Sanford Heisler Files $30 Million Amended Complaint Against Columbia University and Adds Senior Tenured Professor as Defendant

Posted July 7th, 2016.

NEW YORK, July 7, 2016  — Today, Sanford Heisler, LLP filed an amended complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of Plaintiff Enrichetta Ravina, a female junior faculty member at Columbia Business School.  Ms. Ravina filed her original complaint against Columbia on March 23, 2016, alleging that a senior, tenured professor at Columbia, Geert Bekaert, sexually harassed her and impeded her career and that Columbia facilitated the harassment and retaliated against Ms. Ravina when she complained about Professor Bekaert’s conduct. 

The amended complaint filed today adds Professor Bekaert as a defendant, in addition to Columbia University. The amended complaint accuses Professor Bekaert of seeking an intimate relationship with Ms. Ravina, insisting that she meet him off-campus, describing her as “sexy,” indicating that he was “horny,” and subjecting her to unwanted touching.  The amended complaint alleges that after Ms. Ravina rejected his sexual advances, Professor Bekaert sabotaged her work and used his veto authority to delay and undermine her research and publications.  

Ms. Ravina’s original complaint asked Columbia University to postpone its plans to vote on Ms. Ravina’s tenure because Professor Bekaert’s allegedly discriminatory and retaliatory actions have severely impaired Ms. Ravina’s publication record.  Recognizing the unfair treatment of Ms. Ravina, Columbia’s senior faculty have repeatedly petitioned the Columbia administration on Ms. Ravina’s behalf, imploring the administration to implement safeguards to prevent senior faculty members from abusing their power and specifically requesting that the administration postpone Ms. Ravina’s tenure vote.  But Columbia refused to listen and forced a faculty vote that resulted in the denial of tenure to Ms. Ravina. 

David Sanford, Chairman of Sanford Heisler and lead counsel for the plaintiff, stated:  “When the University learned that Ms. Ravina was being harassed, Columbia failed to do the right thing, failed to take timely and appropriate action, and failed to send strong signals to its community that it will support its female students, faculty, and staff when allegations of sexual harassment are made.  Individuals who level serious charges should be taken seriously and be supported.  A New York City jury will understand what Columbia’s obligations are and will issue a verdict which reflects that understanding.”

“Columbia still doesn’t get it,” said Alexandra Harwin, Senior Litigation Counsel at Sanford Heisler and counsel to Ms. Ravina. “Columbia’s own faculty repeatedly told administrators that it was inappropriate to vote on Ms. Ravina’s tenure because of how she had been treated.  Nonetheless, Columbia maneuvered to deny tenure to Ms. Ravina and protect Professor Bekaert.” 

In the amended complaint, Ms. Ravina seeks damages in excess of $30 million for front pay, back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.  Ms. Ravina brings claims under the New York City Human Rights Law; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as amended.  A jury trial is requested. 

About Sanford Heisler, LLP
Sanford Heisler, LLP is a national public interest class-action litigation law firm, which has offices in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and San Diego.  Sanford Heisler focuses on employment discrimination, wage and hour, qui tam, and other civil rights matters. The firm represents select individual clients such as executives, lawyers in employment disputes, and whistleblowers. The firm has recovered over $1 billion for its clients.  For more information, call 202-499-5202 or email dsanford@sanfordheisler.com.  More information about the firm and its successes can be found at https://sanfordheisler.com/. For the latest news visit our newsroom at https://sanfordheisler.com/media-room/news-archive/ or follow us on twitter at https://twitter.com/sanfordheisler.

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