Katz, Marshall & Banks' #MeToo Successes

For over 35 years, the attorneys at Katz, Marshall & Banks have been on the forefront of sexual harassment litigation – establishing the right to legal protection, and fighting for justice for workers who have been subjected to sexual harassment and assault.  

Since the beginning of the #MeToo movement in 2017, Katz, Marshall & Banks has represented dozens of victims who have been subjected to sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence, which has resulted in a number of very powerful individuals in society being held accountable.  For their work representing victims of sexual harassment and assault, as well as advocating for legislative change, Debra S. Katz and Lisa J. Banks were recognized by the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association with its 2018 Lawyers of the Year Award, by the Victim Rights Law Center with the 2019 Leadership Award, and by Ms. Magazine with the 2019 "Wonder Woman Award."  For their work as counsel to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the Women's Bar Association recognized Ms. Katz, Ms. Banks, and Joseph Abboud with the "Dare to Make an Impact" award.  Ms. Katz has been profiled as a pioneering #MeToo attorney by The Washington Post in "The feared attorney of the #MeToo moment," as a "Leading #MeToo Lawyer" by Washingtonian Magazine, and as “One of the Nation’s Top #MeToo Lawyers” by Jewish Journal.

Below are some of the clients that the firm has represented and helped to tell their stories and stand up to injustice.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

Katz, Marshall & Banks represented Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in proceedings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2018.  Dr. Ford testified about then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault of her in the early 1980s when they were teenagers.

KMB attorneys worked to ensure that Dr. Ford was able to testify in an open hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, and to protect Dr. Ford against malicious and bad faith attacks that attempted to twist the facts of the case and to discredit her. They prepared Dr. Ford for the testimony she gave in front of the entire country and were her public representatives and spokespeople.

 

Dr. Ford’s testimony had a significant impact on the country.  A year after the shocking allegations against Harvey Weinstein surfaced, the image of Dr. Ford raising her right hand became the iconic photo of the #MeToo movement. Her testimony has inspired hundreds of thousands of victims to tell their stories of assault for the first time.

Ultimately, Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, but Dr. Ford’s testimony was a trailblazing moment that gave voice to millions of survivors of sexual violence and further highlighted the nationwide reckoning that had emerged on the issue of sexual violence in the #MeToo era.  Courage begets courage. 

Listen to the New York Times Daily podcast covering “When #MeToo Went on Trial

Irwin Reiter

Katz, Marshall & Banks represents Irwin Reiter who, as a longtime Weinstein Company executive, served as one of the critical whistleblowers in the Harvey Weinstein scandal.  Reiter, an accountant at The Weinstein Company, was recently identified by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in their book, She Said, as the “insider” who provided them with information that was crucial to their ability to break the story about Weinstein’s decades-long sexual predation and harassment.  Among other acts of courage, Reiter divulged to Kantor and Twohey an internal memo that detailed Weinstein’s routine sexual harassment of younger employees and actresses.  This information proved critical to their investigation into Weinstein which helped spark the #MeToo movement. 

KMB has represented Mr. Reiter since the late summer of 2017.  In the past year, KMB has assisted Mr. Reiter with providing information to state and federal law enforcement about Weinstein’s conduct, and with proceedings related to The Weinstein Company’s bankruptcy filing in mid-2018.

Read more about Mr. Reiter here, and his attempts to raise concerns about Weinstein’s behavior here.

Patricia Wulf and other Placido Domingo Accusers

Katz, Marshall & Banks represents Patricia Wulf, the first woman to come forward publicly with information detailing the sexual harassment she was subjected to by opera star Placido Domingo. In interviews with the Associated Press and National Public Radio, Ms. Wulf detailed Domingo’s repeated unwelcome sexual advances and propositions that created a sexually hostile work environment for women. 

Her courage in attaching her name to her accusations ultimately resulted in other women coming forward, which in turn led to Domingo withdrawing from his Met Opera performances and submitting his resignation as the director of the Los Angeles Opera. Domingo has now either withdrawn from or been removed from all scheduled performances with U.S. opera companies.

KMB represents Ms. Wulf and other Domingo accusers in providing information to investigative counsel for the LA Opera and the American Guild of Musical Artists.

