D.C. hairstylist Andre Chreky settles harassment lawsuit for $7 million

By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

D.C. hairstylist Andre Chreky, whose salon has been one of power Washington's premier establishments for more than a decade, settled a sexual harassment claim filed by a former employee for $7 million on Friday, U.S. District Court records show. The settlement comes five months after a federal court jury found him guilty of harassing another employee, awarding her $2.3 million.

The two cases, filed by former employees Jennifer Thong and Ronnie Barrett, vindicate their claims of years of rough-hewn sexual advances and retaliation when those advances were rebuffed, said Deborah S. Katz, Barrett's attorney. It also comes as a blow to the reputation of Chreky and the salon that bears his name. He was once the hairdresser to first lady Laura Bush, and Washingtonian magazine once called his shop at 16th and K streets NW "far and away Washington's most popular salon."

It was not immediately clear how much of the $9.3 million will be paid, however, since Chreky filed for bankruptcy several weeks ago. His trial for allegedly harassing Thong was scheduled to start Monday before U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, but was preempted by the settlement agreement late Friday.

"We don't know what this $7 million is going to mean, and we don't know what our $2.3 million is going to mean," Katz said. "We're in litigation before the bankruptcy court on that now." She noted that in the Barrett trial Chreky had stipulated that his net worth was $6 million.

Chreky's attorney, John M. Bredehoft, did not immediately return phone calls placed to his office Monday. Thong and her attorney, Jonathan Rose, also did not return calls.

Thong's lawsuit included several graphic allegations of abuse, including an instance in the salon's kitchen in which she said Chreky ripped her underwear off with such force that it left a bruise, and a 2005 incident in his office in which she said that Chreky "got on top of her . . . grabbed her skirt, tore it . . . Mr. Chreky unzipped his pants" and attempted to force intercourse.

Chreky denied those allegations, portraying Barrett and Thong as bitter ex-employees. He said Thong was retaliating for a lawsuit he filed against her after she left his salon and opened another shop nearby.

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