Natural Fighter: Genie Harrison Law Firm represents clients who’ve faced discrimination at work.
Jan. 11, 2021 — by Shane Nelson for Daily Journal
Genie Harrison decided in middle school she wanted to prosecute war criminals.
“I felt very passionately about this big idea of working at The Hague,” the founder of the Genie Harrison Law Firm said. “And I wanted to go after the leaders of countries and their regimes who had done terrible, terrible things… I thought, ‘Well, that’s the way I can make the most impact.’”
Harrison, who described herself as a fighter from an early age, said she changed her mind in law school after enrolling in a course about employment law and sexual harassment.
“I said, ‘Wait, you mean I can help people here at home in this kind of way?’” she recalled. “And that’s the direction my career took.”
Harrison was sexually abused by a teacher as a child and said she was sexually harassed in the workplace at a Texas law firm when she was in college. Harrison said she was sexually harassed by a judge during a clerkship not long after completing her law degree.
“This other judge, that I came into contact with while working on a special project, looked at me one day and said, ‘Genie, you’re so pretty. How come you’re not at home and pregnant in the kitchen?’” she recalled. “He literally said that to me my first year out of law school.”
Harrison said her own experience with sexual abuse and harassment makes her particularly well suited to represent victims of workplace discrimination and harassment.
“I just have a particular sensitivity to that disparity in the power dynamic,” she explained. “Because I’ve been through it and experienced a great deal of it in my life, it just makes me a natural fighter for others.”
First started in August of 2013, her five-lawyer firm today represents clients in wrongful termination, sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and other employee rights violation matters.
Trial attorney Mia Munro, who joined the firm in November 2019, said her admiration for Harrison inspired that career move, and her work on gender equal pay cases as well as sexual harassment and sex discrimination class actions since then has been extraordinarily rewarding.
“It’s highly personal, Munro said. “It probably would be for any woman working on cases like this because we’ve all been victims of equal pay violations… All of the attorneys here, we all have felt exploited in the workplace before. We understand how our clients fell, and we’re all very passionate about uplifting them and giving them a voice.”
Harrison and Munro are representing women employees of Riot Games Inc. who in 2018 accused the video game developer of a workplace culture rampant with sexism, discrimination and gender-based retaliation. Last February, Riot agreed to pay $10 million to former and current women employees, but according to Harrison, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing objected to that settlement.
“They thought it was too low,” Harrison said. “The women of Riot Games decided to hire new counsel and reached out to me and hired my firm… We withdrew the preliminary settlement and pursued some additional settlement conversations, but the case did not settle, so now we are fighting the litigation and fighting for the women.”
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Elihu M. Berle is scheduled to hear arguments in the case later this month, Harrison said. McCracken et al. v. Riot Games Inc., 18STCV03957 (L.A. Super. Ct., filed Nov. 6, 2018).
Woodland Hills trial attorney Joseph M. Lovretovich, who has worked on several cases with Harrison over the years and is co-counsel with her in the Riot Games matter, described her as a dynamo and an incredible attorney who truly cares for her clients.
“Sometimes you run into people who are top trial lawyers, and it’s all about the verdict,” Lovretovich said. “With Genie, it’s all about the client. She really pours her heart into her cases.”
Lovretovich said he first saw Harrison in a courtroom around 2007 during her representation of Brenda Lee, a 12-year veteran of the Los Angeles Fire Department who claimed she was the victim of racial, sexual orientation and gender harassment in the workplace.
“She just had a tremendous rapport with the jury,” Lovretovich said of Harrison. “And I think that’s because she really does speak from the heart. She’s very sincere, and it comes across.” The jury awarded Lee $6.2 million in economic and non-economic damages.
Encino defense attorney Linda Miller Savitt, who has opposed Harrison a number of times, described her as tenacious but agreed that the plaintiffs’ attorney puts her clients first.
“I really, truly believe Genie cares more about her clients than she cares about her fees,” Savitt said, recalling an employment dispute she and Harrison ultimately settled. “That’s very rare in the business I’m in.”
Harrison this month became president of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles and has also been involved in a number of recent cases against former movie producer Harvey Weinstein. And while she said helping clients recover from and move beyond emotional harm is a critical component of her firm’s mission, she said so is sending the often-lengthy track records of abuse perpetrated by powerful individuals like Weinstein.
“Honestly, I take great pleasure in participating in the end of the reign of an abuser.” Harrison explained. “Finally, there won’t be another victim… And I really enjoy stopping that.”