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Shearman associate sacked after alleged sex harassment

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  • bare minimum

    Sacking him is the very least they should be doing...

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  • genius

    What a brilliant move by him to pay for the club on the corporate credit card.

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  • Where?

    The Windmill Club? Not heard of that one - where's that?

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  • dirty business

    Stop press, shock horror: associate behaves like overpaid, undersexed adolescent. What else is new?

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  • Macho law firms

    Macho law firms where people works a million hours a week and sell their youth to try and be a milionairres are magnets for people with a weird attitude to life. That this young go-getter had a naive attitude to sexual relations too, as alleged, shouldn't be a massive surprise.

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  • Disgusting

    That is disgusting. Really, really shocking. I mean who in this day and age actually thinks its OK to go to Chinawhite?

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  • lawyer

    From the facts in the article it sounds like prima facie she would have an ET claim... I wonder why they did not settle.

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  • work life balance

    I applaud Shearman for sacking him but the problem is that this kind of stuff still goes on in the City every night.

    I think it is a woeful state of affairs and one that firms do hardly anything about - partly because everybody works so hard they feel like they can't criticise them for what they get up to in 'private'.

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  • Back to the dark ages

    In the last couple of years we took some serious steps forward in taking the sexism out of the City but now strip clubs are on every street corner and are being seen as completely acceptable and harmless entertainment for males (and women who don't want to go being seen as prudes).

    There is clearly a resurgence in sexism on the cards.

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  • Shearman

    Presumably Shearman briefed the press about this in order to demonstrate a zero tolerance attitude. That in itself is a move on from the 90's. But what were the rest of the party doing? Did no-one notice and wonder whether they shouldn't whisk her away from someone who was (very probably, er... allegedly) a macho s**thead?

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  • Chinawhite allwite on the nite?

    S and S sounds like a lovely place to work; if the inappropriate behaviour had occurred at Chinawhite, would they then be accepting liability as that was a firm sanctioned outing...with a reservation?

    Can't keep up the witty standards of the other contributors, but wit is not what is needed now for the sad associate with a fresh P45 in his hand or the "intern" who got her first grown up taste of life in the City .

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  • Harassment

    As with the office christmas party, there's a fine line between work and social.

    A vacation student, indeed any junior employee, is likely to be extremely vulnerable to any suggestions to extend post-work socialising by senior employees.

    The fact that the firm have in this case already sacked the associate for gross misconduct will not however mean the firm escape liability-indeed the opposite could be the case as the firm's action is tantamount to accepting potential unlawful discrimination took place.

    As the victim was a vacation student there would be no loss of earnings, but it wouldn't hurt for the Firm to back up the apology with some compensation for injury to feelings

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  • WHOA THERE!

    Errr...this was not a situation in which THE GROUP moved on from drinks at the Light Bar to some seedy strip joint. The group at large went on to Chinawhite (where they were presumably guilty of nothing more than bad taste in choice of venue) and THE COUPLE (associate with vac scheme student in tow) went to the seedy joint.

    The vac student may have been understandably naive, and the associate was very clearly guilty of a sackable offence, but I don't quite understand how S&S are liable for harassment except perhaps on a purely respondeat superior basis.

    It is clear from the article that the mysterious "partner in attendance" was in attendance only at the drinks (i.e. neither at Chinawhites nor at the strip club).

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  • Appropriate response

    The Firm have clearly taken prompt action and in doing so sent a message which re iterates their expectations of staff. It is sometimes difficult to draw the line between a work event and a social event but from an employment law perspective the scope of an employer's responsibility is potentially very wide, so that in my view it was entirely appropriate for follow up action from the partnership.

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  • Company Credit Card

    Sat here laughing SO hard. He used the COMPANY CARD to pay to get into the Windmill? Feel a bit sorry for the poor intern getting pushed into a night out with a div like that - he deserved to be sacked for being thick if nothing else...... What was he going to put on the expenses form.....?!! S&S have done nothing wrong here, other than issue a card to someone with no brain. I can smell a News Of The World "SHOCKAH" exlcusive here though. "My night of hell with perv City Slicker...."


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  • Speak up for yourself!

    I have to wonder what the intern was thinking. She was, after all, an adult graduate, not a schoolgirl. She left a group of employees to go to a separate venue with a male associate she had presumably not known for very long (and who, it can probably be safely assumed, was not stone cold sober and suggesting a tour of the Law Society Library). Even if she did not know where they were heading to, surely she must have had some suspicions with regard to such an invitation? Her decision not to simply say that she would prefer to stay with the group shows a surprising degree of either naivety or lack of self-confidence, both of which will be needed if she continues with her chosen career, particularly in a City Firm.

