Fortson, Bentley & Griffin, P.A. J. Edward Allen Jr. — #metoo - below is a letter I sent regarding j. edward allen jr. sexual harassment.
The manner in which FORTSON, BENTLEY & GRIFFIN handled the issue of J. Edward Allen Jr. sexually harassing clients was flagrantly unprofessional and disturbing. It is especially egregious that Mr. J. Edward Allen was allowed to continue to sexually harass clients for numerous years, and still doing it? I wonder how many other women there are out there, who fear retaliation if they speak up?
FORTSON, BENTLEY & GRIFFIN, P.A.
December 8th, 2014
Dear Mr. Epps:
I received your letter, dated December 5, 2014, in which you make several false assertions. Moreover, it is noteworthy that your letter failed to specifically address the comments Mr. Allen made to me while I was alone with him in the conference room, and further failed to specifically address the inappropriate behaviors in which Mr. Allen engaged during those meetings.
Let me state from the outset that if I choose not to respond to a specific assertion or allegation that you and/or any employee of Fortson, Bentley, and Griffin makes in any communication, that you should not take that as acquiescence.
Having said that, I respond as follows:
I demand a refund for all the money that Mr. Allen wasted sexually harassing me instead of working on my case. Additionally, I never received any "engagement letter" from Mr. Allen, yet I was unethically charged for that as well.
There are three distinct issues at hand:
1) Mr. Allen sexually harassed me on several occasions.
2) Mr. Allen over-billed me, double-billed me, made numerous billing errors, charged me for work which I did not authorize, charged me an excessive rate (over $300/hour) which I did not authorize, charged me for Lynn Bennett's work which I did not authorize, failed to keep me adequately informed (despite my numerous requests for him to do so), and padded the bill.
3) When I finally dared to speak up and confront him about his inappropriate behavior and unethical billing practices, Mr. Allen (and your firm) immediately moved to bullying me.
I have been put at a severe disadvantage due to the undeniable fact that Mr. Allen betrayed my trust. I expected your firm to act with ethics and integrity on my behalf. Instead, I was subjected to sexual harassment and blatantly unethical billing practices.
During my last meeting with Mr. Allen, after instructing me to hug him, he pulled me against him, pressing himself against my body. I vowed then and there to never allow myself to be alone in a room with him again, and I never have. I instead tried to get my questions regarding my case answered via email. Initially, I chose not to confront Mr. Allen about his unethical and inappropriate behavior and comments. Instead, I held my feelings in so that I could try to get through with my divorce case. I did this because I knew how difficult and expensive it would be to start over with a new attorney, having to get that attorney up to speed on every detail of my case. However, instead of keeping me informed, Mr. Allen avoided my questions and told me to go "shopping", an absurdly sexist suggestion. He then tried again to coax me to meet him alone at his office but, knowing what I would be subjected to, I refused. I didn't want to have to endure more of his sexual harassment, nor did I want to continue to pay him to hear him discuss other women's/my body parts, his country club, etc.
Mr. Allen knows full well the sexual harassment he engaged in, and the inappropriate discussions he had with me while I tried repeatedly to interrupt and talk about my case. He told me several times how attractive he thinks I am, and that he gets women "with asses out to here" in his office all the time (gesturing with his hands to indicate obesity). He also expressed his distaste for older women's "flabby arms", and then went on to ask me about my workout, stating "Do you use one of those big balls?" When I stood and insisted that I had to leave, that's when he directed me to hug him, and then proceeded to pull me close, pressing up against me. I was extremely confused and frightened. I pulled away and then left the conference room quickly to go back to the lobby.
Mr. Allen wasted my money in other ways as well. For example, on a number of occasions he went on and on about how happy he is to be away from his wife, that he needed "an escape plan", and that he now lives "a few houses away" from her and wakes up "happy"every day to not be living with her anymore. I didn't need to hear any of this, and I certainly didn't need to be paying him $305/hour to hear it!
