For over 35 years, the attorneys at Katz Banks Kumin have been on the forefront of sexual harassment litigation – establishing the right to legal protection, and fighting for justice for workers who have been subjected to sexual harassment and assault.
Since the beginning of the #MeToo movement in 2017, Katz Banks Kumin has represented dozens of victims who have been subjected to sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence, which has resulted in a number of very powerful individuals in society being held accountable. For their work representing victims of sexual harassment and assault, as well as advocating for legislative change, Debra S. Katz and Lisa J. Banks were recognized by the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association with its 2018 Lawyers of the Year Award, by the Victim Rights Law Center with the 2019 Leadership Award, and by Ms. Magazine with the 2019 "Wonder Woman Award." For their work as counsel to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the Women's Bar Association recognized Ms. Katz, Ms. Banks, and Joseph Abboud with the "Dare to Make an Impact" award. Ms. Katz has been profiled as a pioneering #MeToo attorney by The Washington Post in "The feared attorney of the #MeToo moment," as a "Leading #MeToo Lawyer" by Washingtonian Magazine, and as “One of the Nation’s Top #MeToo Lawyers” by Jewish Journal.
Below are some of the clients that the firm has represented and helped to tell their stories and stand up to injustice.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford
Katz Banks Kumin represented Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in proceedings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2018. Dr. Ford testified about then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault of her in the early 1980s when they were teenagers.
Katz Banks Kumin attorneys worked to ensure that Dr. Ford was able to testify in an open hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, and to protect Dr. Ford against malicious and bad faith attacks that attempted to twist the facts of the case and to discredit her. They prepared Dr. Ford for the testimony she gave in front of the entire country and were her public representatives and spokespeople.
Dr. Ford’s testimony had a significant impact on the country. A year after the shocking allegations against Harvey Weinstein surfaced, the image of Dr. Ford raising her right hand became the iconic photo of the #MeToo movement. Her testimony has inspired hundreds of thousands of victims to tell their stories of assault for the first time.
Ultimately, Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, but Dr. Ford’s testimony was a trailblazing moment that gave voice to millions of survivors of sexual violence and further highlighted the nationwide reckoning that had emerged on the issue of sexual violence in the #MeToo era. Courage begets courage.
Listen to the New York Times Daily podcast covering “When #MeToo Went on Trial”
Washington Football Team
Katz Banks Kumin is representing 40 former employees of the Washington Football Team.
The clients have alleged a toxic and abusive work environment, going back 20 years, in which women were subjected to pervasive sexual harassment and abuse. The harassment included the production of lewd videos of team cheerleaders, made without their knowledge or consent.
The former employees describe a toxic workplace and a culture of fear that was instilled from team owner Dan Snyder and his leadership team.
The Washington Post recounted the disturbing details in a series of explosive articles.
After the first Washington Post article on the Washington Football Team’s hostile environment appeared in July 2020, the team hired a law firm to conduct an independent review. That investigation was taken over in August by the National Football League, which has said it will take appropriate action based on the results of the investigation.
Katz Banks Kumin represents Charlotte Bennett, a former aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo who accused him of sexual harassment in February 2021. During her time in Albany, Ms. Bennett said that Governor Cuomo asked her questions about her sex life, including whether she had ever had sex with older men, and whether she was monogamous in her relationships.
Katz Banks Kumin attorneys supported Ms. Bennett as she made the courageous decision to come forward with her allegations and worked tirelessly to help her navigate the independent investigation of the Governor’s conduct. Throughout the investigation, as Cuomo denied the accusations and attempted to discredit them, Ms. Bennett and other accusers did not waver in their courage and became the new faces of the #MeToo movement.
Ultimately, Ms. Bennett’s bravery brought her and Cuomo’s other accusers one step closer to justice. The state attorney general’s office found that Governor Cuomo engaged in sexual harassment against at least 11 women in his circle and retaliated against those who came forward. One week after the results of the investigation were released, Governor Cuomo announced his resignation. The statement from the firm can be found here.
