A 45-year-old Indian-origin dean of a presitigious US law school has been accused of sexually harassing his assistant for over a period of several months.
Sujit Choudhry has taken an indefinite leave of absence after his executive assistant at the Berkeley Law School filed a lawsuit against him for sexually harassing her from September 2014 until March 2015.
A lawsuit was filed this week against him in Alameda County Superior Court in California against Choudhry and the University of California Board of Regents by the assistant, who is suing for sexual harassment, failure to prevent harassment, retaliation, infliction of emotional distress and assault. The lawsuit alleges that Choudhry hugged and kissed his assistant almost daily over a period of several months.
Choudhry, an expert in comparative constitutional law, was named in 2014 the 12th dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, one of the country’s top schools. New Delhi-born Choudhry who holds law degrees from Oxford, Toronto, and Harvard denied the allegations.
He said he will continue to cooperate with the university in the probe. He disagreed with the victim’s claims and allegations and said he will defend himself against them. “Choudhry’s kissing and hugging Plaintiff was a near daily occurrence,” the lawsuit says according to a report in NBC Bay area, making her “feel disgusted, humiliated, exposed and dirty”.
Choudhry has been given a 10-per cent, one-year reduction in salary and ordered to apologise to the victim. “However, I can say that I cooperated fully, and take extremely seriously, the University’s confidential investigation into this matter and ensuing sanction, he said.
Berkeley’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele said in a statement that Choudhry would step down to his faculty position and salary.
The school would announce as soon as possible about an interim replacement. “A thorough investigation of this case found that Dean Choudhry’s behaviour in this situation violated policy, and that he demonstrated a failure to understand the power dynamic and the effect of his actions on the plaintiff personally and in her employment,” Steele said.
The victim has been granted a fully paid administrative leave and Steele said once she felt ready to return to the workplace, “We supported her search to find a position on campus that meets her interests and needs”. Court documents allege that Choudhry’s behaviour became more aggressive and “occurred multiple times per day”.