NEW YORK — An eight-person jury of the Supreme Court of the State of New York here Thursday found art director Sam Shahid and his ad agency, Shahid & Co., liable for sexual harassment against former employee, Mladen Djankovich, who was awarded $70,000 in a civil claim.
Djankovich, 23, had been seeking $10 million in compensatory damages on each of six counts and another $10 million in punitive damages from Shahid, who, for more than 15 years, has been one of the most well known and most provocative art directors in the world of fashion and publishing, having presided over many of the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs and ads, as well as the Calvin Klein campaigns of the late Eighties and early Nineties.
The counts included defamation and false imprisonment, but the jury dismissed the other charges and found Shahid and his company liable for the sole count of sexual harassment. Damages were awarded by Judge Carol Edmead.
Djankovich first made the acquaintance of Shahid in 1998. While a student at Indiana University, he won an Abercrombie & Fitch marketing contest called the “mad plaid contest,” in which contestants were asked to find a novel use for plaid and send in a photo of themselves.
Djankovich was flown to Miami by the company, where he was photographed by Bruce Weber for the A&F catalog sitting shirtless in a shopping cart, his feet curled up to his chest, with a young woman standing above him suggestively. Shahid and Co. gave him a six-week internship that summer, and a job followed when he graduated from college in 1999.
But nine months after moving to New York, Djankovich returned from a two-week vacation in Mexico and abruptly announced that he was resigning. For a while, no one heard from him.
In April, however, Djankovich filed a suit against Shahid claiming sexual harassment. In court last week, two former employees from Shahid and Co. testified that Shahid had made inappropriate comments to Djankovich in the office and was outwardly physical with him.
The defense, meanwhile, produced a letter sent by Djankovich to Shahid following his internship in an attempt to show he’d flirted his way into the job. “Sam,” it read. “It truly is impossible for me to put into words my appreciation for your kindness, your guidance and your friendship. I have always had a need to go beyond myself, a need to be unique. You make that possible for me not only by the opportunity to share in your creativity here at the company but on a personal level as well. I thought of many gifts to show you how often I think of you… all well beyond my means at this point in my life. Just know that gifts would pile to the ceiling as examples of my feelings for you, Sam. Your presence gives me an intensity, the likes of which I’ve never felt before. I hope I can bring you a fraction of the delight you bring into my life.”
Lawyers for both parties did not return calls Thursday seeking comment on the case’s outcome.