Hollywood Producer to Pay Former Assistant Over $3M in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

September 20, 2011

In recent Los Angeles, California employment news, Jon Peters, the 66-year old Hollywood producer of films such as "Flashdance," "The Color Purple," and "Batman," has been ordered by a Los Angeles jury to pay his former assistant over $3 million in damages after being sued for sexual harassment.

According to the lawsuit, Shelly Morita accused Peters of failure to prevent sexual harassment, and creating a hostile work environment while she worked as an assistant for Peters and his company, J.P. Organization Inc., from February of 2005 for one year.

Morita claimed in the trial that she established her reputation of being a reliable assistant by being willing to perform just about any task for her employers. Morita was an experienced personal assistant before she started working for Peters in 2005, having been previously employed by celebrities like Marisa Tomei, Justine Bateman, Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Connelly.

Peters reportedly hired Morita in 2005, demanding long hours and a six-day workweek--which required her to hire a babysitter to take care of her then 2-year-old daughter. Morita stated that Peters was happy with her work, even giving her $10,000 as a bonus in appreciation of her work.

According to the Daily Breeze, the alleged sexual harassment began before a film shoot in Australia with inappropriate fondling, when Morita would dial the phone on his behalf to make business phone calls. Morita also described the shocking experience of waking up in her hotel room during the Australia trip to find Peters lying next to her in bed during the night. The two were staying in separate rooms of a two-bedroom suite and Peters reportedly asked if he could be in the bed next to Morita, as he was lonely and couldn't sleep. Morita claims that she repeatedly asked him to leave.

Morita described another incident where Peters smoked a marijuana cigarette in a car with other people and pressured Morita to take a puff. When she refused, Peters allegedly leaned over and pushed his face against her mouth, blowing smoke, then laughing. Other alleged incidents included an inappropriate naked bear hug from the producer, as well as an incident where Peters allegedly exposed himself to her and her daughter who was then 2, in an outdoor restroom in his house in Santa Barbara.

After these alleged incidents of sexual harassment, Morita claims to have started a new job search, but was unsuccessful, as she claims that Peters used his Hollywood connections against her. Morita continued to work for Peters, claiming that she endured the sexual harassment because she did not have enough savings to quit the job. Eventually she was able to find a new job at a law firm.

The jury, comprised of nine women and three men, awarded Morita with $822,000 in compensatory damages, including emotional distress and lost wages, finding that Peters acted with malice towards her. In the second phase of the trial, the same panel awarded Morita $2.5 million.

Morita claimed that she was pleased with the outcome after the five-year-old Los Angeles, Hollywood sexual harassment ordeal came to an end. She claimed that as a 44-year old single mom, she believes other women who have been sexually harassed should come forward despite the stress of going through the lawsuit and trial. Morita claimed that her former employer acted out of malice, and he should be punished to ensure that this type of treatment will not happen again.

In cities throughout Orange County, California, contact our experienced employment attorneys today for a free consultation, at Howard Law, PC.

Producer Ordered to Pay Over $3 Million to Former Assistant, Rafu--Los Angeles Japanese Daily News, August 29, 2011

Assistant testifies producer Jon Peters 'crawled into bed with her', Daily Breeze, August 12, 2011

Producer Jon Peters ordered to pay $3M in sexual harassment suit, ABC Local News, August 27, 2011

Related Web Resources:

California Department of Industrial Relations, (DIR)

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