Sanford Heisler Sharp won a notable civil suit in New York last week on behalf of a Columbia University business school professor. Led by chairman David Sanford, the firm convinced jurors in the Ravina v. Columbia University that former Columbia University Business School Professor Enrichetta Ravina was worthy of $750,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Columbia University and Professor Geert Bekaert are liable for compensatory damages and Professor Bekaert is also liable for the punitive damages.
Under New York City Human Rights Law, the Ivy League institution is responsible for acts of retaliation committed by its employees.
The damages award by the four-woman, four-man jury came on the heels of its finding that Professor Bekaert, Ravina’s senior colleague and mentor at the school, retaliated against her after she complained to Columbia about his ongoing sexual harassment. He used his position of power to thwart her research and publication efforts. He also sent disparaging emails about Ravina to colleagues around the world in their field of financial economics. Halting his work on the research and by not producing his part of the work on the publication drafts effectively ruined her chances of completing the publications she needed to obtain tenure.
“The $1.25 million in damages, in this case, should send a clear message to Columbia University and the world of higher education that workplace retaliation and abuse of power in academia will not be tolerated,” said Sanford.
Professor Ravina was also represented by partners Alexandra Harwin, Vincent McKnight, and Andrew Melzer; and associates Melinda Koster and Amy Donehower.
For previous Leaders In The Law coverage of Sanford Heisler Sharp’s activity, visit here.