Williams Mullen is a prominent Richmond-based law firm that is “100 years strong,” according to its website. For 18 of those years, Vietnam native Hanh Nguyen Allgood, 53, was a case manager for the firm. She left in March 2007.
Apparently, the departure was not “all good” with her. She has filed a $950,000 lawsuit against the firm, alleging discrimination and sexual harassment, according to Style Weekly.
Litigation partner Robert Eicher bears the brunt of Allgood’s sexual harassment allegations. According to her complaint [PDF], he asked when he first met her whether “her vagina was vertical or horizontal,” a reference to “a horrible racial slur bandied about by some American soldiers during the Viet Nam War contending that Vietnamese women had vertical vaginas.”
And then there was the cucumber incident….
UPDATE: A statement from the firm has been added after the jump.
From Allgood’s complaint:
In late September 2006, Eicher touched Allgood in a sexual manner. The incident occurred while she was riding the elevator in Defendant’s offices. Eicher entered the elevator and saw Allgood standing in it alone. He stepped on to the elevator.
When the doors closed, Eicher pretended to be sad and depressed. He asked Allgood for a hug. When she complied, he pressed his genital area against Allgood’s left thigh. Allgood felt something hard pressing against her thigh and attempted to pull away from him. Eicher held Allgood tighter to prevent her from pulling away, and pressed his genital area against her thigh even harder. Allgood was horrified. She pushed him away and stepped back. In response, Eicher laughed and pulled a cucumber out of his pants pocket.
Who wants some tzatziki sauce?
According to one of our tipsters, Eicher is the firm’s ethics guy. According to his bio, he is chair of the Virginia State Bar’s Disciplinary Board. According to Allgood, Eicher’s a bit confused when it comes to the appropriateness of the cucumber-in-a-box hoax:
Several female employees informed Allgood that they were also the victims of the “cucumber incident.”
Eicher is not the only partner at Williams Mullen making offensive remarks, according to Allgood. Employment law partner Douglas Nabhan harassed her with racist remarks, she alleges:
27. Allgood frequently brought home-cooked meals to the Firm for its annual holiday parties. Douglas Nabhan, a Firm partner, often made racially derogatory comments about Allgood’s meals insinuating that she prepared her meals with dogs and cats. He would often joke publicly at the Firm holiday party “the population of dogs and cats in your town dropped dramatically last night” when referring to Allgood’s meals.
28. Nabhan also referred to Allgood’s ex-husband as “the wet back” because he is
29. Unfortunately, Nabhan was not the only Firm partner who made offensive ethnic
slurs and comments to and about Allgood. Eicher often asked Allgood whether she ate “dog fricassee,” “rice paddies” or “rats” for dinner. He also referred to Allgood as “black pajama” on a regular basis.
Allgood also claims age discrimination. You can read the complaint in full here.
Style Weekly reports that this is not Williams Mullen’s first brush with complaints of discrimination:
The suit comes on the heels of discrimination claims at Williams Mullen. Late last year, six former employees and one employee still on the job filed discrimination claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging a hostile work environment and unequal terms and conditions of employment. All charges were dismissed.
Charges dismissed, eh? Perhaps the firm is cool as a cucumber about this lawsuit then. We’ve reached out to the firm and are waiting for a promised statement.
UPDATE: Williams Mullen’s Vice Chair, Jim Meath, gave Above the Law the following statement:
The EEOC has dismissed her discrimination claim yet she has pursued this course of action. Williams Mullen is committed to a policy of non-discrimination, anti-harassment, and equal employment opportunities for all employees and applicants for employment. The Firm condemns discrimination and harassment in any form in the workplace and recognizes its duty to provide all employees with an environment free from such conduct.