Pennsylvania Record

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Paralegal sues law firm, her former employer, on charges of sexual misconduct


By Shanice Harris | Sep 11, 2019


PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia woman is suing her former employer after accusing the law firm of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior in the workplace.

Veronica Fortunato filed the lawsuit against Zarwin Baum on Aug. 23 in the United States District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 

In April 2018, Fortunato was hired by Zarwin Baum Devito Kaplan Schaer Toddy P.C., Attorneys at Law, as a paralegal. She was hired to work in the litigation department, which was overseen by Theodore M. Schaer, a partner and shareholder of Zarwin Baum. 

Shortly after being hired, Fortunato discovered that Zarwin Baum was a very discriminatory and degrading work environment, she said in the lawsuit. She claimed that during “happy hour” outings, female employees were encouraged to binge drink and participate in lewd games she deemed inappropriate for a law firm, the lawsuit read.

Fortunato named several other incidents, including sexual comments that would be made about her in the mail room of the law firm and an incident between defendant Jay Leffler in which he bragged about his sexual prowess with a former female employee at the firm, she said in the lawsuit. She said he sent Fortunato sexual notes and made his desire for her clear to other colleagues. 

She said she let office manager Nancy Landy know of the incident. Instead of a requested private meeting. Landy called her into a meeting with Joe Bongi and the office accountant, she said, and they fired her. Fortunato filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Dec. 28, 2018, and Jan. 2, 2019. She was issued her right to sue in June.

Fortunato is seeking trial by jury, and compensation for her distress along with attorney fees. 

United States District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania / Case no. 193813

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