Partners Jean Hyams and Darci Burrell tried a case on behalf of a woman who suffered retaliation after she complained repeatedly about sexual and racial harassment on the graveyard shift at Caltrans’ Oakland Transportation Management Center. Members of the jury wept when they rendered a unanimous verdict finding Caltrans liable for maintaining a sexually and racially hostile work environment and subjecting the plaintiff to retaliation. By obtaining a jury verdict and attorneys’ fee award in excess of $1 million, the trial team vindicated the rights of the Caltrans employee and delivered a clear message to employers about the cost of maintaining a work environment in which sexually and racially inappropriate conduct is permitted to thrive.
Partners Darci Burrell and Leslie Levy represented a 27-year employee of the City of Emeryville after she was terminated from her job following a psychiatrist’s report that she was “unfit for duty.” The employee, who was chief union steward at the time of her termination, had challenged racial discrimination, harassment, and unfair treatment by City management throughout her career. Darci and Leslie charted new legal territory in this case by bringing a claim against the psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen Raffle, for “aiding and abetting” the City in retaliating against their client for her years of anti-discrimination advocacy on behalf of herself and others. On the eve of the jury trial, Emeryville agreed to pay an estimated $3.6 million in damages and attorney’s fees to settle the case. The settlement was a vindication for the employee and restored her good name.
Partners Sharon Vinick and Darci Burrell pursued litigation in state court on behalf of a woman earning minimum wage who had been sexually harassed, as well as assaulted, by her manager. The case settled in the mid-six figures, despite the fact that the client was an undocumented immigrant and had modest economic losses.
In a case involving a male assistant who was sexually harassed by his manager, partner Sharon Vinick negotiated a confidential settlement after a lawsuit was filed, but before discovery began.
Following the filing of a federal lawsuit, Richard D. Greenfield, a nationally known class action attorney, agreed to pay $350,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that he used his position of trust to coerce one of his clients into sexual relations while she was dependent on his representation in a complex legal matter.
Jean Hyams was on the team of attorneys that represented a corporate sales manager in her sexual harassment claims against her employer, 24 Hour Fitness. The company required their employees to sign away the right to a trial by jury as a condition of their employment, so the claims could only be brought through private arbitration. The result, a $2.4 million award, including $1.2 million in punitive damages was one of the largest awards on record for a single-plaintiff arbitration. After the arbitration, the employer tried to seal the record to keep the plaintiff from publicizing the outcome of her case. Jean Hyams and Leslie Levy fought a successful post-arbitration legal battle for the right to make the company’s misdeeds public so that other employers would learn the costly consequences of sexual harassment in the workplace.
A minister used his pastoral counseling sessions to convince an emotionally vulnerable member of his church that it was God’s will that she should have sex with him. In a case brought during her years in private practice, partner Jean Hyams brought suit against the minister and his church for breach of the relationship of trust between clergy and parishioner. After aggressive litigation, the matter resolved confidentially on the eve of trial.
While in private practice, partner Leslie Levy brought a groundbreaking case alleging sexual harassment in housing. She represented multiple tenants whose apartment manager was perpetrating severe sexual harassment against them. The settlement achieved was the largest settlement in the nation at the time for a housing sexual harassment case. The publicity generated by this case, including a television appearances on Oprah and prominent coverage in newspapers around the country led to increased training, education and attention to the problem of sexual harassment in housing.