Doctoral student sues Columbia University for sexual harassment

A gay Chilean doctoral student, Alberto Leguina Ruzzi, 25 years old, is suing Columbia University. He claims that he was fired from his job after complaining that a supervisor sexually harassed him. He alleges that Dr. Qais Al-Awqati, professor at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons sent him a picture of himself and asked him whether he would date an older man, eight days after he began working at Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan. Ruzzi stated that he rejected the advances. After doing so, however, he claims that Al-Awqati kicked him out of his office from which Ruzzi claims he suffered a panic attack and cried since he thought he was fired. A witness there claimed that she would report the incident to the Human Resources department of the hospital. See full article. Issues of sexual harassment are governed by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. As well as by state-level sexual harassment statutes which prohibit sexual harassment to and provide victims with a means to pursue justice.

Sexual harassment can occur in one of two ways:

  1. Quid pro quo harassment which can constitute a one-time occurrence or involve repeated behavior requiring a person to tolerate some form of sexual harassment in order to get a job, keep a job, get a raise or promotion, or to receive some other benefit. This harassment can come from a prospective employer, a current employer, a manager or supervisor, or a co-worker. The sex and sexual orientation of your harasser does not matter.
  2. Hostile work environment which involves repeated behavior that is abusive or offensive, or that interferes or alters the victims’ ability to perform their job

Employers that foster or allow these conditions to continue can be found liable for the conduct of the offending employees. For more information, see

The lawyers at Leeds & Brown Law, P.C strive to successful judgments for their clients, including any former employees or recently fired workers who have been sexually harassed in the workplace. If you or someone you know has been faced with sexual discrimination or sexual harassment, please contact our office Leeds & Brown Law, P.C., 1-800-585-4658, One Old Country Road, Suite 347, Carle Place, NY, 11514-1851.