The junior partner at top-grossing law firm DLA Piper who claimed she was sexually assaulted four times by her boss in 2018 has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Vanina Guerrero, who works out of the multinational firm’s Silicon Valley corporate practice, filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission earlier this month, claiming that the $2.84-billion firm discriminated against her and retaliated when she complained of the alleged assaults. The complaint identified her boss, DLA Piper partner Louis Lehot, as the man who allegedly assaulted her in Shanghai, Brazil, Palo Alto, and Chicago.
“During my entire career I was known for my intellect, tenacity and confidence,” Guerrero, who is married with children, wrote in an open letter to the firm earlier this month. “In less than nine months at DLA Piper... I became a shell of my former self.” In her letter, Guerrero asked the firm to allow her to litigate the matter in court instead of through forced arbitration.
A spokesman for the law firm has said the company took appropriate steps to investigate the allegations against Lehot as soon as they were reported and that the company “takes them seriously.”
Lehot has since left the firm, the company said last week.
“Despite the fact that the allegations have not been substantiated by the investigation to date, the firm has concluded for various reasons that it is in the best interest of the firm that we part ways with Louis Lehot,” three executives wrote in a memo, Bloomberg Business reported.
But on Tuesday, the firm sent a letter to Guerrero claiming that “during the course of our investigation of your allegations against Louis Lehot, another individual at the firm alleged that you engaged in inappropriate behavior toward, and harassed, that individual.”
“DLA Piper takes allegations of harassment seriously, regardless of the position or gender of the individual making those allegations or against whom they are made,” said the letter, which was provided to The Daily Beast by Guerrero’s attorney. “Unfortunately, you continue to refuse to cooperate with that investigation, including refusing to discuss the allegations that have been made against you. Indeed, you refused to do so despite our stated willingness to allow your counsel to be present during the interview.”
The memo states that Guerrero is barred from going to the Silicon Valley office or engaging in any of the firm’s business until the investigation has concluded—and that DLA Piper has retained an outside firm to probe the matter.
Guerrero’s attorney, Jeanne Christensen, said in a statement on Wednesday that the letter was sent overnight to media outlets “across the country” in an attempt “to publicly smear” Guerrero “for daring to complain about being sexually assaulted.”
Christensen called the move “barbaric” and unprecedented.
“To be clear, as of the writing of this email, our firm and Ms. Guerrero have no knowledge or information about the purported ‘harassment,’” she added. “The message is loud and clear: #MeToo movement or not—speaking out about gender motivated violence will result in untold harm, damage and pain to you personally and professionally.”