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  • Chilean Doctoral Student Claims Sexual Harassment

    A doctoral student from Chile who was pursuing a Ph.D. in biology at Columbia University in Manhattan claims that he was sexually harassed by a supervisor and then fired from his job at the university’s medical center after he complained about it to others.

    25-year-old Alberto Leguina Ruzzi applied for a grant to study with Dr. Qais Al-Awqati at Columbia University, and when it was approved, he flew to New York from Chile and began working with Dr. Al-Awqati earlier this year.

    Leguina claims that soon after he started his job at Columbia University Medical Center, Dr. Al-Awqati sent a photo of himself to Leguina and asked him out on a date.  When Leguina declined, Al-Awqati became infuriated and screamed at him; Leguina thought he had been fired.

    Leguina’s co-supervisor at the hospital, Rosemary Sampogna, who witnessed the confrontation, assured him that she would report the incident to human resources and do everything within her power to see that he retained his position.  Leguina also notified the director of operations in the Department of Medicine, Mayra Marte-Miraz, of Al-Awqati’s advances.  However, according to Leguina, she was less than sympathetic, allegedly telling him that he had to ignore it and grow up, and that he would be sent back to Chile if he talked to a lawyer about the incident.

    Although Al-Awqati later apologized, Leguina continued to have a strained relationship with him, Marte-Miraz, and even Sampogna, who had become harshly critical of Leguina’s work in the days and weeks following the incident with Al-Awqati.  Marte-Miraz later accused Leguina of posting offensive and disparaging comments about Sampogna on his Facebook page.  According to Leguina, his supervisors chalked up his complaints about the work environment as an inability to adjust to life in the big city.  Leguina claims that he needed to take various medications to cope with the stress.

    At some point, Al-Awqati provided a negative review of Leguina’s work to his advisors at Catholic University, who in turn told Leguina that he would have to leave Columbia.  When Leguina discussed his situation with Al-Awqati, including his previous sexual advances, Al-Awqati apparently became nervous and disputed the notion that his negative performance evaluations were related to the incident. Leguina was ultimately fired in June, and he filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Columbia University soon thereafter.

    A sexual harassment lawyer in San Bernardino can help if you if you have been the victim of discriminatory or offensive behavior at work.  If you believe that someone you work with has behaved in an inappropriate way toward you, contact a sexual harassment lawyer in San Bernardino for legal advice.  Your sexual harassment lawyer from San Bernardino can evaluate the facts of your case, develop a set of legal options, and recommend a course of action. Having an experienced sexual harassment lawyer from San Bernardino on your side can help you navigate the legal process and obtain the best outcome based on the facts of your case.