    Unfortunately, although progress has been made, this is a profession where women still experience sexist behaviour. To pretend that isn’t the case is unrealistic and militant attitudes have, hopefully, gone the way of burning the bra. The best we can do is ensure the line is clearly marked and try to deal with potentially tricky situations with a bit of tact and intelligence.

    As with many of the above references to Christmas parties, I also wonder how much alcohol had been consumed by both?

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  • Asking for it

    She went on her own with him and didn't realise it was a strip club? Yeah right. She was clearly up for it and has nothing to complain about. They were is a public place, he made a move and she said no and went home. What's the big deal?

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  • Dumb and dumber

    The silly girl needs to accept responsibility for her own stupidity, not blame the firm.

    As has been said, this was not some naive 14 year old, and what did she think Mr Dumb had in mind when they sloped off together? And how could Miss Dumber not know she was entering a strip club - they're not exactly known for their low key image.

    If she can't deal with a lecherous associate without making such a big deal about it how the hell does she hope to handle working in a City law firm?

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  • Focus on the facts...

    I (unsurprisingly) disagree with Mr. SidtheSexist.

    If you read the article or the story in other journals, it is easy enough to believe that she did not willingly go along with this jerk. Facts:

    1. The Windmill is very close in proximity to ChinaWhite
    2. Piccadilly Circus is extremely crowded on Fri/Sat
    3. Large groups often get separated in crowds
    4. She thought this guy was in charge, knew where the others had gone (it was a "matter of a few minutes" between leaving CW and entering the gent's club).
    5. There was obviously alcohol involved, thus lack of attention to details

    Surely you accept that interns are often led around, practically on a leash, expected to follow the path set by their superiors?

    Add in alcohol, proximity, and the short duration and you suddenly begin to pity the girl.

    If this happened at my firm, I would not think twice before happily voting to let this guy go.

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  • Catching up with the USA

    What a load of rubbish! No wonder this country is going down the tubes. I feel sorry that an incident like this seems to have created so much trauma - why did it take a week for Shearman Sterling to be told of this misdemeanor?

    Could there be a bit of "let him sweat" or could it have been an opportune moment after finishing her vacation seat?

    Seems to me that if notified immediately S&S may have had a chance to investigate the allegation properly and they may have got a different result.

    It will be interesting to see how this all pans out because you can bet your bottom dollar that cash will eventually change hands.Looks like we have a new title to add to other types of compensation claims - like bad judgment...

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  • Doing the right thing

    The Summer Intern - Yes, she did the right thing. No matter how much naivety, alcohol, youth or inexperience may have contributed to what happened, none of those justifies the behaviour of the associate.

    The Associate - No. Such apparently overbearing, leary behaviour puts the Bradley Chait e-mail saga of 2000 into some perspective.

    S&S - No. The behaviour of the firm wrong and it has damaged itself in the process. It smacks of CYA and a complete abnegation of responsibility. It clearly believes it is on a mission to minimise damage to itself, both financially, by avoiding any claim by the summer intern, and reputationally, by distancing itself from the associate. However, the message it has just sent to all its employees and clients is "don't get into trouble because we won't think twice of dropping you like a hot brick."

    The associate has a problem. The right response from the firm would have been to take responsibility for its employee and address that problem by, for example, insisting that he have counselling and, if the environment of the firm was one that propagated his unhealthy behaviour, assisting him in finding an alternative career.

    Instead, the firm has thrown an already damaged individual out into society with no hope that he will not reoffend and it has washed its hands of him. That is wrong. Why are we happy to say "this is not the way the world should be" for the Associate's behaviour, but not for the firm's?

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  • Bad Move

    Any man who takes a woman to a strip club is hoping the woman will get the message he is too scared or not brave enough to tell her in the first place.

    She was right to wait a week and after her vacation scheme to complain - she could not tell how the firm and or the associate's colleague will react to her. Personally, I dont think she is naive, I think she got offended with his terrible style and manner of approach.

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  • Who knows

    No one can know exactly what went on here. Going to a strip club is not a crime. The only questions that really need be considered are whether the girl felt in some way compelled to attend due to the position of the associate and whether he did actually harass her.

    For a woman to start talking about sleeze and strip clubs is wrong; for men to say clearly nothing happened is presumptuous. What is important is the facts. If there was no harassment and no sense that the girl felt compelled to attend, then nothing wrong has occurred.

