A former producer at a Burbank-based studio is suing her ex-employer, alleging she was forced to quit in 2020 because she worked in an environment in which her boss said he needed to “fire, bribe or strangle” his female employees to get them to do what he wanted.
Scarlet Sheppard’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Gen Z Studios LLC and her former supervisor, Joseph Lackey, alleges gender discrimination and harassment, whistleblower retaliation and failure to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation. She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit brought Friday.
Neither Lackey nor a representative for Gen Z Studios could be immediately reached.
Sheppard was hired at Gen Z in mid-2018 as a producer, and her duties included writing, camera operation, scheduling talent and acting, according to her suit.
“Throughout her employment, plaintiff performed consistently and met company expectations,” the suit states.
Sheppard began wearing a mask at the office in March 2020 because of the coronavirus, prompting Lackey to ask during her regular Monday morning work meetings, “Are you sick?,” according to the suit.
Sheppard answered that she was taking precautions due to the pandemic and expected others, including Lackey, to also do so, but he instead would make light of it and often brought people into the studio who wore no face coverings, the suit states.
When Sheppard complained that the maskless visitors posed a health risk to herself and her colleagues, Lackey referred to her as “psychotic,” treating her in a way he never did with male employees, the suit states.
In August 2020, Lackey increased his harassment of Sheppard, telling her during a lunch break that she ate like a trucker and he was surprised she was able to maintain her figure, the suit states.
That same month, Sheppard overheard Lackey say, “I don’t know what to do to get these girls to do the (expletive) I want them to do, I need to fire, bribe or strangle them,” the suit states.
Sheppard, appalled by the alleged Lackey comments, made an internal complaint the next day and subsequently told Lackey that she was unhappy about what he said, the suit states.
Lackey “vehemently denied making these statements and claimed that Ms. Sheppard was a cancer that needed to be removed, that she was bipolar and had a low IQ,” according to the suit.
Lackey, in alleged retaliation for her complaint, degraded Sheppard’s psychological well-being, stating, “I think Ms. Sheppard was molested and that is why she is sick in the head,” the suit states.
After Lackey’s alleged remark, Sheppard immediately quit, and she has suffered wage losses as well as emotional distress, the suit states.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: