On October 1, 2019, Wigdor LLP filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on behalf of Vanina Guerrero, a junior partner at global law firm DLA Piper, alleging that Ms. Guerrero was sexually assaulted on four occasions by the co-managing partner of the firm’s Silicon Valley office, Louis Lehot, and then subjected to various forms of unlawful retaliation for rejecting his advances. She also alleges that male senior partners dismissed her complaints about Mr. Lehot and subjected her to further retaliation for making protected complaints.
In an Open Letter to DLA Piper Co-Chairs Roger Meltzer and Jay Rains, Ms. Guerrero urged the firm to release her from mandatory arbitration and allow her to litigate her claims of sexual assault, battery, sexual harassment and retaliation in open court before a jury of her peers. According to the Open Letter, by forcing victims of alleged sexual assault by male partners to assert their rights in secretive arbitration, DLA Piper is effectively shielding abusive male employees from accountability while perpetuating sexual violence and other unlawful harassment against women.
Ms. Guerrero is an accomplished attorney who speaks five languages, worked as the general counsel and top female executive at a global tech company in Hong Kong, and previously worked at firms in New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Beijing, Tanzania and India. In July 2018, Ms. Guerrero moved from Hong Kong to Palo Alto with her husband and two young children after Mr. Lehot aggressively recruited her to work for him in DLA Piper’s Silicon Valley corporate practice group, according to the EEOC Charge.
As alleged, less than two weeks into Ms. Guerrero’s new role, Mr. Lehot sexually assaulted Ms. Guerrero in a hotel room while on a business trip in Shanghai. By November 2018, Ms. Guerrero had endured three more sexual assaults by Mr. Lehot: one in Brazil, one in Chicago and one in Palo Alto.
The EEOC Charge further reveals a disturbing pattern of predation, denigration and humiliation by Mr. Lehot. When Ms. Guerrero attempted to fend off Mr. Lehot’s sexual advances, he would retaliate against her in numerous ways, including throwing explosive temper tantrums, refusing to communicate with Ms. Guerrero for weeks, threatening to take her off client deals, accusing her of underperformance and threatening her job, her position at the firm and her compensation, according to the EEOC charge. As alleged, Mr. Lehot’s abusive and manipulative behavior has caused Ms. Guerrero to suffer from panic attacks and stress-related medical conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and severe intestinal problems—both of which have landed her in the emergency room several times.
As of the filing of the EEOC Charge, DLA Piper has allegedly done nothing to remedy Mr. Lehot’s unlawful conduct or ensure that Ms. Guerrero is no longer subjected to sexual harassment.
We filed a charge with the EEOC alleging that Vanina Guerrero, a junior partner at DLA Piper, was subjected to horrific sexual abuse by Louis Lehot, a top Silicon Valley lawyer at her firm. Read Ms. Guerrero's Open Letter to DLA Piper Co-Chairs: https://t.co/ItYKfqWXM8
— Douglas Wigdor – Wigdor Law (@WigdorLaw) October 2, 2019
Statement from Jeanne M. Christensen, Partner at Wigdor LLP:
“No victim of sexual assault or harassment should ever be denied access to our court system. DLA Piper should lead by example and do what is right for its female employees. No longer should female employees be silenced to protect its male centric leadership.”