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ICON Awards 2022: Bert Braud, The Popham Law Firm

Bert BraudBert Braud made several trips to New Orleans to volunteer in disaster relief after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.

He saw how people were taken advantage of “by fly-by-night contractors who would spend the insurance money on slipshod work that wasn’t up to code or wouldn’t pass inspections. And then they would leave,” he said.

Braud, a trial attorney who specializes in employment discrimination, sees parallels between the disaster victims and his clients — and aims to help both groups.

“There are people that are taken advantage of unjustly, and I have the opportunity to do something for someone who can’t do it for themselves because of the lack of funding or training or skill,” said Braud, who has spent his entire four decade career at The Popham Law Firm in Kansas City. “It is very gratifying to be able to do that for others.”

In one of his biggest cases, Braud represented a credit manager in an age discrimination against General Electric. A federal appeals court in 2001 ruled in favor of the manager, which set a precedent for similar cases.

“The irony is if you look at the studies, older employees tend to be more reliable, more talented, more hard working, and it make no sense to get rid of older employees for the benefit of the younger ones,” said Braud.

In another case, Smith v. Aquila, the Jackson County Circuit Court ruled against Braud’s client, who filed a race discrimination against her former employer after she was terminated. A state appeals court reversed the decision.

“The big legal doctrine that comes out of that case is the idea that…if the jury can disbelieve a reason offered by the employer, they can, from that disbelief, infer that the real reason for, in this case, termination was discrimination,” Braud explained.

As a volunteer, Braud has made at least half a dozen trips with a faith-based group to help after disasters. In addition to time in New Orleans, Braud also made two trips to Joplin after the 2011 tornado. Braud relied on his experience building houses in college.

As lawyers “we can work on a case for four years and not really see a result until the very end,” Braud said. With disaster relief, “I could go out and do a day’s work and actually see results. I could look back and say, ‘Yeah, there is a roof that we just shingled.’ It’s sort of gratifying to not just work with my hands but to see results a lot quicker than we see results in the courtroom.”

Thom Norbury, who also served on the disaster relief trips, stated in an email that Braud not only helped because of his carpentry, electric and plumbing skills, but also, “his keen sense of humor made our work a fun experience.”

“If Bert were to call me today with an appeal for another mission trip, my only question would be, ‘When do we leave?’” Norbury wrote. “Likewise, if he called me to suggest a donation to a worthwhile charity he was supporting, I would write a check on the spot without even checking the Charity Navigator web site.”

ICON Awards 2022