In yet another example of wasting my money and subjecting me to sexual harassment, Mr. Allen told me that one client told him that he has "a hole in his heart". After telling me that, he then told me to hug him as I tried to leave. And, on a previous occasion while alone with me in the conference room, I was appalled when he disparaged another female client while she waited in the lobby for her appointment with him. As we left the conference room, his client said something, at which time Mr. Allen whispered to me, "See what I mean?" It was grossly inappropriate for Mr. Allen to comment negatively on another client, and it gave me legitimate concern regarding his ethical duty to maintain confidentiality regarding me. If he's willing to openly disparage and comment on other clients to me, what is he saying to his other clients about me?
I know how attorneys are supposed to act while representing their clients. I worked with Drew Marshall on a civil matter for approximately 8 years, and he always conducted himself as the consummate professional. He never made inappropriate comments about my body or attractiveness, nor did he discuss other women's body parts. Moreover, he never directed me to hug him, nor did he touch me inappropriately. Whenever I was alone with him, he spent every minute discussing my case, never wasting time on inappropriate and irrelevant topics of discussion. Mr. Marshall's ethical and appropriate behavior was in stark contrast to that of Mr. Allen's.
I find it noteworthy that Mr. Allen gave you the wrong dates. According to my iPhone recordings, the incidents occurred on 11/13/14 (not 11/17/14), 10/30/14, and 10/15/14. Moreover, your letter erroneously stated that I spoke with Ms. Bennett on "Monday, December 2, 2014".in fact, it was on Monday, December 1, 2014.in addition, your letter erroneously stated that I picked up my file on "November 2, 2014". That's also incorrect, as I actually picked up the file on December 2, 2014. I expect my attorney and his firm to be precise, efficient, and to pay attention to detail. If Mr. Allen and your firm can't even get dates correct (not to mention the numerous billing errors), what does that say about his and your firm's ability to manage and litigate my case effectively?
I too have legal remedies. For example, Mr. Allen violated the "Rules of Professional Conduct" in a number of ways, and that entitles me to file a complaint with the State Bar of Georgia. And I note that your firm is ethically prohibited from threatening me with legal action in retaliation if I pursue such a complaint. Moreover, Mr. Allen may have engaged in legal malpractice, and I could, therefore, file a lawsuit against Mr. Allen and your firm. There are specific attorneys in Atlanta and elsewhere who specialize in such cases.in addition, I could pursue a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Mr. Epps, your colleague's behavior was atrocious. I was extremely confused and frightened by his actions. I did not ask for, nor did I deserve, this kind of maltreatment! I'm going through a divorce after 22 years of marriage, and what I needed and expected was a professional attorney who would help me get through this difficult time without adding to my deep emotional distress, and without causing me additional anguish. Instead of representing my interests with integrity, Mr. Allen took advantage of my traumatized emotional state to make unwelcome and improper sexual advances. Those advances, as well as his inappropriate comments, made my situation devastatingly more stressful and has caused me a great deal of emotional pain.
When I confronted Mr. Allen on his lewd behavior, I hoped for a sincere apology. Instead, you and your firm have compounded and escalated the problem by choosing to bully, persecute and threaten me for doing nothing more than speaking up and refusing to tolerate Mr. Allen's odious behavior any longer.
Finally, I want to be clear that I expressly prohibit you and anyone associated with your firm from breaching my confidentiality. Until and if I say otherwise, you will not speak to anyone regarding my case. I've witnessed firsthand how your firm (Mr. Allen) mishandles confidentiality, and if you or any employee of your firm ever discuss my case with anyone without my express permission, I will seek all legal remedies available regarding that matter as well.
As I stated, I am going through a difficult time in my life. I would have preferred that you and your firm recognize the seriousness of Mr. Allen's egregious behavior, and at least attempt to make amends. I believe it would be in everyone's best interest for your firm to address my complaints directly, rather than force me to pursue one or more of the legal options available to me. I fully expect Fortson, Bentley, and Griffin to make this right. But if your firm chooses to ignore Mr. Allen's egregious behavior, I will not hesitate to pursue those legal remedies.