J. Whitfield Larrabee specializes in representing employees in employment discrimination, sexual harassment and racial harassment cases. In several notable cases, he has represented employees in their suits against Wal-Mart, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, Merrill Lynch, Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream Company, the MBTA, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Ninety-Nine Restaurants. He has sued dozens of other companies, large and small, for employment discrimination, sexual harassment and racial harassment.
Many of Mr. Larrabee's cases settle without trial because he brings intense pressure on his adversaries in business and government. He conducts thorough and intrusive investigations into employers' practices. He forces defendants to produce important documents and evidence. He conducts far reaching inquiries where he interviews or deposes numerous witnesses. In preparing for trial in one of his cases against Wal-Mart, for example, he and his associates interviewed over one hundred twenty-five potential witnesses. If he cannot secure a favorable settlement, he uses science-based advocacy to maximize his clients’ odds of prevailing at trial.
Mr. Larrabee is an expert in establishing damages. In employment discrimination cases, damages are often awarded for back pay, front pay and emotional distress. He has relationships with psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, economists and other experts who help him to establish these losses. He places particular emphasis on developing his clients’ claims for punitive damages. These damages are most often awarded to punish employers for intentional discrimination. Wealthy corporate defendants are often vulnerable to high and unpredictable losses because juries are permitted to consider their assets and income when awarding punitive damages. Mr. Larrabee focuses on obtaining punitive damages because they often pose the greatest economic threat to defendants. He utilizes state-of-the-art techniques to maximize his clients’ claims for compensatory and punitive damages in discrimination and harassment cases.
In almost all of his employment discrimination cases, Mr. Larrabee represents employees on a contingency fee basis, where he only receives his attorney’s fee if he obtains a settlement or a favorable verdict at trial. Because of his fee structure and emphasis on aggressive litigation, Mr. Larrabee is very selective in the cases that he accepts for litigation. He most often selects cases that involve egregious and outrageous behavior and cases where there is a strong likelihood of obtaining a high award of economic damages. Because he can only accept a limited number of cases, he works hard to select only cases in which he has confidence that he can win at trial.
Wrongful Termination and Retaliation
Mr. Larrabee has represented many employees in “wrongful termination” cases, where the employees claimed that they were fired or forced out of their jobs for illegal or discriminatory reasons. Although most of the wrongful termination cases he has handled involve sex discrimination or sexual harassment, Mr. Larrabee has also handled cases involving discrimination based on race, age, disability, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation and religion.
In many cases, Mr. Larrabee's clients have come to him after they were fired from their jobs for complaining about harassment or discrimination. Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to fire or otherwise retaliate against employees for opposing discriminatory practices. Under both Massachusetts and federal law, employees generally have a right to complain about discrimination to the EEOC and the MCAD, as long as they have a good faith belief that their employer’s practice is discriminatory. The threshold for a good faith belief is low, so that almost any employee who honestly believes that he or she has been discriminated against has a right to file a complaint with the government.
Mr. Larrabee most often brings retaliation claims in combination with other claims of discrimination or harassment. In many cases, his clients report that the retaliation they experienced was much worse than the discrimination that gave rise to their initial complaint. By building a powerful case for both discrimination and retaliation, Mr. Larrabee's clients’ chances of success are greatly increased. Because almost all retaliation cases involve intentional conduct, the likelihood of recovering punitive damages in these cases is high.
Communication and Settlement
In communicating with his clients, his adversaries and with the courts, Mr. Larrabee maintains the highest degree of integrity and professionalism. Good communication increases the possibility of achieving a favorable settlement without the cost, inconvenience, uncertainty and delay of a trial. In many cases, Mr. Larrabee employs professional mediators to assist his clients to communicate with their employers and to explore settlement. Although he emphasizes positive communication with his adversaries, and he almost always explores the possibility of a fair settlement, neither positive communication nor a fair settlement can be achieved without the good faith participation of both parties. Some companies have a top down structure and tyrannical culture that precludes positive communication and makes obtaining a fair settlement impossible. In these cases, Mr. Larrabee uses every available resource to obtain a favorable verdict at trial.