Katz Banks Kumin represents Irwin Reiter who, as a longtime Weinstein Company executive, served as one of the critical whistleblowers in the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Reiter, an accountant at The Weinstein Company, was recently identified by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in their book, She Said, as the “insider” who provided them with information that was crucial to their ability to break the story about Weinstein’s decades-long sexual predation and harassment. Among other acts of courage, Reiter divulged to Kantor and Twohey an internal memo that detailed Weinstein’s routine sexual harassment of younger employees and actresses. This information proved critical to their investigation into Weinstein which helped spark the #MeToo movement.
Katz Banks Kumin has represented Mr. Reiter since the late summer of 2017. In the past year, Katz Banks Kumin has assisted Mr. Reiter with providing information to state and federal law enforcement about Weinstein’s conduct, and with proceedings related to The Weinstein Company’s bankruptcy filing in mid-2018.
Patricia Wulf, Angela Turner Wilson, and other Placido Domingo Accusers
Katz Banks Kumin represents Patricia Wulf, the first woman to come forward publicly with information detailing the sexual harassment she was subjected to by opera star Placido Domingo, and Angela Turner Wilson, another professional singer with similar allegations regarding Domingo. In interviews with the Associated Press and National Public Radio, Ms. Wulf detailed Domingo’s repeated unwelcome sexual advances and propositions that created a sexually hostile work environment for women.
Wulf and Wilson’s courage in attaching their names to their accusations ultimately resulted in other women coming forward, which in turn led to Domingo withdrawing from his Met Opera performances and submitting his resignation as the director of the Los Angeles Opera. Domingo has now either withdrawn from or been removed from all scheduled performances with U.S. opera companies, and several in Europe.
In February, it was reported that the American Guild of Musical Artists reached a deal in which it would limit the union’s comments about the investigation into Domingo, and Domingo would pay the union $500,000. The deal fell apart after details were made publicized by Associated Press. Domingo has since withdrawn from AGMA.
Katz Banks Kumin represented Dawn Dunning, who testified against Harvey Weinstein criminal trial in February, 2020.
Dunning, a former aspiring actress, testified that after she met Weinstein in the early 2000s, they formed a relationship that she believed would help her career. However, under the guise of business meetings, Weinstein prepositioned Dunning for sex and sexually assaulted her.
Weinstein was not criminally charged in connection with Dunning’s allegations – but her testimony was used by the prosecution to show a pattern of behavior.
In March, 2020, Weinstein was found guilty of criminal sexual assault in the first degree and rape in the third degree.
Read the New York Times’ story on Ms. Dunning here.
Ms. Kim made headlines when she was voted off “Survivor” after reporting unwanted and inappropriate touching by another contestant, Dan Spilo, in a direct-to-camera interview during the show. Although CBS subsequently issued a “formal warning” to Mr. Spilo, it allowed him to remain in the competition. Ms. Kim was voted off the show later in that same episode, due in part to other contestants’ manipulation of her report to producers. It was not until several episodes later, following another incident of inappropriate touching, that CBS finally removed Mr. Spilo from the competition.
Katz Banks Kumin represented Ms. Kim in her efforts to speak openly about her experience of sexual harassment on the “Survivor” season finale. During the season finale Jeff Probst, Game Show Host, apologized to Ms. Kim for CBS’s failure to take appropriate action to protect her from the unwelcome touching. CBS also announced that it would implement new policies and procedures to better protect crew and contestants from harassment and discrimination in the future, action that Ms. Kim demanded that CBS undertake.
Anonymous Accuser of NFL Football Player Antonio Brown
Katz Banks Kumin represents a female artist who accused professional football player, Antonio Brown, of sexual misconduct and threatening behavior. In 2017, Brown hired our client to paint a mural in his home, where he subjected her to sexually inappropriate behavior.
While our client did not initially reveal Mr. Brown’s misconduct publicly, she confirmed his actions in response to questions from a Sports Illustrated reporter. On September 16, 2019, Sports Illustrated published an article which detailed Brown’s misconduct, including his sexual harassment of our client. Brown retaliated by sending threatening and disparaging text messages to and about our client, including pictures of her children and an instruction to his associates, who were also included on the text message, to investigate her.
