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Even high profile attorneys may be accused of sexual harassment

The latest sexual harassment case to hit the airwaves involves accusations made against the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. Deputy District Attorneys Tannaz Mokayef and Beth Silverman allege Gary Hearnsbeger, a prosecutor with 34 years of service behind him, sexually harassed them in and out of the office.

His conduct allegedly included lewd remarks and behavior, and unwanted touching. The timeline indicated in the complaint states his behavior took place in 2011 when he was the lead supervising attorney.

Court documents are painting the picture of a man who played favorites with female attorneys who allegedly engaged in trading sexual favors for choice assignments and promotions, permitted him to grope them or allowed him to banter with them in a sexually graphic manner. The lawsuit also names Los Angeles County as a defendant.

Silverman alleges he walked behind her, placing his hands on her buttocks or hips, inside and outside of the office. He was told to cease and desist and apparently retaliated by starting to criticize her personality and work ethic, calling her out and cursing her in front of others in the office and denying her case assignments. Mokayef also indicated she was the victim of similar behavior and when she rejected him he began screaming at her, verbally abusing her and assigning her stale cases. The cited actions and verbal abuse continued outside of the office, even at family gatherings with other district attorneys.

The accused denies the claims from his new position in the Public Integrity Division. Hearnsberger was not disciplined in any manner and suggests the lawsuit was filed as a result of the two women attempting to retaliate against him for reassigning them from active cases.

There is always more to a story such as this one and it may be many months before the truth of the matter emerges. In the meantime, this media storm shines a light on the pervasive nature of sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment in any form is not acceptable and is illegal. Should this lawsuit result in a verdict for the women, it may help to set a precedent for other similar situations. If you are facing sexual harassment in your workplace, reach out and talk to an experienced sexual harassment attorney.