Los Angeles employment and civil rights law firm Ivie McNeill Wyatt Purcell & Diggs failed to investigate or act on a lawyer’s allegations that she was sexually assaulted by a partner at the firm, according to a lawsuit filed in state court.
Chaena Dade, an associate who said returned to the firm after being promised there was an opportunity to make partner, alleges labor and employment attorney Rodney Diggs engaged in a campaign of harassment that included unwanted advances and requests for sex.
Dade alleges in the California Superior Court, Los Angeles, lawsuit filed Thursday that Diggs created a hostile work environment through repeated and unwelcome sexual behavior, including offers of oral sex.
During a business trip to Italy, Dade claims, Diggs made repeated attempts to engage in sexual activities and entered her hotel room under false representations made to hotel employees.
Diggs, chairman of the Los Angeles’ firm’s labor and employment practice, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Representatives for Ivie McNeill also didn’t respond to a comment request.
Dade has left the firm.
The law firm is required to prevent and investigate sexual harassment, “and there’s strict liability on the part of the law firm when there’s a supervisor like Mr. Diggs was” who’s accused, said Erika Scott, managing partner with Winer, Burritt & Scott LLP in Oakland, representing Dade.
“None of us wants to file against another law firm but we saw there was no other choice here because clearly they didn’t take” the matter seriously, Scott said.
Causes of Action: Quid pro quo sexual harassment; hostile work environment sexual harassment; retaliation; failure to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent and correct discrimination, harassment, and retaliation; intentional infliction of emotional distress; battery; false imprisonment; constructive wrongful termination in violation of public policy; gender violence; violation of the Ralph Act; violation of the Bane Act.
Relief: General, special, and punitive damages; attorneys fees and costs; equitable and declarative relief; civil penalties; prejudgment interest; against the firm.
Response: An Ivie McNeill representative wasn’t immediately available for comment.
Attorneys: Winer, Burritt & Scott LLP, Oakland, Calif., and Woodland Hills, Calif.
The case is Dade v. Ivie McNeill Wyatt Purcell & Diggs, A.P.C., Cal. Super. Ct., No. 20STCV25831, filed 7/9/20.