The job market for entry-level lawyers isn’t a very welcoming place, and while it’s better to be underemployed than unemployed, you might have to take some blows to your self-esteem in the process. It’s not a big deal, because you’ve realized that beggars can’t be choosers.
Take, for example, the case of the recent law school graduate who was only able to find a job as a paralegal. Hey, at least you’re at a law firm. Endless hours at the copy machine? You relish it. Redacting documents until you’re high off Sharpie fumes? Bring it on. Creating binders until you’ve got more paper cuts than you can count? Meh, that’s what Band-Aids are for. Being forced to feed your boss as he pressures you to join him in a polygamous romp and become his “third wife”? Uhhh…
Let’s meet the woman who claims she had to turn down her employer’s polygamous pleas, in a sexual harassment suit that she slapped him with late last week….
The plaintiff in this case is Sabrina Rafi, a recent graduate of American University’s Washington College of Law who’s awaiting admission to the New York Bar. She opens her suit with a preliminary statement detailing the employment woes of her compatriots, noting that “some law firms have used the depressed market to take advantage of novices to the profession.” The firm where Rafi worked as a paralegal, Ray & Associates, a business and intellectual property firm, was allegedly one of them.
Rafi claims that she worked up to 55 hours per week for only $800 a month. Hot damn, that’s $3.63 an hour. Success? Rafi also alleges that, in addition to paying her less than minimum wage, firm founder James Ray subjected her to “egregious, despicable, embarrassing, open, and obvious sexual harassment.” Perhaps she should’ve killed two birds with one stone and applied to be a waitress at Hooters; at least she would’ve made more in tips.
Rafi was only employed at Ray & Associates for a short period of time — about two months, from December 3, 2012, to February 8, 2013 — but the sexual harassment she claims she endured will leave her unpleasant memories to last a lifetime. Let’s check out some of the lurid allegations:
20. Specifically, commencing on or around December 13, 2012, Ray, on an almost daily basis, would talk to Plaintiff about his love for “polygamy” and the benefits of having sexual relationships with multiple partners at the same time. Ray would add that “there is nothing wrong with having a polygamist system” in the United States. Ray would also tell Plaintiff about his multiple sexual partners and spouses. He even at one point remarked that he had been “married to multiple women,” but stopped short of saying whether these marriages occurred at the same time.
Last we checked, polygamy was illegal in this country — but when you’re surrounded by allegations having to do with your inappropriate workplace horniness, such details are of little importance.
As time passed, Ray’s behavior allegedly grew increasingly worse. Rafi claims her former employer would “frequently glare at and ogle [her] body, openly staring at her for stretches of time and in situations that were anything but appropriate.” Rafi, of course, would’ve done anything to keep her job, seeing as she needed the money to pay her loans each month, so she chose to remain at the firm. (Is this reminding anyone else of Alexandra Marchuk’s plight at Faruqi & Faruqi?)
Fast forward to mid-January, when Ray allegedly forced Rafi to go to dinner with him at Korean Palace. Things went royally downhill, according to Rafi’s claims in her complaint:
25. . . . At the dinner, Ray spent the entire time again talking about polygamy and, now, pornography, advising Plaintiff that watching pornography was the key to a successful relationship. Ray advised Plaintiff that he wanted her to be his “third wife.” Ray also, in front of several other diners, insisted on Plaintiff feeding Ray his food using chopsticks, a thoroughly embarrassing, humiliating, and humbling experience for Plaintiff. Plaintiff spent the entire dinner fending off Ray’s sexual advances and propositions….
A “third wife”? Most men can’t even handle one. Let’s get real here: after reading the allegations, it seems that Ray doesn’t want three wives; no, instead, it sounds like he wants a harem of women to serve him at his beck and call. In an interview with the New York Post, Rafi elaborates on some of her conversation with Ray during the demeaning dinner date described above:
“He said, ‘I’ll only eat it if you feed it to me.’ I was like, ‘What?’ …Honestly, I was like terrified at that point,” she said.
“I’m picking up the chopsticks and my hands are shaking. I think I dropped the shrimp at one point. I picked it up again with the chopsticks and then he opens his mouth and closes his eyes as if he was in love with me.”
“It was humiliating for me to sit there with this much older man forcing me to feed him his food.”
Less than a month later, Ray allegedly “realiz[ed] the Plaintiff would never acquiesce to his sexual demands,” so he fired her. Rafi should probably be thanking Ray for this escape option, because who knows how long she would’ve tried to stick it out in this haven of alleged workplace hostility. Besides, if Rafi wins big in this lawsuit, Ray will get what he always wanted: all the trappings of a third wife, complete with settlement payments that’d make most alimony recipients jealous.
(If you’re interested, you can see the full complaint on the next page.)