Immigrant Accuses Visa Sponsor of Sexual Assault | NBC Bay Area

Immigrant Accuses Visa Sponsor of Sexual Assault

Exigen CEO allegedly threatened to revoke visa if sexual demands weren't satisfied by employee

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    Immigrant Accuses Visa Sponsor of Sexual Assault
    Courtesy Photo
    Iryna Kharchenko in a photo provided by counsel to the press.

    Iryna Kharchenko came to the United States from the Ukraine on an H-1B visa sponsored by local company Exigen to work as an executive assistant for CEO Greg Shenkman, but instead found only threats and abuse according to a suit Kharchenko filed in San Francisco Superior Court.

    Shenkman expected much more than just administrative help, she alleges.  The suit details a litany of incidents where he expected her to be both professionally and sexually available to him at all times -- or else:

    Once he had her in the United States, Defendant Shenkman treated Ms. Kharchenko as his sexual plaything, knowing that her presence in the United States was tied to her employment with Exigen because she held an H-1B visa, which permitted her to only work for the host company.

    The tale detailed in the suit reads like a litany of the abuses possible under employer-sponsored visas like the H-1B, which allows trained professionals to legally live and work in the United States provided they are sponsored by a local company.

    Technology firms across the Bay Area spend millions lobbying Congress each to raise the quota on H-1B hires.

    Kharchenko's lawyers says she feared that if she lost her job, she would have to return to the Ukraine, where she would be subjected to similar treatment -- but without recourse.

    It was her belief that after years of hard work earning a degree in the Ukraine, America would be a chance to escape a culture of misogyny where she could find opportunity as a professional.

    Instead, shortly after filing a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing in September, she was fired.

    Among the demands for relief from counts including sexual battery and wrongful termination, Kharchenko is asking the court to require Exigen to train employees in the details of the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the company's internal grievance procedures.

    Jackson West is a big fan of due process.