Berkeley, CA – A tale as old as time, a young graduate assistant was excited for the opportunity to be mentored by a seasoned professor. The professor used his position of power to sexually harass his new mentee. Sexual harassment is pervasive throughout every profession, and academia is not immune.

Recently, John Searle, an eighty-four-year-old philosophy professor at UC Berkeley has been accused by his former student, twenty-four-year-old Joanna Ong, of sexual assault. Ong’s suit accused Searle of sexually assaulting her last summer by groping her and running his hand down her spine to her behind. Her suit further alleged that Searle insisted they were going to be lovers and he was going to make an emotional commitment to making her a public intellectual, asserting that he was going to love her for a long time.

These actions immediately sent Ong into a shocked state. When Ong rejected his advances, Searle promptly went on vacation, never bringing the incident up again. Once Searle returned, Ong found her salary cut and was subjected to a hostile and awkward work environment; the oblivious Searle continued his inappropriate behavior.

Ong also named UC regents in the suit because the school was complacent in Searle’s harassment. After Ong reported the incident to Jennifer Hudin, the director of the John Searle Center for Social Ontology, Hudin assured Ong that something would be done to protect her from Searle’s sexual advances. Later, Hudin would admit that she did not report the issue because she respected Professor Searle and felt she owed a duty of loyalty to the Professor and needed to protect him. Hudin would later inform Ong that she was no longer needed at the Center.

Ong has accused Searle and UC regents of sexual harassment, creating a hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful termination and assault and battery. Searle has assaulted Ong by the intentional volitional act of making physical sexual advances, causing Ong apprehension. Searle battered Ong by the intentional volitional act of running his hand down her spine, constituting offensive touching. The school created a hostile work environment by protecting Ong’s attacker and wrongfully terminated her in retaliation for bringing a lawsuit against Professor Searle, the person for whom their building was named.

This isn’t the first time that UC Berkeley has been in hot water. While Janet Gilmore, a UC Berkeley spokesman, assures the public that Campus leaders are dedicated to fostering a community where sexual harassment and sexual assault is not to be tolerated; since 2011 around nineteen UC-Berekely employees have been found to have violated the school’s sexual – harassment policy.

Sexual harassment on campus is a very serious issue. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is designed to protect employees, both public and private, from sexual harassment at work. Our skilled New York City, Newark, Jersey City and Philadelphia sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC, have years of experience litigating sexual harassment claims. Derek Smith, Esq., the firm’s namesake, and lead sexual harassment attorney, works tirelessly to protect the rights of every one of his clients. Derek Smith has recently obtained a jury verdict for over $4 million in a suit claiming disability discrimination against New York-Presbyterian Hospital, among the highest verdict ever for this type of case. If you feel like you were sexually harassed at work, please give our talented sexual harassment attorneys a call us at 800-807-2209 for a free consultation.