A writer who sue a Burbank animation studio, alleging she was fired in 2020 for complaining that she was sexually harassed by the company’s CEO, won a round in court Monday when her former boss’ attorney accepted service of the complaint.
The plaintiff is identified only as Jane Doe in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit brought against Thunderbolt Pictures LLC, its related company, Gas Money Pictures, and CEO James L. Bills.
Bills’ attorney, Bret D. Lewis, filed court papers July 20 seeking to quash the service of the summons on grounds that the papers were not given to Bills personally or to a member of his household. However, in a hearing Monday morning before Judge Richard Fruin, Lewis said he would accept service of the papers on behalf of Bills.
Doe’s attorney, Matt E. O. Finkelberg, told the judge that Lewis was conducting “gamesmanship” and that the issue should have been resolved without the lawyers having to come to court.
Outside the courtroom after the hearing, Finkelberg said he is proud to represent Doe and looks forward to being with her through the end of the case, in which she alleges sexual battery and assault, gender violence, sexual harassment, discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment, negligence and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Doe says she was hired in June 2020 and was required to meet with Bills in his office two to three times a week to discuss an ongoing project. During her second meeting with Bills, he talked about his relationship with his girlfriend and said that they had sex three to four times daily, the suit alleges.
Bills also told Doe, “I was a swinger for over 20 years” and “I told you I have a thing for short women,” an apparent reference to the plaintiff, who is 5-foot-1, the suit alleges.
Bills often showed Doe nude photos of his girlfriend and he frequently embraced the plaintiff, telling her, “Give me a hug or I will hate you forever,” according to her court papers. She also alleges he told her, “You have got a great body,” “You look fantastic” and “You are gorgeous.”
Bills once texted her saying, “At some point I’m sure we’ll trade phones and see what is truly inappropriate. Oh, the secrets of my deleted bin,” the suit alleges.
According to the complaint, Doe wrote in her journal in July 2020 that Bills “talks to me sexually showing me pictures of women who send him their pictures, but he has a girlfriend. I feel awkward, disappointed for him to cross a line and talk sexually.”
The plaintiff also penned in her journal that she is “writing a female empowerment script while getting sexually harassed by boss while raising a daughter,” the suit says.
Doe says she complained to management last September about Bills’ alleged misconduct and initially got a sympathetic response. But when she complained of sexual harassment again later that month and what she believed was a lack of corrective action, management retaliated by no longer including her in meetings, the suit alleges.
Doe alleges she continued to experience a hostile work environment up until she was wrongfully fired for complaining about her work conditions and continues to suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, loss of sleep, migraines, stress and severe emotional distress as a result.