Sexual harassment can happen in any workplace, with any profession, including lawyers. Recently, there have been two law firms/attorneys sued for sexual harassment by employees. Both arose in New York.
Sabrina Rafi, who is 27, worked as a paralegal for James R. Ray, 50, whose office is located on Park Avenue. The New York Post reports that Rafi filed a lawsuit alleging that Ray asked her to be his third wife in a polygamous relationship, forced her to feed him with chopsticks at a Korean restaurant, bragged about having sex with several partners and being married to multiple women, and talked about lesbian pornography with her. Rafi claims that she wore several layers of clothes in an attempt to thwart his sexual advances, but that only irked Ray. She said that she felt sick working for him. Ray ultimately fired Rafi in February, after she joined the firm in December. She filed the lawsuit shortly after she was terminated.
In March, Alexandra Marchuk, a junior lawyer at the New York firm of Faruqi & Faruqi, filed a sexual harassment suit against the firm and a partner, Juan Monteverde. The lawsuit alleges that Monteverdi made numerous improper comments and unwanted sexual advances toward her, and he forcibly had sex with her in the office on one occasion. In response to the lawsuit, Monteverde and the firm filed counterclaims against Marchuk, alleging defamation and damage to their reputation. The New York Times reports that after they appeared at a court hearing in Delaware, where Monteverde asked Marchuk to "dress alluringly", they went to a local bar and engaged in kissing and fondling. She alleges it was not consensual, he says it was. She claims that after the firm's Christmas party in 2011, they went to a bar and were kissing and fondling each other, and that they went to the offices where he "quickly and forcefully had sex with her". He alleges that the sexual contact fell short of intercourse, and was consensual. Monteverde's counterclaim alleges that when the suit was filed, she sent it to the media, Faruqi clients and Mr. Monteverde's wife.
Practice pointers. Bad publicity is something that no employer wants, especially when it is as sensational as these two stories. When a senior level employee/partner, such as Mr. Monteverde, who is married, admits to kissing, fondling and having sexual contact with a subordinate, it will be difficult for anything good to happen. And there will be attorneys fees, expenses, time away from work, marital issues, and the stress of litigation. Train all employees, including owners and senior level management, as the dangers and ramifications of sexual harassment.