Sanford Heisler Sharp Wins Jury Verdict of Liability for Retaliation Against Columbia Business School Professor, Geert Bekaert, and Columbia University

Posted July 26th, 2018.

Jury Also Finds Punitive Damages are Warranted Against Professor Bekaert

July 26, 2018, New York City –After a 12 day trial in the case of Ravina v Columbia University, this afternoon, eight jurors in a Manhattan Federal Courtroom found Columbia University and Professor Geert Bekaert liable for retaliation. The jury also determined that punitive damages should be assessed against Professor Bekaert.

Defendant Geert Bekaert is a prominent tenured professor at Columbia University’s Business School. Plaintiff Enrichetta Ravina was a junior faculty member at the University Business School. When Bekaert learned that Professor Ravina had complained to Columbia’s administration about alleged sexual harassment by Bekaert against her, he launched a campaign of retaliation against Professor Ravina. Bekaert sent emails to colleagues at universities in Europe, the United States, and Asia calling Professor Ravina vile names, including “crazy” and “bitch.”

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.

“Today’s verdict affirms that Professor Ravina’s career was irreparably damaged by the actions of Columbia Business School Professor Geert Bekaert and the University,” said Chairman Sanford.  “As we demonstrated during the trial, Professor Bekaert used his position of power over a junior professor, stalling the research and writing and essentially ensuring that she would not get tenure.”

“We are pleased that the jurors clearly saw what should have been apparent to Columbia from the start –Geert Bekaert’s actions caused incredible damage and cannot be tolerated,” said Alexandra Harwin, Partner and Title VII Practice Group Co-Chair at Sanford Heisler Sharp. “Under the New York City Human Rights Law, the jury properly found that Columbia University is liable for the misconduct of one of its senior professors, Geert Bekaert.”

Today’s decision in favor of Professor Ravina ends the first in the two-phase trial which started on July 9th and culminated with today’s verdict. In the next phase, which began immediately after the verdict, the jury will hear evidence of the economic and emotional harm that Professor Ravina sustained because of Bekaert’s and Columbia’s retaliation. After the second phase is concluded, closing arguments which are expected tomorrow will be presented on damages and the jury will be asked to issue a second verdict regarding the amount of compensatory damages to be awarded to Professor Ravina by Columbia University and Bekaert, as well as the amount of punitive damages to be awarded against Professor Geert Bekaert.

About Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP

Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP 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.

For more information go to www.sanfordheisler.com or call (202) 499-5200 or email dsanford@sanfordheisler.com. For the latest news, visit our newsroom or follow us on Twitter at @sanfordheisler.

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