After review of recent cases, our Oakland-based Employment Law Attorneys report that the former dean of the University of California at Berkeley school of law, Sujit Choudhry, is being sued by his former executive assistant, Tyann Sorrell, for sexual harassment and retaliation. In her complaint, Ms. Sorrell claimed that Mr. Choudhry made advances toward her by rubbing her shoulders and arms, kissing her cheeks and giving bear hugs by pressing her body against him. What’s worse is that the Complaint included that when Ms. Sorrell reported the improper conduct, the administration ignored her and even retaliated against her. This was not the first time that the school’s law dean was accused of sexual harassment. In 2002, its then current dean John Dwyer had to step down after he was accused of sexually harassing a former law student. At the time, Dwyer admitted to having an inappropriate encounter with the student. Sadly, these types of behaviors often take place between a supervisor who wields authority and influence over subordinates. See these other similar cases reported by our lawyers.
Another supervising male by the name of Bikram Choudury, a yoga guru who founded Bikram Yoga, was ordered to pay his ex-lawyer, Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, $4.6 million dollars stemming from allegations of sexual harassment. The California judge ruled that this punitive award was a more fair amount than the jury’s $6.4 million dollar punitive damages award. The plaintiff has until April 18 to decide if she accepts the reduced award or requests a new trial. The punitive damages are seven times the compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff. The range of punitive damage awards can begin at one to one all the way to nine to one in extreme scenarios. The compensatory damages also included $50,000 for past mental suffering and $450,000 for future emotional distress. The plaintiff in this case was a single parent who faced deportation due to Choudury’s withdrawal of her visa. As a consequence, the jury wanted to send a message to powerful celebrity business owners that creating a workplace filled with abuse and misconduct does not pay. Instead, it costs them in reputation and financial terms. See the following guidance in how the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects individuals in these types of situations.
If you believe that you, or another employee, suffered an employment law matter related to a sexual harassment in the workplace or national origin, age, disability, race, ethnicity or gender discrimination (or retaliation for filing a claim), prompt action to preserve your rights is crucial. Contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Stephen Danz & Associates for a free consultation to discuss your circumstances and legal options.