Monday, December 5, 2011

I’m guessing they don’t practice employment law

Wikipedia defines the “casting couch” as “the trading of sexual favors by an aspirant, apprentice employee, or subordinate to a superior, in return for entry into an occupation, or for other career advancement within an organization.” You shouldn’t need to be an employment lawyer to know that the casting couch is a big no-no, right? (Public service announcement: when searching Google Images for “casting couch,” make sure SafeSearch is set to “strict.”)

The ILSCCP Blog (which stands for the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism) brings us the story of Samir Zia Chowhan, a (now suspended) Chicago immigration attorney. In his search for a new legal assistant, Mr. Chowhan posted an ad on Craigslist, entitled, “Loop lawyers hiring secretary/legal assistant.” Innocent enough? Did I mention that Mr. Chowhan listed the ad in the “Adult Gigs” section, and that the ad noted that the job called for “additional duties for two lawyers in the firm.”

In response to an email inquiry from a potential applicant, Mr. Chowhan described the “additional duties” the assistant would be expected to provide for him and his partner:

As this is posted in the “adult gigs” section, in addition to the legal work, you would be required to have sexual interaction with me and my partner, sometimes together sometimes separate. This part of the job would require sexy dressing and flirtatious interaction with me and my partner, as well as sexual interaction. You will have to be comfortable doing this with us.

Here’s where the story gets really bizarre. The email also described the firm’s unique interviewing process:

[A]s part of the interview process you’ll be required to perform for us sexually (i didn’t do this before with the other girls i hired, now i think i have to because they couldn't handle it). Because that aspect is an integral part of the job, I think it’s necessary to see if you can do that, because it'll predict future behavior of you being able to handle it when you have the job.

In his defense (insert sarcastic tone), Mr. Chowhan made it clear that previous hires “have not been able to handle the sexual aspect of the job” and that he did not “want you to do anything that you’re not comfortable with.”

One applicant, skeeved by the whole process, filed a complaint with the Chicago Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, which resulted in Mr. Chowhan’s one-year suspension from the practice of law.

Am I alone in thinking that he deserved more?