Read the original Associated Press article here, and listen to Ms. Wulf’s interview on NPR here

Anonymous Accuser of NFL Football Player Antonio Brown

Katz, Marshall & Banks represents a female artist who accused professional football player, Antonio Brown, of sexual misconduct and threatening behavior.  In 2017, Brown hired our client to paint a mural in his home, where he subjected her to sexually inappropriate behavior.

While our client did not initially reveal Mr. Brown’s misconduct publicly, she confirmed his actions in response to questions from a Sports Illustrated reporter.  On September 16, 2019, Sports Illustrated published an article which detailed Brown’s misconduct, including his sexual harassment of our client. Brown retaliated by sending threatening and disparaging text messages to and about our client, including pictures of her children and an instruction to his associates, who were also included on the text message, to investigate her.

KMB contacted the NFL and asked it to intervene to stop Brown’s intimidation of our client, and worked with the League in its investigation to ensure that the threatening behavior was addressed and did not reoccur. After our client publicly came forward, the New England Patriots cut him from its roster and the NFL’s investigation into Brown’s actions related to our client and others continues. 

Read about Mr. Brown’s release here, and watch Ms. Banks interviewed on ESPN here.

 

 

Vanessa Tyson

Katz, Marshall & Banks represents Professor Vanessa Tyson, who in February 2019 alleged that Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004.

Following Tyson’s decision to go public with her story, Fairfax has utilized an aggressive approach to try to paint Ms. Tyson as a liar. Throughout the entire ordeal, Katz, Marshall & Banks has been in contact with Virginia state government officials over attempts to hold a hearing to give Ms. Tyson an opportunity to tell her testify publicly about Lieutenant Governor Fairfax’s sexual assault of her.

Watch Ms. Tyson’s interview on CBS here, and read the Washington Post’s coverage here.

Harvard University

Katz, Marshall & Banks represents four women who accused former Harvard University Government professor Jorge Dominguez of sexually harassing them between 1979 and 2006. Dominguez was a high-profile Latin American scholar who held multiple prominent administrative positions at Harvard, including Vice Provost for International Affairs. 

In February 2018, the Chronicle of Higher Education published KMB’s clients’ accounts of sexual harassment by Dominguez and later reported that at least 18 women had come forward with similar allegations. The articles prompted Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences to place Dominguez on administrative leave and Dominguez announced his intention to retire days later.

Harvard’s Title IX Office launched an investigation into Dominguez’s behavior in March 2018 and, in May 2019, found that Dominguez had engaged in “unwelcome sexual conduct toward several individuals, on multiple occasions over a period spanning nearly four decades.” The University subsequently stripped Dominguez of his emeritus status and barred him from the FAS campus.

As of October 2019, KMB continues to assist its clients in Harvard’s ongoing investigation into the systemic issues that enabled Dominguez’s conduct to persist. 

Read the Chronicle’s coverage here and here, and the Crimson’s coverage here.

Michelle Manning Barish

Katz, Marshall & Banks represents Michelle Manning Barish, who went public with allegations of physical and emotional abuse by former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman while they were in a romantic relationship.

Ms. Barish was one of two women to speak on the record to The New Yorker for its exposé about Schneiderman’s abuse.  In it, she described his pattern of committing physical abuse with a sexual partner, including choking and slapping, as well as engaging in threats and emotional abuse.

KMB advised Ms. Barish through the intense media coverage that accompanied The New Yorker story. Just hours after publication of the article, Schneiderman resigned his position as Attorney General of New York. KMB continues to represent Ms. Barish in ongoing governmental inquiries.

Chloe Caras

Katz, Marshall & Banks represented Chloe Caras, a former restaurant manager and director of operations for Isabella Eatery, in her sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against celebrity chef Mike Isabella, his company, and four of his business partners.

Ms. Caras was forced to endure sexual harassment and abuse by restaurant management, including Mr. Isabella, and was then fired when she objected to this hostile treatment. Ms. Caras was subjected to sexist comments, sexual propositions, inappropriate physical contact and other instances of harassment and abuse.

In addition to filing a harassment and retaliation lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Caras, KMB called for the federal court to nullify the nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) that Mike Isabella Concepts had employees sign as a condition of employment. These NDAs were imposed to prevent any information about Isabella or other partners’ business lives from being made public. KMB and Ms. Caras alleged that these overly restrictive NDAs were meant to intimidate employees into remaining silent, even when they witnessed sexual harassment by partners or other employees. Bringing attention to such broad and punitive NDAs was critical to informing employees of their rights, including the right to report illegal activity regardless of any confidentiality agreement they may have signed.

