3 Toronto lawyers lost their jobs after an epic-sounding "night of debauchery." Now one's suing for wrongful termination. So what, exactly, went down?
It all started at a 2009 event thrown by Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP "that allegedly involved lap dances, inappropriate touching and a whole lot of drunken lawyers." Shortly thereafter, a junior partner submitted a sexual-harassment complaint singling out partner David Cowling.
In the letter, Diebel described the party as a "night of debauchery" where "free booze flowed" and where the firm's partners became "extremely intoxicated." She described at length how partners behaved inappropriately, and at one point singled out Cowling and another lawyer for "rubbing their butts up against me and other women." Diebel later concluded: "While I like to dance, I don't like being groped."
Later, she elaborated,
One of the senior associates of MDC was so intoxicated that he left the club without his coat or keys and vomited in the taxi cab as it left the club. . As the evening progressed, one of the 2009 summer students became very intoxicated. Her speech was slurred and she was so unsteady on her feet that as she walked across the floor, she fell. As the student fell, she was scooped up by Cowling. Cowling and the very intoxicated summer student began to dance in a sexually explicit manner. The student's arms were around Cowling's neck and his hands were on her waist and buttocks. While dancing, Cowling placed his hand on the student's breast. Shortly thereafter, the summer student fell to the floor. She was assisted to her feet by Cowling and others. The summer student then went to the washroom where she vomited over her hair, body and clothes.
Another lawyer, Adrian Jakibchuk, was asked for his account; he corroborated her story and told other tales of groping and grinding.
Following a defamation suit and an internal inquiry, Cowling resigned. And in the latest twist, Jakibchuk has hit the firm with a wrongful dismissal suit, alleging that he was punished for telling the truth — at the company's behest — with a "poisoned work environment."
Whatever happens, one thing is clear: what went down at this party was not appropriate. In addition to the internal investigation, the firm has since suspended all such functions. While it's a symptom more than a root problem, it's probably to the good. A "night of debauchery" may have brought things to a head, but in vino veritas.
‘Night Of Debauchery' Haunts Law Firm [The Star]