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Wildly Contrasting Sexual Harassment Decisions

Posted by Frank Steinberg | Aug 18, 2010 | 0 Comments

The last couple of days have brought news of sexual harassment cases that yielded big dollar awards but wildly contrasting results. 

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Andre Chreky apparently is the reigning king of hair stylists to the Washington, DC power elite.  Or perhaps that should be "was" the reigning king.  The recent settlement of two sexual harassment cases filed by two of his former employees will set him back, in theory, about $9.3 million.  Here's the story from the Washington Post. The story is not completely clear on the facts, but it is clear that there was actual or attempted sexual contact. 

We say "in theory" because Chreky is already in bankruptcy, so the plaintiffs may see only a small portion of the settlements.  There's no word on whether Mr. Chreky remains in business.

The Lawyer Didn't Do It!

From the left coast comes a different kind of story, involving an attorney and his paralegal employee.  Here's the story.  

In short, the parties agreed that there was a sexual relationship between the two.  After the paralegal was fired, she claimed that she was pressured into the relationship and was fired when she tried to break it off.   She also claimed that the attorney was a sexual predator.  She sued him for wrongful termination and sexual harassment.

Here's where things get interesting.  The attorney filed a counterclaim for defamation and won. 

The jury found for the attorney rejecting the paralegal's claims and awarding him $1.25 million on his counterclaim, of which $10,000 was awarded for punitive damages.  Extensive evidence of  electronic communications between the two, such as text message transcripts, had much to with with the final outcome.

The Moral of the Stories?

Well, to state the obvious, employer – employee relationships are inherently risky.  And the high dollar value of these cases demonstrates that there is potentially life-changing financial impact if the relationship goes bad and turns into a litigation.  But there has to be a recognition that the financial risk is not all on the employer's side, so spurned lovers need to think hard before deciding to use the failed relationship as a ticket to financial security.  Sometimes they may find that they are providing for someone else's financial security.

About the Author

Frank Steinberg

Frank is the founder and principal of Steinberg Law, LLC. A Jersey boy born and bred, he focuses on employment litigation and counseling, business litigation,  and aviation law. Following law school and a clerkship in the federal district court Frank spent his early career with large litigation ...

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