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  • Did nobody really notice?!?

    The only thing that I really find interesting about this story: taking a woman to a strip club is about the most - how shall I put it? - "awkward" (primitive / desperate) way to make a hit on a woman!

    I certainly do have sympathy for the internee. But imagine the miserable state of mind the associate must have been in! What a jerk! Didn't they teach him in Oxbridge?!

    The kind of woman that would haven fallen for that kind of approach you could have had in the very same strip club for a couple of chips and w/o the hassle.

    Poor fella, better go on making a career and leave the women to those of us who know how to. :-)

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  • No training contract

    So she waited until she knew she hadn't got a training contract to tell them? Would she have told them if she'd received an offer and had wanted to accept?

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  • shearmans idiot

    Did this guy get sacked for going to a strip club? Or was it for using the credit card? Or for the inappropriate touching? Which was it?

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  • sex in the city

    This has happened for years and years. Associates always hit on the vac scheme students and in my experience plenty of vac schemers like bagging associates. Not that this excuses this incident, but it's an extreme example of what goes on every summer.

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  • and....

    if he did touch her inappropriately as suggested she should have gone to the Police. If he did not touch her it is harsh of S&S to sack him only for his poor judgment.

    Retraining, guidance and support may have been more appropriate but I hear times are heard down there... saves on the redundancy I suppose.

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  • What goes around comes around

    ...from sleazy strip clubs to the disregard of Tibet's sovereignty, when will China realise this is the 21st century and such blatant abuse of human rights will not be tolerated?

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  • Re last post

    Matthew, what's the relevance of China here? Isn't this about an American firm, in Britain?

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  • re: China

    Apologies I seem to have got confused.

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  • It's like the difference between Radio Times and TV Times

    The comment sections on Lawyer and Legal Week are a great read. The Lawyer readers back for the most support the student. Legal Week's readers almost all back the associate. If I were Mazda I'd start a huge marketing campaign for the MX5 aimed at desperate single men who read Legal Week. With free bluetooth earpiece for the cell phone.

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  • not so naive

    i very much doubt it is just desperate single men who backed the associate. as a young married female associate i think the behaviour of the student is embarrassing for women and only serves to suggest that women cannot hold their own in male-dominated environments. So two adults went to a club, he tried to pull her and she felt uncomfortable. the guy does not deserve to lose his job over what may have been a silly drunken fumble.

    I hope the student is suitably mortifed. From what i see, some vac students actively throw themselves at associates in a bid to win them over so they are not all as naive as is suggested here.

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  • can of worms...

    Anonymous@14:29,

    You do have a point - some vac students probably wouldn't mind bagging themselves a rich lawyer after some drunken fumblings - after all, most are probably still in the university student mindset.

    But what people often forget is that it is the balance of power at firms that make behaviour as it is described in the article particularly unacceptable.

    If a senior associate or a partner tries to 'pull' or seduce a vacation student or a trainee by touching them inappropriately, they will know that their odds of succeeding increase by virtue of the position they hold over their 'victim'.

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  • Not so naive ha

    I disagree with your comments re the student's behaviour,.the associate showed bad taste/judgment in attempting to pull a woman the way he did.
    The student may not be qualified yet, she does not deserve to be taken to a strip club under the umbrella of a business get together by a male who has a hidden agenda to pull her. I will not consider it a drunken fumble either. it reminds me of the saying '' you can read all the books in the world but you cannot read commonsence.''

    to all other clueless male associates out there, there is nothing better than this .. be nice and pleasant to your intended pull, subtely make your intentions known and wait for the green light Not amber before you make your move.

    As they ''a woman who wants to know will not complain or give excuse''.

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  • .

    After a night of drinking, a rich male associate separates you from the rest of the group and tells you that no one else, just the two of you, are going to go somewhere else, presumably another bar. Honestly, you don't get suspicious of his motives for the end of the night? Just a tiny, tiny bit suspicious?!?

    I really wonder how this girl even got an internship with Shearman and Sterling in the first place.

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  • Clever lawyer strikes again?

    This is not by chance the same guy who a few years back sent around an email bragging about his previous night's conquest and lost his job at Norton Rose as a result?

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  • Another agenda

    I imagine there was history here. Even if he wasn't a drunken sexist berk on other occasions, you've got to wonder whether Shearman used this as the reason to get rid of someone they didn't want.

