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Studio Writer Settles Sexual Harassment Suit

A writer has settled her lawsuit against a Burbank animation studio in which she alleged she was fired in 2020 for making complaints about being sexually harassed by the company’s CEO.

The plaintiff is identified only as Jane Doe in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit brought in May 2021 against Thunderbolt Pictures LLC, its related company, Gas Money Pictures, and the firm’s CEO James Bills, alleging 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.

Thunderbolt attorneys filed court papers Monday with Judge Richard Fruin, stating that an accord was reached, but no terms were divulged. In their court papers, defense attorneys denied any liability on the part of their clients and said Doe’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations. Doe dropped Bills as a defendant on Feb. 21.

In her suit, Doe said 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 allegedly talked about his relationship with his girlfriend and said they had sex three to four times daily.

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 alleged.

Bills often showed Doe nude photos of his girlfriend and frequently embraced the plaintiff, telling her, “Give me a hug or I will hate you forever,” according to her court papers. He also told her, “You have got a great body,” “You look fantastic” and “You are gorgeous,” the suit alleged.

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 alleged.

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 stated.

Doe said she complained to management in September 2020 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 alleged.

Doe maintained that she continued to experience a hostile work environment until she was wrongfully fired for complaining about her work conditions.

First published in the July 29 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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