A man who started a nonprofit writing center is suing a former member in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging she defamed him by saying he was sexist and bullied members.
The suit brought by Paul Shirley, founder and executive director of Writers Blok Inc., against Maylin Tu additionally alleges intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the complaint filed Friday.
“(Tu’s) wrongful and outrageous conduct has deprived WBI and Shirley of much-needed revenue and support during the current pandemic, where organizations of all shapes and sizes struggle to survive and lost revenues due to (her) conduct put WBI at serious peril,” the suit alleges.
A representative for Tu could not be immediately reached for comment.
WBI hosts in-person guided sessions for writers seeking to make progress on various projects, either professional or personal, and charges a monthly subscription fee entitling members to join sessions and attend events hosted by the company, according to the lawsuit, which says Tu joined in January 2019.
After Shirley posted an image in a story on WBI’s Instagram account in September 2019, Tu sent WBI a message via Instagram stating the post was “sexist and objectifying,” according to the suit, which does not state the content of the post.
As a result of Tu’s unhappiness, Shirley ended Tu’s membership, refunded her last payment and suggested via email the names of other writing groups which he thought would be better suited to her needs, according to his court papers.
Over the course of the following weeks, Tu sent a copy of the termination email in private messages and posts to private social media groups in an effort to disparage Shirley, encouraging others to cancel their WBI memberships, the suit alleges.
Shirley and Tu met and she told him she was not happy with WBI and that he reminded her of an ex-boyfriend with whom her relationship ended badly, the suit alleges.
For the next year, Tu wrote a series of stories and posted them online in forums such as Facebook and Medium, falsely accusing Shirley of racism, sexism, abuse and bullying, the suit alleges. Samples of the false accusations posted included, “He’s bullied, shamed and emotionally abused members and staff at Writers Blok” and that he will “continue to punch down and women of color will suffer disproportionately,” the suit states.
The posts caused Shirley to receive calls, texts, emails and cancellations from customers, vendors and business partners who reacted negatively to the allegations, according to his court papers.
Tu also send messages via social media platforms and emails to various individuals associated with Shirley and WBI, making the same allegations and causing some recipients scheduled to participate in events promoting or assisting WBI to rescind their offers of assistance, the suit alleges.
False accusations that one is a racist, bigot, sexist, bully or abuser can have serious consequences, the plaintiff’s court papers say.
“Even the mere allegation that one can be characterized by any of these terms can cause an immense amount of detriment, both personally and professionally, in today’s society,” the suit says.
Shirley estimates that 25 WBI members canceled their subscriptions and an unknown number of prospective members were dissuaded from joining WBI as members as a result of Tu’s posts, the suit states.
In late July, Shirley’s lawyer sent Tu three requests via email and regular mail to cease and desist her actions, but instead of responding, she provided at least one of letters to a colleague who published a story on Medium regarding Tu’s receipt of the letter, entitled, “Misogyny, Control and Mistreatment: A Look Inside Writers Blok,” the suit states.
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