Yesterday, I reported here on a lawsuit filed March 20 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan by a legal tech executive who alleges her former company owes her over $1 million in stock and that her former boss sexually harassed her.

As it turns out, just a week before she filed her lawsuit, her former company had sued her in federal court in Texas, seeking a declaratory judgment that it had terminated her for cause, and that, as a result, her stock option was also terminated.

As I reported yesterday, the plaintiff in the New York case, Silvia Diaz-Roa, filed the lawsuit against Hermes Law, a Texas law firm, and ClaimDeck, a litigation management system for insurers and insurance-defense firms that spun out of Hermes Law. The lawsuit also names Dwayne Hermes, the founder and CEO of both the law firm and the company, and Andrea Hermes, the cofounder of the company and legal compliance specialist at the law firm.

Diaz-Roa alleged that when she sought to exercise stock options worth over $1 million, the company terminated in order to deprive her of that compensation. She also alleged that she had been subjected to sexual harassment, including having been urged by superiors to flirt and become romantically involved with customers.

Defendants Sued Her First

At the time I wrote that, I had not heard back from my request to the defendants for a response to Diaz-Roa’s allegations. Subsequently, I received an email from Stefanie Shah, an Austin lawyer with the firm Vela Wood, who represents the defendants.

Although her clients had not been served with the complaint in the New York matter, she said, they deny the allegations.

“It is my understanding Ms. Diaz-Roa filed suit in response to the declaratory judgment action my clients filed the week prior in the Northern District of Texas,” Shah said.

In their Texas lawsuit, ClaimDeck and Hermes do not deny Diaz-Roa’s claim that they granted her a stock option in 2020, but they say that, by the terms of that option, it would be forfeited in the event of a termination for cause. They say she never sought to exercise the option until after they terminated her.

Read the full text of the Texas complaint

(ClaimDeck is a d/b/a of the company Syzygy Legal Tech Inc. For ease of reference, I am referring to the group of parties as Hermes and ClaimDeck.)

Termination Forfeited Options, They Say

As for why they terminated her, the ClaimDeck and Hermes cite a number of reasons, including that she took actions to harm the companies’ reputations, demonstrated an increasing lack of respect for her coworkers and management, and lacked the skills necessary to perform her job.

Both the New York and Texas complaints agree that after Diaz-Roa first started working for Hermes in 2017, she began to pursue a graduate degree at Yale, while continuing to work part time for Hermes. ClaimDeck and Hermes say they paid the cost of her graduate education, in a total amount of some $170,000.

But after completing her degree and returning to full time work at Hermes, she refused to return to the firm’s office in Dallas, as had been planned, and instead moved to New York. The Texas lawsuit alleges that this violated the companies’ remote work policy, which allows only one remote work day per week.

The Texas lawsuit describes a number of alleged incidents that it says gave the companies ample cause to terminate Diaz-Roa. Because they terminated her for cause, they allege, her options to purchase stock terminated and the shares were forfeited back to the company.

In the Texas lawsuit, ClaimDeck and Hermes are asking that the court issue declaratory judgments that they terminated Diaz-Roa for cause, that her stock option terminated, and that she has no equity in the legal tech company.

“We expect that the New York and Texas courts will rule in favor of our clients,” attorney Shah said in her email.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.