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“Horny” University Professor Cleared Of Sexual Harassment By Court

“Horny” university professor cleared of sexual harassment by court

A jury has found that a university professor who allegedly told a female colleague that he was “horny” and tried to forcibly kiss her, did not sexually harass her or discriminate against her on the basis of her gender.

But it did find that the professor did retaliate against the woman when she raised the allegations, by engaging in a deliberate campaign to ruin her reputation around the world, and ordered him and the university to pay her US$1.25 million damages.

“I’m horny”

Professor Enrichetta Ravina took the extraordinary step of taking professor Geert Bekaert and Columbia University to federal court, accusing them of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

It all started in 2014, when Ravina claimed that while in Bekaert’s Columbia University Business School office, he asked her to pick up a mug sitting on his desk, which read, “I’m cultured, refined, sophisticated, and…”

Ravina said Bekaert told her to look at the bottom.  It read “horny.”

She looked up at Bekaert, who she said laughed, and said, “It’s true.”

Bekaert admitted he owned the mug, but denied the incident ever happened.

Professor Enrichetta Ravina.

Ravina told the court that the professor was relentless, constantly talking about his sex life, inviting her to dinners, and once even trying to kiss her against her will.

Bekaert demanded to know if she had a boyfriend, or if she lived with a boyfriend.

He would send her songs and albums with titles like “Love is the Drug” and “Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers”, including one Valentine’s day when he turned up to her office with chocolates and a CD.

During coffee meetings about their research project, Ravina alleged that Bekaert would turn the conversation to sex, and once told her she had a “sexy” walk.

Then one night while walking her home, Ravina claimed that Bekaert grabbed her by the arm and pulled her toward him for a kiss, but she swerved away and the kiss landed on her cheek.

Ravina admitted that she never directly told Bekaert to stop, because she was worried that their joint research project wouldn’t be published.

“I couldn’t afford to offend him,” she told the court.  “I was walking a tightrope.”

After being rejected the professor retaliated

After finally rejecting his advances, Ravina said Bekaert retaliated by delaying the research project, ruining her chances at tenure at the university, which would have provided her with job security for life.

She claimed that when she complained to Columbia University administrators, they botched the investigation and failed to protect her from Bekaert.

So she filed a gender discrimination civil lawsuit for sexual harassment and retaliation, and in an extraordinarily rare move, took it to trial.

In response to the legal action, Bekaert sent emails to editors of finance journals and business professors around the world, calling Ravina “sick” and “crazy” and a “bitch”.

Jury decides no sexual harassment or discrimination

After a twelve day trial, the jury unanimously decided that under New York Human Rights Law, Bekaert did not sexually harass Ravina or discriminate against her on the basis of gender, but did find that he retaliated against her.

It ordered Columbia and Bekaert to pay US$750,000 in damages, including harm in reputation and emotional suffering, and Bekaert to pay an additional US$500,000 in punitive damages.

Australian sexual harassment laws

Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Discrimination Claims, said professor Bekaert’s alleged behaviour was outrageous.

“If he did what was alleged here in Australia, he and his employer would have been done for sexual harassment,” he said.

“The laws surrounding sexual harassment in our country are very clear – it is unlawful to to engage in any conduct which is sexual in nature, which is not welcome or invited, and that includes touching, staring, making comments or sending text messages.

“Many companies have been forced to write very big cheques to victims because their workers couldn’t keep their hands, or their comments to themselves.

“In this case, professor Ravina has had her career ruined and her reputation trashed, it would seem all because one bloke couldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer – it’s shameful.”

If you have suffered sexual harassment, we can help.  Please call Discrimination Claims today on 1300 853 837.

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