A female attorney is suing the Fresno state attorney general’s office for sexual harassment, one of her clients said.

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As a law student, Abigail Sedra seemed to do everything to get her dream job in one of the most famous and popular law firms in town, McCormick Barstow.

Sedra graduated with honors from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, a preferred location for employees of the Fresno firm. He has several internships, including with the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office. And he studied with Ret. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in Salzburg, Australia.

By 2021, his resume was high enough that he was hired by McCormick Barstow as an associate attorney.

But his time at the company was short. Not long after she started, she became the target of sexual harassment by one of her colleagues, Matthew Fletcher. The event, according to his lawyer Maria Minney of Labor Law in Santa Monica, was very devastating for the 24-year-old lawyer.

Sedra filed a lawsuit against McCormick Barstow on January 11 alleging sexual harassment, retaliation, failure to stop harassment, battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress. He is looking for financial losses.

The 35-page lawsuit alleges that Fletcher, the company and partner of Dana Denno, who Sedra said failed to try to stop the violence, according to the lawsuit.

McCormick Barstow hired attorney Linda Moroney, a partner with Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhan, a San Francisco firm with offices nationwide.

He gave a statement on behalf of his partner.

“The allegations in the Complaint of Ms. Sedra was completely inconsistent with McCormick Barstow’s thorough investigation, which included interviews and a review of email and phone logs. In addition, Mr. Fletcher and Ms. Denno vehemently denies the allegations,” Moroney said.

Fletcher is accused of unwanted touching, hugging, and inviting her to drink in his office. He is also accused of staring at Sedra and making eye contact.

Others in the office began to notice, Minney said.

“The plaintiff began to experience the ‘ick’ feeling when Fletcher surrounded him. The Plaintiff’s best friend and partner, Jane Doe 1, also noticed Fletcher’s behavior toward the Plaintiff and they discussed it that evening. Their collective opinion was that Fletcher was a ‘creep,'” according to the lawsuit.

What Sedra did not know before joining McCormick Barstow was that “firm associates were well aware of Fletcher’s troubling history with female, young associates,” the lawsuit said.

The final straw for Sedra was an incident on the day of the company’s Christmas party on December 10, 2021. According to the lawsuit, Fletcher invited Sedra to his office for drinks. They were alone and Sedra was unhappy. She tried to make small talk, but Fletcher kept trying to get closer to her. The girl was about 1 to 2 feet away, he grabbed her hips and pulled her to him.

“He was tall enough to force his face to her chest, and she felt his face against her head. He stood cold and afraid of what his next move would be, feeling that he was in complete control. He kept repeating in his head ‘don’t look up, don’t look up’ and didn’t move. He just held her and wasn’t sure she felt the sensation of him kissing her on the top of her head. For the Plaintiff, it felt like an eternity, but it may have been a minute or five as Fletcher just picked him up as he stood motionless. He was suddenly let go without further action,” according to the complaint.

That night Sedra talked to Denno about what happened and it was better to have a counselor in the office.

“The plaintiff felt strongly at that time that Denno was going to help him. The plaintiff will later realize that he could not be more wrong,” said the court.

Sedra later learned that Denno had not spoken with the company’s Human Resources office about the alleged harassment, the lawsuit states.

Minney said she was proud of Sedra’s courage to stand up and speak out against sexual violence against women.

“The behavior of McCormick Barstow in its handling of the situation involving one of its best partners with this young, female paralegal is reprehensible, especially considering how this firm portrays her as a pillar of the community — with respect and professionalism,” Minney said.

Sedra gave her two-week notice on January 21, 2022 when she learned that Fletcher had been promoted, despite allegations of sexual abuse surrounding her, according to the lawsuit.

Sedra is currently working in Sacramento as a lawyer.

According to Minney, this issue is not about extracting money from the company. Employers who are sexually active can keep the numbers confidential. That is why he is pushing for a jury trial.

“Decisions create change,” he said. “That’s what Abigail wants and I, as well as our whole team, are 100% invested in achieving that result. I’m interested in justice and not just sweeping this thing under the rug with a quick and easy solution.”

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A Valley native, Robert has worked for the Fresno Bee since 1994, covering a variety of topics including education, business and agriculture. He is doing justice.

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