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Top American architecture firm sues former partners

Pennsylvania-based architecture firm Burt Hill, Inc, a perennial leader in architectural billings, is in a knock down drag out battle with itself- suing the former partners who ran its Middle East operations in Dubai. In the past year Burt Hill, which experienced enormous expansion of its business in the Middle East over the course of the past seven years, saw its profits and its staff dramatically plummet. While the decline is no doubt due in part to a weakened economy that has affected scores of design practices, the company clearly holds its management team in Dubai accountable for its losses.

A lawsuit filed in September in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania alleges that the Dubai office general manager, Haydar Hassan, and six other former Burt Hill employees, all principals except for one, conspired to steal the company’s business in the Middle East. Burt Hill opened the Dubai office in 2003 and saw its staff there grow to nearly 600 before it was forced to undergo layoffs and trim its staff to slightly more than 300. In the lawsuit, Burt Hill accuses the former leaders of its Dubai office with “wasteful management” that led to too much hiring and with stealing the company’s proprietary secrets. Further it describes their behavior as “willful, wanton, extreme and outrageous and in malicious and reckless disregard of Burt Hill’s rights”.

In response, Hassan and the others have filed a counter suit claiming that Burt Hill has "withheld compensation” and caused them and their families personal and professional harm. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Business Times, Tom Meinert, a spokesperson for the former employees, called the Burt Hill lawsuit “draconian” and his clients “dedicated individuals who led a highly successful launch of Burt Hill’s Dubai office”.

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