(UC Berkeley Law School)
(UC Berkeley Law School)

BERKELEY, Calif. (Diya TV) — Sujit Choudhry, dean of the University of California at Berkeley’s prestigious law school, is taking an “indefinite leave of absence” from his position after a lawsuit filed against him from his former executive assistant alleged claims of sexual harassment.

The complaint was filed Tuesday against Choudhry and the University of California Board of Regents. Amongst the allegations are claims that Choudhry made inappropriate advances towards the woman, and retaliation and failure to stop the sexual harassment.

Tyann Sorrell, the former executive assistant and 41-year-old mother of five, claims in her complaint that from a period between September 2014 to March 2015, Choudhry sexually harassed her — rubbing her shoulders and arms, kissing her cheeks and giving her bear hugs that pressed her body against him, according to court documents. “Choudhry’s kissing and hugging Plaintiff was a near daily occurrence, Choudhry’s conduct made Plaintiff feel disgusted, humiliated, exposed and dirty,” the lawsuit states.

Sujit Choudhry University of California Berkeley via AP
Sujit Choudhry University of California Berkeley via AP

Soon thereafter, the lawsuit claims the harassment became more frequent — on a daily basis — and much more explicit. “The hugs became tighter and more lingering and the kissing more intimate in that over time Choudhry’s kisses began to land closer and closer” to her mouth, according to the court documents.

“She wondered what she had done to make him think it was OK for him to touch her,” according to the documents. “She was worried about her reputation and what her work colleagues thought of her. At the same time, she worried about upsetting him and possibly losing her job, on which her family depended.”

Additionally, Sorrell claims in her suit that she is a past victim of domestic and sexual abuse. When the situation in her workplace began, it ushered in a pattern of anxiousness and depression — causing her to lose sleep and dread her going to work. She said she suffered “insomnia, hair loss, depression and anxiety” as a result.

Choudhry, 46, could not be reached for comment. However, a UC Berkeley spokesman told Diya TV that Choudhry formally announced he would resign a day after the university imposed his indefinite leave of absence.

Sorrell began working at the university in 2012, and the lawsuit states she made multiple complaints to her superiors regarding Choudhry’s alleged conduct. It took the university months to investigate her claims, the lawsuit states. Berkeley’s internal investigation concluded in July, and determined by a preponderance of evidence that the dean had violated the university’s sexual harassment policy.

“A thorough investigation of this case found that Dean Choudhry’s behavior in this situation violated policy,” university Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele said. “He demonstrated a failure to understand the power dynamic and the effect of his actions on the plaintiff personally and in her employment.

“Based on the findings of the investigation I believed that a combination of disciplinary actions, monitoring of his behavior and formal training would be an appropriate and effective response, and would produce the necessary changes in his behavior.”

Berkeley’s law program — widely regarded as one of the nation’s best and brightest — is no stranger to scandal. Specifically, allegations of sexual misconduct against its leaders.

In 2002, then-dean John Dwyer was forced to resign after he was accused of sexually harassing a former student. The story, reported on by the school’s student newspaper, wrote that Dwyer had “admitted to having a single consensual encounter with a student two years ago but denied charges of sexual harassment.”

“I acknowledge that this reflected a serious error in judgment on my part and was inappropriate,” he had written in an internal memo, according to the newspaper. “I believe I can no longer effectively lead the school.”