Disney Employee Accuses Company of Covering Up Sexual Assault by Former Exec in New Lawsuit

The plaintiff, listed as a Jane Doe, accuses the company of retaliating against her for complaining

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In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, a Disney employee claimed she was sexually assaulted by a former executive, only to have the company retaliate against her after reporting him amid a larger pattern of sexual misconduct.

The suit names Disney, former vice president of distribution Nolan Gonzales, Searchlight and 20th Century as defendants.

The plaintiff, who is listed as a Jane Doe, says that starting in 2015, soon after she was hired, Gonzales, who at the time was an executive director, started sexually harassing her.

Representatives for Disney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap. Gonzales could not be reached.

According to the plaintiff, Gonzales escalated this behavior over time, “incessantly” asking her on dates. She declined these requests and says he then attempted to guilt her into accepting by implying he could help her career.

By 2016, the suit alleges, the plaintiff had been warned by other Disney employees that Gonzales was well known for such behavior, but nothing was ever done.

“Management was incentivized to hide Gonzales’ harassment because he generated valuable revenue as the director of distribution. Management did not escalate concerns to human resources and created an environment in which Gonzales was free to harass women with impunity,” the suit says. “Women were discouraged to come forward about his behaviors because management seemingly accepted Gonzales’ conduct as being part of the entertainment industry, and his firing would hurt the company financially.”

The plaintiff claimed that the harassment continued into 2017, first at a company conference in Las Vegas where Gonzales “begged her to have sex with him in her room.” She declined and says she did not report the incident because she was unsure who to trust. “Management was already aware of Gonzales’ lascivious nature, and he constantly reminded her that he was good friends with them,” the suit says.

This culminated, the suit claims, with Gonzales coercing her into a sexual relationship soon after being promoted to VP of distribution at Searchlight. He began providing her with drugs, which the plaintiff believed were MDMA and GHB, “so that he could sexually abuse her with limited resistance or questioning,” according to the documents.

The plaintiff said she attempted to cut off all contact with Gonzales in May 2018, and “in retaliation, he told other employees that he had sex with her.” She didn’t complain at the time but, the suit says, in November 2018 she complained to Disney’s human resources department. “To her knowledge, her complaints were not investigated or escalated,” the suit claims.

By 2022, “many people in management were aware” of the matter, according to the lawsuit. At one point, the “plaintiff overheard a chairperson at Disney say that Gonzales was a pervert and that other women at the company felt the same way.”

The suit says that Gonzales left the company — “Gonzales ‘retired’ from his position,” it says — after three other women came forward later in 2022 to complain about his behavior. The plaintiff claimed that in 2023, the company retaliated against her by demoting her, using the mass layoffs that year as an excuse. The suit also says that the plaintiff was diagnosed with an unspecified medical problem related to her experiences, and that Disney refused to accommodate her needs.

The lawsuit requests a jury trial, and seeks unspecified general and specific damages, exemplary damages, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest, statuatory damages, coverage of legal fees and declaratory relief as determined at trial.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

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