Law firm files counterclaim in sexual harassment suit

Faruqi & Faruqi says the claims are “false” and are costing it business

Sexual harassment suits aren’t unknown to law firms, but when the law firm is the target, it can be an especially challenging case—with lawyer plaintiffs fighting lawyer defendants. And so begins the drama for Faruqi & Faruqi.

In March, a former Faruqi associate, Alexandra Marchuk, filed a sexual harassment suit against the firm. She said it allowed a discriminatory work environment and didn’t prevent one of its partners, Juan Monteverde, from sexually harassing her.

Yesterday, Faruqi and Monteverde fired back at Marchuk, claiming her “false” allegations are defamatory and have resulted in a “substantial” loss of business to the firm. The firm said in its suit that  since Marchuk filed her claims, it has had “difficulty marketing their legal services to public entities, which account for over 50 percent of the firm's business." It also said that some of its clients have raised concerns over Marchuk’s claims, saying her suit may affect their ability to continue to work with Faruqi.

According to Marchuk, the violations against her are nothing less than criminal. She started working with the firm as an associate in September 2011 and was assigned to work directly for Monteverde. Her suit claims the sexual harassment started immediately, and continued over the next four months.  

According to the suit, the harassment reached its boiling point on Dec. 15, 2011, when Marchuk says that after the firm’s holiday party, Monteverde asked her to walk back to his office with him. There, the suit says, upon entering, “Mr. Monteverde pushed Ms. Marchuk to the floor and quickly, forcefully, and painfully had sex with her. Suffering discomfort and not wanting to continue having sex with him, Ms. Marchuk implored Mr. Monteverde to stop, but he disregarded her pleas and continued having sex with her. After he finished, Ms. Marchuk had left a large bloodstain on Mr. Monteverde’s carpet.”

In their countersuit against Marchuk, Faruqi and Monteverde claim that Marchuk and Monteverde had a consensual romantic relationship that was known by others in the firm. The suit says that the two never had intercourse, but that Marchuk was “obsessed” with Monteverde. It also says that Marchuk filed the suit to "extort money from her former employer" and "defame and damage the firm's reputation and business, as well as the reputation of Juan Monteverde."

Faruqi and Monteverde seek $15 million in defamation damages.

Read more sexual harassment stories on InsideCounsel:

Burger King franchisee settles 14-year sexual harassment case with EEOC

EEOC presents advice on harassment by third-parties just in time for the holiday season

No protection from retaliation for internal investigators

Paula Deen says harassment claims are false

Labor: How to avoid defamation and reverse discrimination claims when investigating harassment

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Cathleen Flahardy

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