Katz Banks Kumin contacted the NFL and asked it to intervene to stop Brown’s intimidation of our client, and worked with the League in its investigation to ensure that the threatening behavior was addressed and did not reoccur. After our client publicly came forward, the New England Patriots cut him from its roster and the NFL’s investigation into Brown’s actions related to our client and others continues.
Katz Banks Kumin represents Professor Vanessa Tyson, who in February 2019 alleged that Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004.
Following Tyson’s decision to go public with her story, Fairfax has utilized an aggressive approach to try to paint Ms. Tyson as a liar. Throughout the entire ordeal, Katz Banks Kumin has been in contact with Virginia state government officials over attempts to hold a hearing to give Ms. Tyson an opportunity to tell her testify publicly about Lieutenant Governor Fairfax’s sexual assault of her.
Katz Banks Kumin represents four women who accused former Harvard University Government professor Jorge Dominguez of sexually harassing them between 1979 and 2006. Dominguez was a high-profile Latin American scholar who held multiple prominent administrative positions at Harvard, including Vice Provost for International Affairs.
In February 2018, the Chronicle of Higher Education published Katz Banks Kumin’s clients’ accounts of sexual harassment by Dominguez and later reported that at least 18 women had come forward with similar allegations. The articles prompted Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences to place Dominguez on administrative leave and Dominguez announced his intention to retire days later.
Harvard’s Title IX Office launched an investigation into Dominguez’s behavior in March 2018 and, in May 2019, found that Dominguez had engaged in “unwelcome sexual conduct toward several individuals, on multiple occasions over a period spanning nearly four decades.” The University subsequently stripped Dominguez of his emeritus status and barred him from the FAS campus.
As of October 2019, Katz Banks Kumin continues to assist its clients in Harvard’s ongoing investigation into the systemic issues that enabled Dominguez’s conduct to persist.
Michelle Manning Barish
Katz Banks Kumin represents Michelle Manning Barish, who went public with allegations of physical and emotional abuse by former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman while they were in a romantic relationship.
Ms. Barish was one of two women to speak on the record to The New Yorker for its exposé about Schneiderman’s abuse. In it, she described his pattern of committing physical abuse with a sexual partner, including choking and slapping, as well as engaging in threats and emotional abuse.
Katz Banks Kumin advised Ms. Barish through the intense media coverage that accompanied The New Yorker story. Just hours after publication of the article, Schneiderman resigned his position as Attorney General of New York. Katz Banks Kumin continues to represent Ms. Barish in ongoing governmental inquiries.
In April 2021, Schneiderman admitted to violating the rules of professional conduct, including committing physical, verbal, and emotional abuse against Ms. Barish. As a result of his wrongdoing, Schneiderman lost his license to practice law for a year.
Katz Banks Kumin represented Chloe Caras, a former restaurant manager and director of operations for Isabella Eatery, in her sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against celebrity chef Mike Isabella, his company, and four of his business partners.
Ms. Caras was forced to endure sexual harassment and abuse by restaurant management, including Mr. Isabella, and was then fired when she objected to this hostile treatment. Ms. Caras was subjected to sexist comments, sexual propositions, inappropriate physical contact and other instances of harassment and abuse.
In addition to filing a harassment and retaliation lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Caras, Katz Banks Kumin called for the federal court to nullify the nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) that Mike Isabella Concepts had employees sign as a condition of employment. These NDAs were imposed to prevent any information about Isabella or other partners’ business lives from being made public. Katz Banks Kumin and Ms. Caras alleged that these overly restrictive NDAs were meant to intimidate employees into remaining silent, even when they witnessed sexual harassment by partners or other employees. Bringing attention to such broad and punitive NDAs was critical to informing employees of their rights, including the right to report illegal activity regardless of any confidentiality agreement they may have signed.
The Washington Post covered Katz Banks Kumin’s filing of Ms. Caras’ lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court
The lawsuit was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount of money, and required that Mike Isabella Concepts take corrective measures, including sexual harassment training and other policies to ensure a safe and comfortable workplace. Read the Post’s coverage of the settlement here.
