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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
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Shenanigans Alleged at a Law Firm

CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) - After a law firm principal gave a legal secretary's husband a blow job in the office, another firm principal slammed her hand on her desk and said, "I told them to stop doing that," the secretary claims in court.

Vanessa Bianchi sued Hammond and Shinners and firm principals Joseph Larrew and Ann Dalton on Tuesday in St. Louis County Court.

Hammond and Shinners, which has 11 attorneys, specializes in labor and employee benefits law and represents a many St. Louis-area unions, according to its website.

Bianchi claims that on March 27, 2013, the firm held an after-hours dinner event at a restaurant. She says that at Dalton's suggestion, the event moved from the restaurant back to the Hammond and Shinners' office.

At the office, according to the complaint, Dalton told Larrew and Bianchi's husband, Christopher Welby, to take off their clothes. Larrew undressed down to his underpants and Welby took off his pants, Bianchi says. Dalton then told Welby to expose his penis, which he did, and Dalton exposed her breasts, according to the complaint.

Bianchi claims Dalton told her that she could not believe Bianchi had not had a breast augmentation and urged Bianchi to expose her breasts. Bianchi says she left.

She claims she immediately reported this to her supervisors, Connie Mercer and Richard Shinners.

"When plaintiff reported the March 27, 2013 event to Mercer, Mercer slammed Mercer's hand on the desk and said, 'I told them to stop doing that,'" Bianchi says in the complaint. "Mercer then told plaintiff Dalton had performed oral sex on the plaintiff's husband."

Bianchi says Mercer's attitude toward her changed after her complaint. She says Mercer began to criticize her work performance, spoke rudely and angrily to her, and that other co-workers ostracized and stopped eating lunch with her.

She says she was forced to quit on June 3, 2013.

Reporters requesting comment from the defendants were directed to the Hammond and Shinners office manager, but were told the office manager was gone for the day.

According to court records, Christopher Welby filed for divorce from Bianchi on April 25, 2013 in St. Charles County Court. The petition stated that the couple had been separated since April 16, 2013, and that "the marriage is irretrievably broken." The divorce, which was not contested, was finalized on Sept. 23, 2014.

Bianchi seeks punitive damages for sexual discrimination and retaliation.

She is represented by Joshua M. Pierson of Sowers & Wolf in St. Louis.

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