Richard Nanula, who took a leave of absence from Colony Capital earlier this week amid the emergence of sexually explicit photos posted online, was the subject of a sexual harassment suit that a paralegal at his company filed in January.
Stephanie Shaw, hired as a temporary paralegal in February, 2011, and to a permanent position that June, claims that Colony “largely ignored” her complaints against Nanula and another, unnamed employee, and that she was then subject to retaliation and later terminated.
Colony Capital confirmed on Wednesday that Nanula had taken a leave of absence after photos surfaced on TheDirty.com of a man the site identified as Nanula having sex with a “porn star.” A spokeswoman for Colony said that he took a leave for “personal reasons,” but declined to elaborate.
A spokeswoman for Colony declined comment on the lawsuit. Shaw named Colony Advisors LLC and Nanula in her claim.
In her suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Jan. 30, she claims that in an incident a year earlier, on Jan. 30, 2012, she was “subjected to inappropriate workplace conduct.” The suit claims that she was having a conversation with a colleague “when she felt someone squeeze and grope her buttocks. This touching was unwelcome, extreme and offensive.”
“When she turned around [she] observed [Nanula] walking away, and then heard him say, ‘uh-oh’,” her suit states.
After the incident, she said that she attempted to refocus on her conversation with her workplace colleague, but she was too upset and returned to her desk. She said that she immediately reported the incident to her supervisor, Linda Bodenstein, then finished the work day and went home. But it was then, she says in the suit, that she began to “cry uncontrollably,” and began suffering from “insomnia and nightmares.”
According to her claim, she eventually confided with her fiance about the incident, and he encouraged her to report it to Colony’s human resources department. After submitting a written complaint, Shaw says that she was called into the human resources office to speak with the H.R. director, John Schroeder, and his associate, Katrina Clarkson. Schroeder told her that the complaint would be investigated. The next day, however, she says that Schroeder informed her that they had investigated her complaint but “they could not corroborate her account of events,” her suit states. Schroeder told her that the woman she had been talking to at the time of the incident did not recall any touching, and her supervisor recalled Shaw reporting the incident, but she “didn’t seem shaken.”
“At the conclusion of their meeting, Mr. Schroeder stated, ‘we hope you can get over it,’” her suit states.
Shaw says that after that, she continued to feel depressed, physically ill and suffered from nausea. She says a doctor prescribed medication and she began seeing a psychotherapist, while her work environment turned “hostile.” Her suit claims that on or about April 11, 2012, she stepped away from her desk to scan some documents and returned to find a document featuring about 20 cartoon drawings of female buttocks “with descriptive names under each cartoon.” When she looked up, she noticed another Colony employee “smirking at her.” Her suit does not identify the employee.
She reported that incident to human resources and asked Schroeder to investigate. Her suit claims that a doctor diagnosed her with post traumatic stress disorder stemming from the harassment, and she was placed on medical leave. But she was told by Colony that she was not eligible for federal family medical leave, and and had to use her own sick and vacation days to cover it. Her doctor sent another note to Schroeder stating that she continued to suffer stress and anxiety and could not return to work, but she was terminated on April 24, 2012, the suit states.
Her lawsuit claims sexual harassment, failure to provide family medical leave, intentional infliction of emotional distress, retaliation, wrongful termination, gender discrimination and failure to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The litigation was stayed pending binding arbitration.