    Either because he was, well, a berk or because he was an underperformer. BIG mistake by Cadwalader cancelling their summer party: They could have sacked 10 drunken associates and saved money on redundancies.

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  • Another Agenda..

    I can't believe somebody hired this summer student. She went for a job in a city firm, went out for too many drinks, voluntarily went to a strip club with one male, and then was surprised that he tried to pull? Heavens, must have been a huge surprise!

    She must accept some responsibility for this mess that has cost an associate his career - she could have stayed with everybody else, she could have refused to go to the strip club, she could left when she wanted, she have just said no when he came onto her.

    The associate may have been stupid given the circumstances, but coming onto somebody and getting knocked back is hardly a sackable offence.

    And I'm not a single desperate male - i'm a mid 30's happily engaged female, who is wondering if equal opps have gone too far.

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  • pathetic

    as in Sherman's reaction to a pathetic claim by a pathetic little girl...... so if noone else but Shearmans offered her a job, she would have let it past? or would she have complained all the same (yeah, WHATEVER)

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  • Do we have all the facts?

    Has the associate admitted that it went down the way the vac student suggests? I know it won't be popular, but do we know for sure that the student is telling the truth? What if she came onto him and he turned her down? What if they had a fumble, she found out he couldn't get her a TC, and she was annoyed...do we know for sure that she is telling the truth?

    Has he been fired before having a chance to defend himself?

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  • Sexual Harassment in Law Firms

    Only recently have I discovered that a number of law firms practice or condone misogyny and justify it as being "commercial" knowing that rarely will the female take action for fear of the financial and career cost of taking a case against them.

    The blatant flouting of discrimination law is disappointing and shocking but the very nature of a law firm ensures that they can proctice this behaviour far easier than other businesses. Shearman should be congratulated on their stance and quick action. They have gone up in my estimation!

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  • does any1 know

    how 2 still get Sherman summer vac place, coz it seems like happening place. or maybs Freshfiles. this assoc seems total n00b with ladies. thnxbye

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  • interesting

    I'm pleased to see everyone is being fairly open-minded about this and not just going for the "Women's rights are being violated and I think it's disgusting" line we constantly hear.

    It can't be ignored that there are male partners out there who may cross lines every now and then, but to be honest some young women really need to get it into their minds that this is always a danger.

    By the sounds of things, this girl set herself up for it by accompanying him. He was obviously drunk and took her into a strip club. She says she was unaware of where she was being taken, yet her memory was working well enough to remember the "suggestive comments" and "inappropriate touch".

    And the timing of this complaint has conveniently been "missed" by the writer - after the vacation scheme had ended and when she was told she would not be getting a training contract?

    When things like this happen people just tend to react only to the sexist behaviour of the man and don't consider the woman's part in it all.

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  • This is all one-sided

    Many of the posts below seem to ignore the fact that we don't yet know if the former associate actually did it.

    The story has no quote from him and he hasn't been interviewed. And for all we know Shearman could simply have sacked him just for using the company credit card to get into the club, not for sexual harassment.

    Equally, they could have sacked him cynically just because they couldn't be bothered with the association of the allegation, or because it's a good excuse to sack him instead of making him redundant in six months time.

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  • injustice

    They may well have just sacked him to avoid the bad press. Whenever women complain of any type of harrassment it's always the same, "there's no excuse".

    I'm not saying it didn't happen, it may well have done in which case the associate can't expect to get off lightly but these things have to be investigated - the firm obviously haven't thought of that in their desperation to save face.

    Nevermind however many years that man has worked to build up his career, or what it cost him in time and money at university, whenever women complain it has to be taken care of or it's sexist.

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  • Shearman associate

    I will say that when drunken women who work in lawyers' offices have molested me, I haven't complained.

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  • Last post

    ...you've just woken up. Hahahahahahahahah!

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  • can she handle it?

    If a voluntary trip to a strip club and a few inappropriate advances are enough to send her running off to HR then - it's very sad - but she does not stand a chance in the City.

    The days of sexual harassment are alive and kicking and, part of progressing at a law firm, is being able to fend off unsolicited approaches by drunken peers/superiors/clients without also alienating them.

    The student in question should really question whether she has what it takes (as well as pray that her new employers/ peers don't work out who she is - everyone will tiptoe around her for the rest of her (likely shortlived) career).

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  • Shearmans sacking

    There's a real rush to judgment going on from both sides of this debate. Face it - nobody actually knows what happens except the vacation student, the associate and whoever handled his disciplinary hearing. We're just not in a position to dispense moral indignation.

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