10:52am PT by Ashley Cullins
APA Tells Judge Ex-Agent's Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Is Extortion and Should Be Arbitrated
APA is asking a Los Angeles judge to move a sexual harassment complaint from an anonymous former agent into arbitration and claims her lawsuit is merely an extortion attempt.
An anonymous ex-agent in June sued the agency, CEO Jim Gosnell and agents Paul Santana and Josh Humiston. She says APA is a "sexually abusive environment" and she was repeatedly harassed by the two agents, including receiving graphic text messages. The woman also claims Gosnell had violent mood swings and threw things at her while she was working as his assistant. She says her claims to HR fell on deaf ears and she was told "boys will be boys."
On Tuesday, the agency fired back in a motion to compel arbitration and characterized Jane Doe's lawsuit as part of an "unabashed attempt to extort" the company in an attempt "to obtain a windfall through fabricated evidence." APA says Doe tried to "blackmail" the company into paying her more money while she was still an employee and that her previous lawyers demanded "tens of millions of dollars" from the agency.
"In keeping with the strong public policy favoring arbitration, Plaintiff’s Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate all disputes arising out of her employment with APA should be enforced," writes attorney Adam Levin. "It is a valid and enforceable agreement, and it encompasses the claims and issues Plaintiff has raised against Defendants."
Attached as an exhibit is a declaration from Joanne Johnson, the APA HR rep who Doe says ignored her complaints. She identifies the woman who she believes filed the lawsuit, although her name is redacted from the filing, and she claims Doe signed a mutual agreement to arbitrate when she was hired with the company.
Doe's attorney Michael Popok says the motion isn't a "magic bullet" and he believes the language of the arbitration provision goes against public policy in California by shifting too much of the cost and burden onto the employee. He also intends to pursue defamation claims because of statements APA has made to the press about his client. "They want to attack her in the media, but they also want to scramble back behind the closed private door of arbitration," he says. "It doesn't work that way."
APA also says it previously filed an arbitration demand against Doe for extortion, defamation, appropriation of name and likeness and abuse of process. The agency also says it had a retired California Supreme Court Justice and a forensics analyst evaluate emails and texts Doe has cited as evidence. APA says their experts determined the emails were manipulated, but couldn't "confirm its suspicions" about the texts. In what is presumably an effort to show a pattern of behavior, APA tells the court Doe manufactured evidence in an unrelated 2011 legal dispute and had a $500,000 judgment entered against her.
"This retired judge that they used to investigate did not have the benefit of having a forensic audit of all of their servers, all of their hard drives," says Popok. "We will. We’ve already given them a notice to preserve all this evidence. We’re going to find these documents. She did not create and conjure up text messages."
Popok adds that the previous case is irrelevant, is being misrepresented and including mention of it in the filing puts his client's anonymity at risk. "They’re trying to tear down the credibility of the victim," he says. "She is a Jane Doe and that they are pointing the press to information that would lead to her identity being unveiled I find appalling and unethical."
Popok also says multiple women have called him since the lawsuit was filed. “Three separate people have said, 'We don’t know who it is, we don’t care. We don’t like the way she’s being attacked and something like this happened to me,'" says Popok. "They’re going to testify."
July 17, 11:25 a.m. Updated with statements from Jane Doe's attorney.