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Law Society of BC suspends lawyer for sexual harassment

A Langley lawyer will be suspended for four and a half months after admitting professional misconduct including sexual harassment, racist remarks and creating a hostile work environment.

A Law Society of BC court hearing panel decided on July 12 to accept a joint submission from attorney Rowan MacKenzie Davison and other parties involved in the case. The decision was posted on the Law Society’s website last week.

There were two separate citations against Davison containing five allegations in total. Collectively, they alleged that Davison engaged in misconduct between 2018 and 2021 by “making unwelcome remarks, engaging in unwanted touching of a sexual nature, and making racist or discriminatory remarks to multiple employees,” according to a statement from the bar.

Among the specific allegations detailed in the decision were two attempts to kiss female subordinates, several instances of contact with female employees’ clothing and a case in which he asked one of them if she was wearing a bra. .

He also referred to himself and the others as ’round-eyed people’, while addressing a group that included a person of South Asian descent and told two employees ‘not to hire people brunettes”, according to the decision.

Asked about this last remark, Davison said to employees “words indicating that he was ‘tired of the drama that brown people bring to the office,'” the ruling reads.

In the joint submission, Davison admitted that his conduct was wrong. He also claimed the company held mandatory awareness training, appointed a human resources manager and drafted a “policy guide” in response to complaints about its conduct.

In a partial transcript of an interview between Davison and a bar investigator who appeared in the joint submission, the attorney describes his behavior as “shameful” and says he has changed.

“We did the awareness training and I, I can assure the bar that I did a complete flip-flop, a 180,” the transcript read. “Please don’t, but you could talk to any member of staff and they would have nothing but glowing things to say about me.”

In deciding to accept the joint submission, the committee also accepted the proposed discipline contained therein.

The panel ordered Davison to pay the bar costs $3,500 and serve a four-and-a-half-month suspension, which begins Aug. 16.

Davison is also subject to two conditions once his suspension ends. First, he cannot practice law unless he or the firm he works for has “implemented a policy acceptable to the bar regarding sexual harassment and discriminatory behavior.”

Second, he or his firm must engage “an outside lawyer acceptable to the Law Society whose role is to receive and investigate any complaint against (him) related to sexual harassment or discriminatory behavior.” This attorney will report any substantiated complaint of such conduct to the bar following an investigation.