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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

UC-Berkeley Law School Worker Felt ‘Mobilizing Anger,’ Then Won $1.7 Million In Sexual Harassment Case

UC Berkeley (2016)Following up on my previous posts (links below):  Sacramento Bee, UC Worker Felt ‘Mobilizing Anger.’ Then She Won $1.7 Million in a Sexual Harassment Case:

On a gray January morning in Oakland, Tyann Sorrell glides into her attorney’s 13th-floor offices overlooking Lake Merritt. She is greeted by hugs, one after another, and warm words.

Then she gets down to business: Her $1.7 million sexual harassment settlement with the University of California.

At 43, Sorrell is a reluctant hero of the “Me Too” movement, a soft-spoken and poised mother of five who challenged one of UC’s most hallowed institutions, the UC Berkeley School of Law, and the new leader it hired in 2014.

As an executive assistant at the law school, joining in 2012, Sorrell described her initial years as positive and her relationship with then-Dean Christopher Edley as “a wonderful bond.” Everything changed in mid-2014, she said, with the arrival of Sujit Choudhry, a constitutional law scholar who replaced Edley and became Sorrell’s new superior.

An internal investigation found that Choudhry had violated university policies with his “unwelcome” kissing, hugging and touching of Sorrell, according to the report, but he was not placed on leave. As discipline, he was given a temporary 10 percent pay cut from his $472,917 annual salary and required to write an apology letter to her. ...

Under the settlement reached last year with Sorrell, the UC Regents denied her claims and allegations. However, UC President Janet Napolitano has announced a series of new measures to improve the university's handling of such cases.

Besides the $1.7 million settlement, Choudhry struck a separate agreement in which he will pay $50,000 to Sorrell's attorneys and $50,000 to charities of her choice that deal with sexual harassment and violence. He will voluntarily resign in May as part of his own agreement with the regents.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2018/01/uc-berkeley-law-school-worker-felt-mobilizing-anger-then-won-17-million-in-sexual-harassment-case.html

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Comments

This is a rather one-sided story. The treatment of the Dean was disgraceful.

Posted by: mike livingston | Jan 30, 2018 4:11:46 AM

$1.7 million for "“unwelcome” kissing, hugging and touching" is utter madness in comparative legal terms. In my state, if I lose an arm in a workplace accident, I'll only get $49,000. True, if I lived about 20 miles away in a neighboring state, I might get $118,000, but that's still a pittance in comparison to what these unwanted hugs earned this woman.

https://www.propublica.org/article/how-much-is-your-arm-worth-depends-where-you-work

And keep in mind that there are cultures where kisses and hugs are as normal as handshaking is in ours. I doubt there is any culture where chopping off someone's arm is treated as casually.

Like I said, this is utter madness. Far better and more sensible to encourage women (and men too) to simply slap the daylights out of the malefactor for this misbehavior. Inflicting some pain and embarrassing the stew out of them makes more sense than what will actually happen in this case. That's law students who have done nothing wrong having to pay more for their law degrees.

And encouraging men to take up matters up with these creeps also makes sense. I've written a book about how hospitals should deal with embarrassment issues, including the possibility of such behavior. In it I describe had one situation where I was caring for four young women left helpless spinal fusion surgeries. Force to lie on their backs, they were wearing nothing under their flimsy gowns.

They and I had worked out an arrangement that minimized their embarrassment. That was about to be upset by a male nursing staff float who clearly wanted to linger in their room. He got lucky. Protective of those girls, I was within seconds of banning him from their room when nursing admin sent him elsewhere. And what I intended was not filing an incident report. It would have been "leave this room and never return or I will physically throw you out." Simple and effective.

We need more women slapping these creeps and more men willing to 'get physical' about this misbehavior. It's the classic response. It works quickly and well and doesn't load innocent people with the costs of huge settlements.

---Michael W. Perry, author of Embarrass Less: A Practical Guide for Doctors, Nurses, Students and Hospitals

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Jan 30, 2018 7:45:12 AM

'Bout time.

Posted by: Kneave Riggall | Jan 30, 2018 6:06:03 PM