Posted July 9th, 2018.
Attorneys Pursue Justice for Female Professor Subjected to Years of Sexual Harassment and Career Obstruction by Prominent Professor at Columbia Business School
July 9, 2018, New York, NY – Columbia University and tenured Professor Geert Bekaert go on trial today for sexual harassment and retaliation in a lawsuit brought by Enrichetta Ravina, a former Assistant Professor of Finance and Economics at Columbia Business School.
The trial will take place in the courtroom of Judge Ronnie Abrams in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Professor Ravina is represented in the matter by Sanford Heisler Sharp’s Chairman David Sanford and Alexandra Harwin, a partner in the firm’s New York office, as well as partners Vincent McKnight and Andrew Melzer and associates Melinda Koster and Amy Donehower.
“Professor Ravina is a talented and respected educator and researcher whose professional and personal life was completely derailed while the elite academic institution that should have protected her did nothing,” said Sanford. “At trial we will prove that Professor Ravina was subjected to a hostile workplace at Columbia and that Columbia knew exactly what was happening.”
Professor Ravina alleges that Bekaert attempted to use his position of authority and influence at Columbia University to impose a sexual relationship on her. Then, after failing in that effort, he lashed out and sabotaged her academic and professional career.
Professor Ravina asserts that Bekaert frequently discussed his sexual exploits with her, talked about viewing pornography, and made comments about female prostitution. Professor Ravina also claims that Bekeart aggressively sought an intimate relationship with her over the course of more than two years. He insisted that she meet with him off-campus, subjected her to unwanted touching, suggested that she should compliment him on his appearance, described her as “sexy,” indicated to her he was “horny,” and tried to take her on dates. When Professor Ravina resisted Bekaert’s sexual advances, Bekaert propositioned her, telling her that if she were “nicer” to him, her research would proceed faster. Instead, because of her refusals, he delayed and obstructed the work and blocked her from publishing her papers.
“Professor Ravina made diligent and persistent efforts to report Bekaert’s sexual harassment and career-threatening retaliation to Columbia,” said Harwin. “But not only did her reports fall on deaf ears, they actually led Columbia to retaliate against her, which exacerbated her ordeal.”
Although Professor Ravina received support from other faculty members – who submitted three petitions on her behalf – her concerns were mocked as a ‘soap opera” by the Dean of Columbia Business School and trivialized by Columbia’s academic leadership.
“We are confident that the jury will fairly assess the evidence and see Professor Ravina’s circumstances for what they really are – not a mere soap opera but a case of blatant harassment and retaliation,” said Sanford.
The trial is expected to last 2 to 3 weeks. Professor Ravina will be the first witness to take the stand in the case. In addition to seeking injunctive relief, Ms. Ravina seeks damages in excess of $30 million, including back pay, front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees. The case is brought under the New York City Human Rights Law, Title VII, and Title IX.
About Sanford Heisler Sharp
Sanford Heisler Sharp is a public interest class-action litigation law firm with offices in New York; Washington, D.C.; 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.