I hope that everyone is following the Marchuk v. Faruqi & Faruqi sexual harassment trial that is taking place as we speak in Manhattan. If you haven’t been, then now is the time to start!
Plaintiff Alexandra Marchuk alleges that she and others were sexually harassed by law partner Juan Monteverde while she was a first-year associate. She says that the firm didn’t do anything about Mr. Monteverde’s behavior because he was a “rainmaker” who brought a lot of business into the firm.
The best information about the trial is in the New York Post. (Naturally!) But, salacious details aside, I actually have two serious legal points to make about this case:
- Contrary to what the firm’s attorney says, the fact that an alleged sex act occurred “after hours” should not be a defense to a hostile work environment claim. Ms. Marchuk and Mr. Monteverde apparently agree that a “forceful” sex act occurred at 3 a.m. in the firm offices, after a holiday party. Ms. Marchuk contends that it was a sexual assault, while Mr. Monteverde says it was just rough, consensual sex. Assuming Ms. Marchuk is correct, then the fact that this occurred after hours should not shield the firm from a hostile environment claim, given that (a) the alleged harasser was Ms. Marchuk’s boss, (b) this event was allegedly the culmination of a pattern of sexually inappropriate behavior on Mr. Monteverde’s part, and (c) the alleged assault occurred after a firm-sanctioned function. If Ms. Marchuk was forced or felt pressured to give in to Mr. Monteverde’s sexual demands because he was her boss, then that should be enough to establish a hostile work environment, no matter when or where the alleged assault occurred. (Mind you, I’m not saying that this happened.)
- I think the judge correctly barred evidence of the revenues that Mr. Monteverde brought to the firm. The trial judge is apparently allowing evidence that Mr. Monteverde is a big rainmaker, but he won’t allow evidence of specific revenue figures. I agree, and think specifics could prejudice the jury. But Mr. Monteverde’s rainmaker status could be relevant to (a) why Ms. Marchuk might have felt pressured to go along with his alleged sexual demands, and (b) why the firm might have failed to take appropriate remedial action. From the defense side, his status could be relevant to show why Ms. Marchuk was the one actively pursuing Mr. Monteverde sexually, as he claims. (Again, I am not saying that any of this is what happened.)