The Washington Post covered KMB’s filing of Ms. Caras’ lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court

The lawsuit was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount of money, and required that Mike Isabella Concepts take corrective measures, including sexual harassment training and other policies to ensure a safe and comfortable workplace.  Read the Post’s coverage of the settlement here.

Feminists Majority Foundation v. University of Mary Washington

Katz, Marshall & Banks represented members of the University of Mary Washington student group, Feminist United on Campus, who were subject to student-on-student cyber harassment that included death threats and threats of sexual assault. In 2015, students and women’s rights organizations filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education alleging that the university failed to take appropriate action in response to threats of sexual assault and cyber-harassment against students on the anonymous messaging app, Yik Yak. The university claimed that it could not take any steps to protect students out of fear that it might violate the harassers’ free speech rights.

On December 19, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals issued a landmark decision holding that universities were responsible under Title IX for protecting students from this type of online sexual harassment. The court held that the university could not “turn a blind eye” to the egregious sexual harassment that pervaded its campus simply because the harassment took place in “cyberspace.”

The Fourth Circuit also held for the first time that students at public universities have a constitutional right to an educational environment free from student-on-student sexual harassment. This ruling sends a strong message to administrators at public universities that they could be individually liable if they fail to take appropriate action in response to student complaints of sexual harassment.

Read the Washington Post’s coverage here, and find the court’s opinion here.

Sheila Katz

Katz, Marshall & Banks represents Sheila Katz, a former executive at Hillel International, in reporting allegations of sexual harassment regarding billionaire philanthropist Michael Steinhardt. Sheila Katz was one of several former Hillel employees who spoke to The New York Times about Steinhardt’s sexual harassment of her – including asking for sex – while the organization was dependent on and asking for his financial support. Steinhardt’s harassment was persistent, and regularly excused due to his money and influence.

In 2018 Hillel hired the law firm Cozen O’Connor to investigate Ms. Katz’s claims. They concluded that Steinhardt had in fact sexually harassed Sheila Katz and another employee. KMB represented her during the course of the investigation and in communications with the media.

Read the New York Times’ coverage here.

Women at NPR

Katz, Marshall & Banks represented a large group of female NPR employees in response to sexual harassment allegations against the network’s former news executive Michael Oreskes.

Oreskes was found to have sexually harassed employees as early as the late-1990s, when he worked at The New York Times, and was the subject of a formal complaint at NPR in 2015. Oreskes allegedly kissed and subjected employees to unwelcoming touching  and engaged in other sexual misconduct. 

NPR placed Oreskes on leave in October of 2017, and he resigned one month later.

KMB represented employees in demanding that NPR’s Board of Directors conduct an investigation into systemic problems at NPR, and succeeded in implementing an employee climate survey to improve how the company handles sexual harassment allegations. 

Read NPR’s coverage here.

Anonymous Accuser of Congressman Patrick Meehan

Katz, Marshall & Banks represented a former congressional aide to U.S. Representative Patrick Meehan (PA-R), who accused the Pennsylvania congressman of unwanted sexual advances.

The client, who remained anonymous and is decades Meehan’s junior, alleged that Meehan made unwelcome romantic gestures and advances in person and in writing, and then grew hostile toward her when she rebuffed him. Katz, Marshall & Banks represented their client throughout the long confidential process required to bring a claim against a sitting congressional representative, which resulted in a large monetary settlement.   

The settlement became public in January 2018, along with the detail that the settlement was taxpayer-funded. Then-House speaker Paul Ryan removed Meehan from the House Ethics Committee – the body that investigates harassment allegations. Weeks later, Meehan announced that he would not seek re-election in the 2018 midterms and ultimately resigned before completing his term after the House Ethics Committee began a probe into this matter.

KMB attorneys have not only represented victims of harassers who work in Congress, but have lobbied for changes to the archaic process that governs how allegations on Capitol Hill proceed. In December, Congress passed, by unanimous consent, a bill to overhaul the reporting and settlement procedure on Capitol Hill.

Read The New York Times’ coverage of Mr. Meehan’s harassment here, the settlement here, and his announcement that he would not seek reelection here. You can also find the revised Congressional Accountability Act, enacted in December 2018, which governs how sexual harassment and other civil rights and labor law are handled on Capitol Hill.