A Los Angeles jury awarded more than $3 million to a former personal assistant of Hollywood producer Jon Peters on August 26, 2011, after finding she was sexually harassed and subjected to a hostile work environment during the making of “Superman Returns.” Shelly Morita sued the producer and his company, J.P. Organization Inc., in December 2006, alleging that the 66-year-old Peters “inappropriately touched her at his Malibu home, crawled into bed with her at an Australian hotel and exposed himself to her and her then-2-year-old daughter in an outdoor restroom at his Santa Barbara ranch,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The jury awarded the 44-year-old Morita $822,000 in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages, although Peters is expected to seek an appeal. LAist.com noted that the case is not the first time the producer has been sued for sexual harassment. He was sued by a male co-worker in 2008 for “touching him or touching himself,” and a maid claimed in 2007 that Peters “tried to touch her breasts and push her onto his bed while he was naked.” The LAist also added that previous to those cases, “a husband-and-wife pair who worked as servants at Peters’ Malibu beach house said they were fired when the wife became pregnant and refused to get an abortion.”
Peters has produced a number of successful films, including “Rain Man” and “The Color Purple,” but his past indiscretions should have made him familiar with what constitutes sexual harassment. His most recent case should serve as a reminder to all that impressive career accomplishments do not excuse quid pro quo sexual harassment or a hostile workplace on the part of any employer.
Law Offices of Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob – Los Angeles employment attorney