WASHINGTON (CN) – A woman claims in court that her attorneys at Bernabei & Wachtel used a secret recording she made of her supervisor sexually harassing her for a separate retaliation case against her employer, landing her private recording on the news and YouTube.
Jane Roe sued Bernabei & Wachtel, Lynne Bernabei and Meixing Ren, her coworker at Phoenix Satellite Television. She seeks damages for copyright infringement, racketeering, and violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Roe claims that she used her iPhone to capture a 5-minute audiovisual recording of her supervisor sexually harassing her. She says the recording helped her win a settlement with her employer.
But Ren, who made a copy of the video during the dispute, gave his copy to the law firm, and with a few other coworkers sued Phoenix TV for retaliating against them for participating in the sexual harassment dispute, Roe claims.
“Shortly after the complaint was filed in the employee lawsuit, defendants Bernabei and B&W began an extremely aggressive public relations campaign against the employer, the centerpiece of which was plaintiff’s video recording of her sexual assault,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff’s video was shared with numerous media outlets without authorization.”
Roe claims she had nothing do to do with the second lawsuit, but the law firm’s aggressive public relations campaign, aimed at taking down Phoenix TV, dragged her into the public eye.
The complaint states: “First, defendants publicly shared plaintiff’s copyrighted video, containing the extremely private moments of her emotional sexual harassment, entirely without her consent. On information and belief, the video was posted on YouTube, released to local television stations and otherwise liberally shared with numerous third parties, without any authorization to do so. The video ‘went viral,’ being copied or displayed hundreds of thousands of times on numerous digital devices, such that there is now no chance that the video will ever be completely removed from public display.”
Roe says she copyrighted the video to protect it from being released, and that the fair market value of it exceeds $10,000.
She claims the firm and Ren released the video to win a bigger settlement from her employer, a move that violates civil RICO laws.
“Defendants intentionally and knowingly created the public relations campaign against the employer for the purposes of bolstering the employee lawsuit and generating substantial financial benefits for each of the named defendants. Defendants’ campaign was initiated without obtaining the consent of plaintiff, because defendants knew that plaintiff would never agree to have her emotionally scarring sexual harassment video broadcast to the world,” the complaint states. (10)
Embarrassment aside, the woman says she’s lost money from having her copyrighted recording distributed.
She wants $100,000 in compensatory damages and punitive damages to be determined at trial.
She is represented by Eric Menhart of Lexero Law.
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