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Andre Chreky, hairdresser to the stars (or at least the D.C. stars; Laura Bush was a client), has a big problem.
As a result of a scandalous sexual harassment trial that ended in March, Chreky was told to pay $2.3 million to Ronnie Barrett, a former colorist at his upscale K Street NW salon. According to Barrett’s suit, her former boss did salacious things like put his hand inside her dress to feel her breast. Despite all the bad publicity, Chreky has managed to hold on to his business. But the guy must be a glutton for punishment.
Instead of settling a second sexual harassment suit brought by another former employee, Jennifer Thong, he’ll be going to trial Monday. At trial, not only will all Chreky’s alleged shenanigans again be aired, but, according to Thong’s lawyer, Jonathan Rose, they’ll be worse. “The facts involved are far more egregious than the Baer trial,” he says.
According to filings, some of the “egregious facts” are that Chreky “used his position as the owner and operator of one of the nation’s premiere hair salons to attempt to coerce and intimidate attractive, vulnerable immigrant females like Mrs. Thong to perform sexual acts and to otherwise engage in unwelcome physical and sexual contact with him.” Helping to paint Chreky as a mustache-twirling villain is the fact that Thong and her family had already been victimized: “Thong immigrated to the United States from Cambodia in 1988 with her family. Prior to coming to the United States, Mrs. Thong and her family experienced a prolonged ordeal of political persecution under the Khmer Rouge barely surviving ‘the killing fields.'”
To start with, according to filings, Chreky—who worked right next to Thong—often got so close to her as they talked, their “hips touched.” The married Chreky would, allegedly, also take Thong’s scissors and then, when the employee asked for them back, have her fish them from his pocket “taking obvious pleasure in the fact she had to put her hands in his pockets near his genitals.”
But that was the mild stuff. Chreky’s behavior allegedly later intensified, as he asked Thong for “blow jobs” and proposed a threesome. According to Thong’s account, she rebuffed his advances. Chreky kept trying, the filings say. When he found her alone, “he would grab her on her shoulders or waist and press his groin up against her body.” Chreky also groped her whenever he got a chance, going so far as to put his hand up Thong’s dress and rip off her underwear as a “souvenir,” according to documents. “Chreky later allegedly graduated to out and out and multiple sexual assaults.
Defense attorney Paul J. Kiernan says Chreky’s team won’t be commenting before trial. But Chreky’s court papers dispute just about all of what Thong says. Filings on Chreky’s behalf say that “Ms. Thong worked at the Chreky Salon from 1998 through 2006. She claims that Mr. Chreky made inappropriate sexual comments to her, inappropriately touched her, and physically assaulted her on various occasions beginning in 2000. These events never happened. No individuals corroborate Thong’s claims and her own conduct flatly contradicts her accusations. In fact, Ms Thong was cordial to both Andre Chreky and Serena Chreky throughout her employment, even inviting them to her ‘wedding ceremony’ with a man named Hung Vuong.”
The defense says that not only was Chreky invited to hang out at Thong’s nuptials, the two went fishing together on several occasions.. Chreky’s side also contends that most of the harassment Chreky was allegedly responsible for happened more than a year before Thong submitted a complaint. They also point out that Thong never went to the police about Chreky.
But Rose says his client will have a slew of witnesses backing up Thong’s version. “It’s not he said, she said,” says Rose. “It’s he said, everyone said.”
Photo by James Bowe via Flickr under Creative Commons attribution license