SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – Scott Johnson, the quadriplegic attorney who has sued more than 2,100 businesses for violating his civil rights, finds himself on the receiving end of a lawsuit that sheds harsh light on his legal practice.
Four former legal assistants employed by Johnson, all women, have filed suit in Sacramento County Superior Court claiming sexual harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
According to the complaint, all four women claim they were fired or otherwise forced out of their jobs at Johnson’s Carmichael home office this summer for complaining about the hostile work environment.
The plaintiffs are Jenna Doeuk and Esra Jones, both 5-year employees; Monthica Kem, a 4-year employee; and Micaela Lucas, who worked for Johnson for a year-and-a-half.
The women said they were only allowed to work as legal assistants after they spent approximately two weeks in “personal care training” learning to dress and undress their boss.
They claim their duties included placing Johnson in a hot tub and rubbing lotion on his body.
The women said the intimate contact made them uncomfortable, but that they were initially afraid to complain for fear of retaliation.
The lawsuit also claims the women were constantly under video surveillance, which included a camera aimed at the restroom to monitor how much time they spent there.
When it came time to hire staff, Jenna Doeuk, the most senior assistant involved in the lawsuit, said Johnson told her not to interview “men, ugly women and anyone over 30,” regardless of their qualifications.
The former legal assistants also offer insight into allegations that contrary to his claims, Johnson never personally visited many of the businesses he has sued under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
The women said they would accompany Johnson in his van for “field work” during which he would send them into a business as customers to look for ADA violations.
“He would call such actions a visit to the property even if he never left the van,” the lawsuit claims.
The women said they were uncomfortable going into a business under a ruse and felt as though they were committing fraud, but said they were paid a bonus for the field work.
The lawsuit also claims Johnson recruited and subsidized rent for disabled students who lived in apartment complexes he was interested in suing.
The former legal assistants are seeking an unspecified money judgment against Johnson along with a court order that he discontinue conduct alleged in the lawsuit.
Johnson did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.
Former federal prosecutor and veteran criminal attorney Bill Portanova read the complaint and called the allegations, “very serious.”
“If these people had been hired to be nursemaids to him, that would be one thing. But when they’re young, professional students in law school, looking to be law clerks,and they’re hired to be law students but they’re forced to go through two weeks of naked, physical handling of the boss, I can honestly say I’ve never heard of that happening in any law office,” Portanova said.
As for never personally visiting many of the businesses he sued, Portanova said the legal action could shed new light on Johnson’s ADA lawsuits.
“(In) cases that are active right now, attorneys and purported defendants are probably going to take a much closer look at what they’ve been accused of before they give in and just pay the price to settle these lawsuits,” Portanova said.