Posted July 27th, 2018.
Jury Imposes Half a Million Dollars in Punitive Damages on Professor Bekaert
NEW YORK, July 27, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Jurors in the Ravina v. Columbia University civil suit awarded former Columbia University Business School Professor Enrichetta Ravina $750,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Columbia University and Professor Geert Bekaert are liable for compensatory damages and Professor Bekaert is also liable for $500,000 in punitive damages.
Under the New York City Human Rights Law, the Ivy League institution is responsible for acts of retaliation committed by its employees.
“The $1.25 million in damages in this case should send a clear message to Columbia University and the world of higher education that workplace retaliation and abuse of power in academia will not be tolerated,” said David Sanford, Chairman of Sanford Heisler Sharp and counsel to Professor Ravina.
The damages award by the four-woman, four-man jury came on the heels of its finding yesterday that Professor Bekaert, Ravina’s senior colleague and mentor at Columbia University’s Business School, retaliated against her after she complained to Columbia about his ongoing sexual harassment. He used his position of power to thwart her research and publication efforts. He also sent disparaging emails about Ravina to colleagues around the world in their field of financial economics. Halting his work on the research and by not producing his part of the work on the publication drafts effectively ruined her chances of completing the publications she needed to obtain tenure.
Professor Ravina is represented in the matter by Sanford Heisler Sharp's Chairman David Sanford; partners Alexandra Harwin, Vincent McKnight, and Andrew Melzer; and associates Melinda Koster and Amy Donehower.
“We are gratified that the jury recognized the damage done to Professor Ravina’s career by Columbia University and Professor Geert Bekaert,” said Sanford. “Throughout Professor Ravina’s long ordeal, Columbia chose to ignore her concerns and turned a blind eye to Bekaert’s retaliatory behavior. We are hopeful today’s award will prompt Columbia to reassess its treatment of female faculty, staff and students and make significant changes institution-wide that will prevent other women from being similarly damaged in the future.”
During the three week trial, the Sanford Heisler Sharp team repeatedly demonstrated that Professor Bekaert held the keys to the data and other resources needed to support Professor Ravina’s research and he put the brakes on their work and cut off her access to the data she needed.
“This damages award signals to institutions of higher education and senior administration and faculty members that no one is above the law — not a prestigious and richly endowed university like Columbia, nor a prominent tenured professor like Geert Bekaert,” said Harwin. “Retaliation against women cannot be tolerated at Columbia University or on any other campus.”
About Sanford Heisler Sharp
Sanford Heisler Sharp is a public interest class-action litigation law firm with offices in New York; Washington, DC; San Francisco; Nashville; San Diego; and Baltimore. Our attorneys have graduated from the nation’s top law schools, clerked for judges throughout the United States, and amassed extensive experience litigating and trying cases that have earned over one billion dollars for our clients.
The Firm specializes in civil rights and general public interest cases, representing plaintiffs with claims of employment discrimination, sexual violence, labor and wage violations, predatory lending, consumer fraud, and whistleblowing, among other claims. Along with a focus on class actions, the Firm also represents individuals and has achieved extraordinary success in the representation of executives and attorneys in employment disputes.
For more information go to www.sanfordheisler.com or call 202-221-4003 or email [email protected] For the latest news, visit our newsroom or follow us on Twitter at @sanfordheisler.
For more information, contact Jamie Moss, newsPRos, 201-493-1027, [email protected]