A jury awarded $1.25 million to a former Columbia University finance professor whose senior colleague sent dozens of emails disparaging her to industry professionals after she lodged a harassment complaint against him.
The verdict is a fraction of the $16 million Enrichetta Ravina sought as her bias and retaliation lawsuit went to the jury in Manhattan federal court. Still, her lawyer welcomed the award.
“The $1.25 million in damages in this case should send a clear message to Columbia University and the world of higher education that workplace retaliation and abuse of power in academia will not be tolerated,” David Sanford said.
The jury ordered the payment a day after it concluded that Business School professor Geert Bekaert retaliated against Ravina, 42, and held Columbia responsible for his actions. The jury of four men and four women on Friday ordered Columbia and Bekaert to pay a total $750,000 in compensatory damages and ordered Bekaert to pay $500,000 in punitive damages.
Ravina sued for gender discrimination and retaliation, claiming he sexually harassed her and then stalled her research and ruined her chances of gaining tenure because she complained. The jury rejected her claim of discrimination against Bekaert and Columbia.
Jury Could Define University Liability in Sexual Harassment Trial
“I am very pleased that the jury cleared me of the false and heavily publicized sexual harassment claims that have been hanging over my head for the past two years,” Bekaert said in a statement. “I am also happy that the jury seemed to agree that nothing Columbia or I did had any impact on Professor Ravina’s tenure vote.”
The jury awarded nothing for Ravina’s loss of pay in the past or future. Yet the trial was still a black eye for Columbia, which had previously confronted a high-profile allegation of sexual misconduct on campus. During the three-week trial, Ravina testified that Columbia brushed aside her complaints and then denied her tenure, allegations that Columbia denied.
A jury, Lisa Daniels, who owns a retired hall, said the evidence was complicated.
After the darkness he said, “We were careful not to be emotional.”
The jury was the result of Columbia’s refusal to retaliate against Ravina, but the school was responsible for Bekaert’s actions. Ravina, in the part of the losses of the stance, said she expects to be involved in a low-grade program due to her rejection of duty and Bekaert’s bad attitude.
“In the absence of any retaliation or discrimination by Columbia, the jury awarded compensation based on findings that Professor Bekaert had wrongly retaliated against Professor Ravina,” an e-mail by the University spokesman said. “Columbia forbids retaliation against any member of the community and is very regretful of the actions of our faculty.”
Ravina serves as visiting assistant professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, but this position is temporary.
Ravina said, “My reputation and standing in my area were very damaged by the behavior of Professor Bekaert.” “When you apply for work and think that you are a very powerful and influential person in your work, you are indecisive, difficult to work, liar, not good at work.”
According to evidence, Bekaert, at least 30 e-mails, often describing Ravina as “bad” and “crazy”, including Columbia e-mail accounts, some industry players in the Federal Reserve Bank, senior colleges and economics magazines Wrote. Bekaert’s lawyer, Edward Hernstadt, said it was a natural reaction to wanting to protect Bekaert’s reputation.
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