Monday, August 8, 2022

"Too Bad It's My Name On The Door"

An agreed 4 1/2 month suspension and additional conditions have been ordered by the British Columbia Law Society Hearing Panel 

The Respondent is faced with two citations.  Citation 1 alleges that at his firm, the Respondent engaged in sexual harassment of his employees through inappropriate conduct and remarks at the workplace.  Citation 2 also alleges that the Respondent created a hostile workplace by making unwanted remarks of a sexual, discourteous, discriminatory or offensive nature to several employees.

Admitted misconduct

Between approximately October 2018 and September 2019, you sexually harassed AB who was employed by your firm, when you did one or more of the following: (i) made comments or gestures of a sexual nature; (ii) engaged in unwelcome sexual advances; and, (iii) touched her without her consent, contrary to rule 6.3-3 of the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia.

And 

Between approximately January 2020 and January 2021, you sexually harassed your employee A, when you did one or both of the following: (a) made comments of a sexual nature; and, (b) engaged in unwelcome advances, contrary to one or both of rules 2.2-1 and 6.3-3 of the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia.

Finally

 Between approximately February 2020 and January 2021, in the course of communicating with your employees A and B, you made discourteous, offensive, or discriminatory remarks to them, that you knew or ought to have known were one or more of the following: (a) unwelcome; (b) intimidating; (c) humiliating; and, (d) would likely create a hostile work environment that would adversely affect individuals employed by your firm, contrary to one or more of rules 2.2-1, 6.3-4 and 6.3-5 of the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia

Particulars

Upon arriving at the office, it was the Respondent’s practice to greet everyone.  For most employees, that greeting involved a hug.  For a lesser number of both men and women, it included a kiss on the top of their head, forehead or cheek.  AB told the Respondent that she would only accept hugs from the side, and that she was not comfortable with him kissing her (the Respondent had on several occasions kissed her on the forehead or the top of the head).

There was also an unwanted neck massage and suggestive remarks laid out in the opinion.

Not just sex

One day at the Firm, the Respondent, in the presence of Witness 5 and other employees, referred to himself and others as “round eyed people”.  Witness 5 was the only person of South Asian descent in the group that the Respondent was speaking to.  At some point thereafter, the Respondent sent a text message to Witness 5 to the effect “I did not mean to offend you, sorry if you took it the wrong way.”

Witness 6 of the Firm attended a welcome pizza lunch for Witness 5 and Witness 7.  At the time, Witness 6 was dating a Caucasian man and Witness 7 was dating a man of South Asian descent.  The Respondent said something to Witness 6, Witness 7 and others to the effect of “all you brown people are stealing the white people.”

Conduct toward another employee

  Between approximately January 2020 and January 2021, the Respondent admits he made frequent comments to employee A about her appearance such as her hair, lipstick, clothing and “college girl look”, as well as greeted her with “hey sexy” and referred to her as his “work wife”.  At times, the Respondent stared at employee A from the doorway to her office while she worked.  On occasions when employee A would tell him to leave or stop, the Respondent said words to the effect “too bad it’s my name on the door.”

More

At some time during 2020, in the context of considering prospective candidates who applied to work at the Firm, the Respondent stated separately to each of employee A and Witness 1 that they were not to hire any brown people.   When employee A and Witness 1 questioned the Respondent about this statement, the Respondent told them words to the effect that he was “tired of the drama brown people bring to the office.”

Sanction

We also accept the parties’ proposed global disciplinary sanction.  Pursuant to Rule 5-6.5 we find that the proposed global disciplinary sanction of a four and one-half month suspension and practice conditions meets the public interest in the administration of justice.  In other words, the proposed sanction does not bring the administration of justice into disrepute nor is it contrary to the public interest.

Sexual harassment and racial discrimination have no place in the legal profession.  The proposed sanction reflects the primary importance of the protection of the public and public confidence in the disciplinary process.  We also find that racial discrimination is a serious offence that must attract serious sanction.

We find that the proposed sanction of a four and one-half month suspension and practice conditions fall within the range of sanctions previously imposed by other law societies for similar misconduct.

( Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2022/08/an-agreed-4-12-month-suspension-and-additional-conditions-have-been-ordered-by-the-british-columbia-law-society-the-respond.html

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