Lieff Cabraser’s sexual abuse lawyers are investigating reports of serious, ongoing sexual abuse and harassment of women by male sommeliers at the Americas chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers. The chapter has sole authority to confer the much-coveted title of “sommelier” on aspirants who survive its yearslong, grueling qualification process. (Notably, of the 155 individuals honored with the title of Master Sommelier since the chapter was founded in 1997, 131, or 85%, have been men.)
At least twenty-one women have come forward to report they have been sexually harassed, manipulated, or assaulted by male master sommeliers. Along with other current and former members of the court, they say the abuse is a continuing problem of which its leadership has long been aware. Their stories vary, but all reflect a similar core of sexual harassment, an expectancy of sexual favors for advancement, and sexual abuse.
Indeed, only in September 2020 did the court finally establish a hotline for anonymous reporting of sexual misconduct. Up to that point, the only mechanism for such reporting was a direct approach to the board — a body that has often included the men accused.
Lieff Cabraser is at the forefront of national litigation seeking to address and redress sexual harassment — and to obtain compensation for those who have been its victims. Indeed, Lieff Cabraser partner Annika K. Martin served as Co-Lead Counsel for plaintiffs in the class action sexual abuse lawsuit against USC and gynecologist George Tyndall that led to a landmark $215 million settlement for victims last year, and serves in a similar leadership position in the class action filed on behalf of male athletes who suffered sexual abuse over a period of multiple decades at the University of Michigan.
If you are a sommelier or sommelier in training who has experienced sexual abuse or harassment from members of the Americas chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers, we urge you to contact Annika K. Martin today using the form below. You can also call Annika at 1 800 541-7358. Any information you provide will be held in the strictest confidence, and will help us bring justice to women who have suffered this predatory and illegal sexual misconduct from the chapter.