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Law Firm Tests Whether It Can Sue Associate for 'Quiet Quitting'

By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. | Last updated on

"Quiet quitting" and "double dipping" with multiple full-time jobs are some of the newest buzzwords about the modern, remote workplace. Both of these issues may be affecting the legal industry, although it isn't clear to what extent. But for the first time in a legal filing, a law firm is using both terms to describe the behavior of one of its associates.

Napoli Shkolnik is a personal injury law firm based in New York. In a recent complaint, filed on February 23, it accuses associate Heather Palmore of only spending a few minutes a day on her computer. Instead, the firm alleges, she falsified reports on the number of hours she spent researching, failed to update the firm on the status of her cases, refused to go into the office, and failed to get approval for time off. Napoli Shkolnik also alleges Palmer started her own competing law firm, thereby violating her fiduciary duty and breaching her employment agreement. The firm is seeking over $400,000 in damages.

What Is Quiet Quitting?

Quiet quitting describes a trend of employees avoiding going "above and beyond" in the post-pandemic workplace. Instead, employees do the bare minimum to keep their jobs. For example, quiet quitters do not attend non-mandatory meetings, work longer hours, or otherwise attempt to perform beyond expectations.

It isn't entirely clear that quiet quitting is a new phenomenon, however. Employees who are only interested in doing the minimum to keep their jobs isn't exactly a new idea. Instead, as Derek Thompson wrote in The Atlantic, it may simply be a new term that bored or dissatisfied workers are using to describe this type of common workplace ennui.

For lawyers, the term carries some additional significance. In the wake of the pandemic, many law firms are, for the first time, allowing attorneys to work from home. Law firm leaders, naturally, are viewing this with a bit of worry and skepticism.

That is why it isn't particularly surprising to see a law firm invoke the term in a lawsuit, although "quiet quitting" is something of a mild term for the behavior the complaint describes.

Working Multiple Jobs

Another supposed trend of the post-pandemic workplace is working multiple full-time jobs, known as "double dipping." There is an entire subreddit devoted to the topic. The firm also alleges Palmore started and largely worked for her own competing firm, Palmore Law Group, when she was supposed to be working for Napoli Shkolnik.

As with quiet quitting, it's still unclear how large of a problem double dipping actually is. It is certainly something most employers would consider a fireable offense, so people tend to be reluctant to admit to it. And whatever a subreddit might have you believe, it is also difficult (certainly for a lawyer) to work two full-time jobs at once, at least if you expect to do both well.

A Sign of the Times?

For her part, Palmore denies the allegations and argues that Napoli Shkolnik is retaliating against her for a discrimination lawsuit she planned to file. On Monday, February 28, Palmore did file a discrimination lawsuit and alleged that the firm locked her out of their systems after she complained of harassment. Both lawsuits are in their infancy, so absent a settlement it will be some time until either is resolved. For now, however, we are left to wonder whether quiet quitting and double dipping really are a problem in the legal industry.

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