Letter to Sen. Kamala Harris: Forced Arbitration at DLA Piper

Jeanne Christensen
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

Dear Senator Harris:

“One of the fundamental principles of our democracy is that everyone should get their day in court. Forced arbitration deprives Americans of that basic right.”

— Sen Kamala Harris

We could not agree more with your statement which is why we are calling on you today. Our firm represents Vanina Guerrero, a junior partner at DLA Piper who works in the Palo Alto office, in connection with her claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment and retaliation. Her allegations include facts about a number of sexual assaults she suffered at the hands of her boss, Louis Lehot. Last Wednesday, in an open letter to co-chairs Roger Meltzer and Jay Rains, Ms. Guerrero called on DLA Piper to release her from forced arbitration so that she can “get [her] day in court.” Given the press the open letter received and your support for victims’ rights (including a prohibition of confidential arbitration regarding these matters) I hope that you either read about the open letter yourself or that your husband Douglas Emhoff, a partner at DLA Piper, shared it with you. Unfortunately, DLA Piper has not yet waived the mandatory arbitration clause. In fact, they have not responded. Instead, our client’s name and profile were removed from the DLA Piper website for most of Thursday along with other retaliatory acts that are deeply disturbing.

I am sure you would agree that silencing women through forced arbitration must end. No female employee, including a new partner, would knowingly agree to waive her right to our court system for claims involving sexual assault, battery or rape. Given your profile as a candidate for the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, you are in a unique position to condemn the actions of DLA Piper and make clear that mandatory arbitration must stop. We, therefore, urge you to publicly support the notion that all women who work at DLA Piper deserve to hear allegations about unlawful sexual conduct by male employees.

It is time for DLA Piper to right this senseless wrong by declaring that no female employee, including female partners, will be forced to litigate claims for sexually motivated harm caused by male employees that fail to obey the rules. Again, I urge you to support Ms. Guerrero and let DLA Piper know that time is up for its draconian policy that disproportionately protects male predators at the expense of women.


Jeanne M. Christensen

Partner, Wigdor LLP

Jeanne Christensen

Written by

Partner at Wigdor LLP. Leading harassment/discrimination victims’ rights attorney. Winner of National Law Journal 2019 Elite Women of the Plaintiffs’ Bar Award.

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