to mean a performance improvement plan. After this meeting, Smith made numerous attempts to persuade Hoff instead to give Ward a satisfactory evaluation. When Hoff refused, Smith told Hoff that he must issue a satisfactory evaluation for Ward, " or else." Hoff then set about drafting Ward's evaluation, which took roughly one week to produce, during which Smith " continually pestered" Hoff to issue a satisfactory evaluation. Smith also allegedly entered Hoff's office to " remind" and " threaten" Hoff to " lean easy on [Ward]," because Smith did " not want anyone to be fired."

Hoff's employment evaluation, however, as McCleskey had requested, characterized Ward's performance as " unsatisfactory," and she was " placed on PIP." As a result, Smith was " furious" with Hoff, and on one occasion confronted Hoff in his office " with a few choice words." On March 1, 2011, shortly after Hoff had given Ward her evaluation, McCleskey called Hoff into McCleskey's office and told Hoff that Ward had accused him of giving her an unsatisfactory evaluation in retaliation for Ward's refusal to lend Hoff money. McCleskey fired Hoff on the spot, informing him that Wiley Rein's human resources ...


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