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Thursday, June 29, 2023

Sexual harassment trial against law firm, senior lawyer fixed in Nov

Editor’s Note: Malaysiakini is withholding the names of the parties involved in the suit to protect the identity of the plaintiff as requested.

The High Court in Kuala Lumpur has fixed five days in November this year for a full trial of a former lawyer’s sexual harassment lawsuit against a law firm and its senior partner.

The counsel acting for the 29-year-old plaintiff confirmed with Malaysiakini that the civil action is set to be heard before the civil court from Nov 20 to 24.

He added that parties have also exchanged documents in preparation for the trial.

It is understood that the plaintiff has since moved on from the legal fraternity and into the private sector as well as being actively involved in social work involving female empowerment and advocacy.

On Oct 28, 2021, she filed a civil action over the sexual harassment she allegedly endured at the hands of a senior partner while she was at the law firm between December 2018 and December 2019.

The plaintiff claimed among others that while at the firm, the lawyer had by his words and conduct repeatedly and/or deliberately “created an offensive, hostile, intimidating, humiliating, and distressing work environment for the plaintiff”.

She claimed that despite her refusals, the defendant “repeatedly and persistently asked the plaintiff out for lunch and coffee to the exclusion of her colleagues and/or teammates”.

Apart from this, she accused the defendant of “repeatedly hovering over the plaintiff at her workstation and lurked behind her while she was working at her desk”, “had a habit of unnecessarily leaning in closely to the plaintiff during discussions and poking her to get her attention” as well as “repeatedly making comments about the plaintiff’s physical appearance”.

In its statement of defence filed on Nov 29, 2021, the law firm countered that she never lodged any complaint about any sexual harassment while still with the firm.

In his statement of defence filed on Dec 2, 2021, the 46-year-old senior partner rubbished the allegation that he acted inappropriately against the then-chambering student while at the firm, claiming she never displayed any signs of being under any distress then.

He further claimed among others that her attempted resignations from the firm were not due to any alleged sexual harassment or pressure from him, but rather due to her inability to work with others there.

In a reply filed later that same month (December 2021), the plaintiff countered that the allegations raised in the statement of defence by the firm and the senior partner were irrelevant and meant to detract from the actual issue of alleged sexual harassment.

She alleged that the defendants’ claims were intended to negatively affect her credibility and the gravity of her complaints about the purported sexual harassment. - Mkini

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