Disability Rights Lawyer Scott Johnson Sued For Sex Harassment
A California attorney who was paralyzed by a drunken driver in a hit-and-run accident has been on a long crusade to force businesses to become more accessible to the disabled, suing more than 2,100 of them over the past decade. Now he's become the target of a lawsuit himself, reports KXTV in Sacramento, with four his former legal assistants accusing him of sexual harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Scott Johnson has made a lot of enemies over the years. Critics accuse him of making hundreds of thousands of dollars under the guise of a civil rights campaign and forcing some businesses to close their doors -- businesses like the beloved burger stand, Ford's Real Hamburgers. It shut down last weekend in Sacramento after Johnson filed suit and its owners said they couldn't afford to make its bathroom more accessible. Some have even accused Johnson of being a "vexatious litigant" -- someone who files meritless lawsuits as a form of harassment.
But most have agreed that Johnson's campaign, no matter how frustrating it may have been to businesses, was perfectly legal.
But what wasn't legal was how Johnson treated staffers, allege four of his former female legal assistants. They say that they were fired or forced out of their jobs for complaining about what they call a hostile work environment.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that the women were under constant video surveillance on the job, including in the restroom, and that when Doeuk was tasked with hiring new staff, Johnson told her not to interview, "men, ugly women and anyone over 30."
While all this made the women uncomfortable, the lawsuit says, they didn't speak out for fear of retaliation.
The women's claims also support allegations by some of Johnson's critics. Some business owners who were sued by Johnson say that charges that he was treated unequally and made to feel humiliated at their businesses were phony -- even if it was true that their premises didn't comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. According to his former assistants, Johnson didn't even leave his vehicle when visiting many of the places that he sued.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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