Feminists Majority Foundation v. University of Mary Washington
Katz Banks Kumin represented members of the University of Mary Washington student group, Feminist United on Campus, who were subject to student-on-student cyber harassment that included death threats and threats of sexual assault. In 2015, students and women’s rights organizations filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education alleging that the university failed to take appropriate action in response to threats of sexual assault and cyber-harassment against students on the anonymous messaging app, Yik Yak. The university claimed that it could not take any steps to protect students out of fear that it might violate the harassers’ free speech rights.
On December 19, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals issued a landmark decision holding that universities were responsible under Title IX for protecting students from this type of online sexual harassment. The court held that the university could not “turn a blind eye” to the egregious sexual harassment that pervaded its campus simply because the harassment took place in “cyberspace.”
The Fourth Circuit also held for the first time that students at public universities have a constitutional right to an educational environment free from student-on-student sexual harassment. This ruling sends a strong message to administrators at public universities that they could be individually liable if they fail to take appropriate action in response to student complaints of sexual harassment.
Katz Banks Kumin represents Sheila Katz, a former executive at Hillel International, in reporting allegations of sexual harassment regarding billionaire philanthropist Michael Steinhardt. Sheila Katz was one of several former Hillel employees who spoke to The New York Times about Steinhardt’s sexual harassment of her – including asking for sex – while the organization was dependent on and asking for his financial support. Steinhardt’s harassment was persistent, and regularly excused due to his money and influence.
In 2018 Hillel hired the law firm Cozen O’Connor to investigate Ms. Katz’s claims. They concluded that Steinhardt had in fact sexually harassed Sheila Katz and another employee. Katz Banks Kumin represented her during the course of the investigation and in communications with the media.
Read the New York Times’ coverage here.
Women at NPR
Katz Banks Kumin represented a large group of female NPR employees in response to sexual harassment allegations against the network’s former news executive Michael Oreskes.
Oreskes was found to have sexually harassed employees as early as the late-1990s, when he worked at The New York Times, and was the subject of a formal complaint at NPR in 2015. Oreskes allegedly kissed and subjected employees to unwelcoming touching and engaged in other sexual misconduct.
NPR placed Oreskes on leave in October of 2017, and he resigned one month later.
Katz Banks Kumin represented employees in demanding that NPR’s Board of Directors conduct an investigation into systemic problems at NPR, and succeeded in implementing an employee climate survey to improve how the company handles sexual harassment allegations.
Read NPR’s coverage here.
Anonymous Accuser of Congressman Patrick Meehan
Katz Banks Kumin represented a former congressional aide to U.S. Representative Patrick Meehan (PA-R), who accused the Pennsylvania congressman of unwanted sexual advances.
The client, who remained anonymous and is decades Meehan’s junior, alleged that Meehan made unwelcome romantic gestures and advances in person and in writing, and then grew hostile toward her when she rebuffed him. Katz Banks Kumin represented their client throughout the long confidential process required to bring a claim against a sitting congressional representative, which resulted in a large monetary settlement.
The settlement became public in January 2018, along with the detail that the settlement was taxpayer-funded. Then-House speaker Paul Ryan removed Meehan from the House Ethics Committee – the body that investigates harassment allegations. Weeks later, Meehan announced that he would not seek re-election in the 2018 midterms and ultimately resigned before completing his term after the House Ethics Committee began a probe into this matter.
Katz Banks Kumin attorneys have not only represented victims of harassers who work in Congress, but have lobbied for changes to the archaic process that governs how allegations on Capitol Hill proceed. In December, Congress passed, by unanimous consent, a bill to overhaul the reporting and settlement procedure on Capitol Hill.
Read The New York Times’ coverage of Mr. Meehan’s harassment here, the settlement here, and his announcement that he would not seek reelection here. You can also find the revised Congressional Accountability Act, enacted in December 2018, which governs how sexual harassment and other civil rights and labor law are handled on Capitol Hill.