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Junior Partner at Billion-Dollar Law Firm DLA Piper: Boss Sexually Assaulted Me 4 Times, Company Ignored It

Olivia Messer


Vanina Guerrero first immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia when she was 4 years old. 

Decades later—after cleaning offices, scrubbing toilets, attending college, graduating from law school, and mastering five languages—she was hired at top-grossing law firm DLA Piper.

That’s when her nightmare began, she says.

Guerrero was hired as a junior partner in the multinational firm’s Silicon Valley corporate practice in September 2018.

By the end of November that year, Guerrero says she had endured four sexual assaults by her boss: one in Shanghai, one in Brazil, one in Chicago, and one in Palo Alto. 

“During my entire career I was known for my intellect, tenacity and confidence,” Guerrero wrote in an open letter to the firm on Wednesday. “In less than nine months at DLA Piper... I became a shell of my former self.”

After allegedly complaining to top brass at the firm for months, Guerrero filed a report late Tuesday in San Jose, California, with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The report names DLA Piper, the $2.84-billion firm with lawyers in more than 40 countries that in 2010 famously represented Paul Ceglia—the wood-pellet salesman who allegedly tried to defraud Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The complaint also names a senior partner at the firm’s Silicon Valley office who, according to the complaint, recruited Guerrero. As part of his pitch, the partner allegedly told Guerrero that she was a “star” and that he expected her to soon outpace him. He told her “you’ll be my boss soon,” according to the complaint.

Guerrero’s EEOC filing alleges gender discrimination—including quid pro quo and hostile-environment sexual harassment—as well as retaliation.

“I went from working in Hong Kong as general counsel and the top female executive at a global tech company to being abused by [the partner],” Guerrero wrote in her open letter issued Wednesday, in which she asked to be voluntarily released from mandatory arbitration. Her letter also claims that, outside of forced arbitration, she would be able to file civil claims against the partner for assault, battery, and sexual harassment.

Guerrero’s complaint alleges that the partner’s behavior was “common knowledge among employees, including other partners in the Palo Alto office” who refused to remedy the situation. She names at least three other senior male partners who were aware of the allegations against the partner for months and “opted to marginalize what happened and horrifically—did nothing.”

One of those partners, the complaint states, “bluntly told Ms. Guerrero that she was lying and that this was clearly a case of ‘he said, she said’” and then “fabricated a reason to remove Ms. Guerrero from a valued account just days after learning specific details about her claims regarding Mr. [the partner].”

Read More

    Gender Equity/Diversity
    Sexual Harassment

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