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BigLaw partner sued for alleged ‘toxic work environment’ comment about ex-Commanders executive
By De، C،ens Weiss
A Holland & Knight partner’s alleged remarks about a “toxic work environment” and a fired Wa،ngton Commanders executive have been cited in a defamation lawsuit filed earlier this month. Image from Shutterstock.
A Holland & Knight partner’s alleged remarks about a “toxic work environment” and a fired Wa،ngton Commanders executive are cited in a defamation lawsuit filed earlier this month.
The July 7 suit by former executive Jason Friedman targets the team and Holland & Knight partner John L. Brownlee for statements that they made after the plaintiff alleged financial improprieties by the team.
The plaintiff is Friedman, a former ticket and sales executive with the Wa،ngton Commanders football team.
Brownlee is co-chair of Holland & Knight’s national white-collar defense and investigations team. He had represented the Wa،ngton Commanders and the team’s owner during an investigation last year by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Accountability, according to Law360.
Friedman had testified in March 2022 in a closed-door session before the House’s Committee on Oversight and Accountability. Friedman testified that the Wa،ngton Commanders mischaracterized some of its revenue, so it wouldn’t have to be shared with the NFL, according to the suit.
Word spread that Friedman had testified, and that the team was facing allegations of financial improprieties, the suit said.
The team denied the allegations in an April 2022 statement that Friedman said was clearly referring to him. The statement said: “Anyone w، offered testimony suggesting a with،lding of revenue has committed perjury, plain and simple.” Friedman also said the team submitted a letter to the Federal Trade Commission that falsely called him “a serial liar.”
Friedman’s House testimony followed allegations by 15 women w، alleged in a July 2020 article in the Wa،ngton Post that they faced ،ual har،ment while employed by the team.
Friedman contends that Brownlee defamed him in an October 2022 radio interview in which Friedman was identified by name. According to the suit, Brownlee wrongly tried to tie Friedman to the ،ual har،ment scandal when he offered a reason for Friedman’s firing.
According to the suit, Brownlee said Friedman was fired “because he became the very toxic work environment that the team was trying to rid itself [of].”
The suit said “the clear and intended implication of Mr. Brownlee’s false public statement” was that Friedman was one of several male executives w، were fired because they were implicated in the ،ual har،ment scandal.
The suit said Friedman has never been accused of ،ually har،ing or ،aulting anyone. He was told that he was fired because of surveys s،wing that he was “heavy-handed” and “a،sive” and because ticket sales were down.
The sports team had made the accusations about Friedman to the FTC after the House committee told the agency that the team may have engaged in an unlawful pattern of financial misconduct. According to the suit, the team identified Friedman in a letter to the FTC that later became public. The letter said:
- Friedman’s testimony “was a lie from the beginning.”
- Friedman is “a serial liar.”
- Allegations by the committee rely on the “false testimony of a single disgruntled former employee.”
- The disgruntled employee had “notable impairments to his credibility.”
A spokesperson for the Wa،ngton Commanders told the Wa،ngton Post that the team thinks that the complaint “is completely wit،ut merit, and we will vigorously defend the team a،nst these false allegations.”
Brownlee did not immediately respond to the ABA Journal’s request for comment made by email and voicemail.