San Diego

San Diego-based Law Firm Facing Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

A former legal assistant at Tyson & Mendes alleges the company created a “sexually hostile work environment”.

Charmaine Pearce, 37, experienced repeated sexual harassment at a La Jolla law firm and claims the company never intervened.

Pearce has a paralegal certificate and moved to San Diego from a small town in Illinois looking for better career opportunities--Having a good job was important and necessary.

Pearce and her husband are also raising six children. “It’s always something, when you have six kids,” she told NBC 7.

In August 2018, a recruiter working with the law firm Tyson & Mendes, headquartered in La Jolla, contacted Pearce and brought her in for interviews. Tyson & Mendes hired Pearce as a legal assistant that same month.

A few weeks after Pearce started, the firm hired a man who was a licensed attorney, but worked as a paralegal. In October, Pearce said the new paralegal started harassing her.

“He would inquire about my sex life with my husband,” Pearce said. In the week leading up to an office party Pearce said, “He kept repeatedly asking me if I wanted to go to his house and change at his house.”

Pearce said the harassment worsened in the following months. The man would also frequently touch her buttocks and other body parts. She asked other female co-workers who said it was also happening to them.

Pearce told NBC 7 she didn't confront the man directly and didn't report the behaviour until months later.

“I was afraid if I became ‘that woman’ that starts complaining, I was going to lose my job. I’m going to look like a trouble maker,” Pearce said.

When she did report the harassment, Pearce said someone from Human Resources was supposed to contact her. They didn't conduct an investigation and no one reached out to her, according to Pearce.

Pearce suffered a mental and emotional breakdown and couldn't continue working at Tyson & Mendes, even though she said she loved the job.

“This guy just gets off scot-free from doing this to me and other women and no one has contacted me, it’s like they were protecting him,” Pearce said.

Pearce said that in her seven months working at the firm, they never provided sexual harassment training. Now she’s suing Tyson & Mendes as well as the man she says is behind the sexual harassment.

In a statement sent to NBC 7 Investigates, an outside firm representing Tyson & Mendes said, "Tyson & Mendes is committed to fostering and maintaining a professional and collaborative environment where all attorneys and support staff can thrive without fear of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation. The firm does not tolerate sexual harassment or gender discrimination in any form and takes reports of misconduct seriously."

"Although we cannot discuss the allegations made by Ms. Pearce, we can confirm the male employee is no longer with Tyson & Mendes.”

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