Posted Oct. 9, 2007 - A Los Angeles judge threw out a sexual discrimination lawsuit filed against Laurence Fishburne by a disgruntled ex-employee.
Kristel Crews sued Fishburne in January 2006, claiming that the Oscar nominee, upset by the idea that her personal life would interfere with his schedule, fired her after she got pregnant. According to her complaint, Crews was hired as Fishburne's personal assistant in November 1999 to take care of the Matrix star's "personal and business needs." During her term of employment, she also worked as a "producer, collaborator and editor."
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Alleging sex discrimination, wrongful termination and breach of contract, Crews stated that Fishburne told her he didn't approve of single motherhood and suggested that there would be "consequences to her decision to have the baby without consulting him."
He planned to fire her on her due date, Dec. 31, 2004, according to Crews' complaint, but instead she gave birth prematurely in November and was notified shortly afterward by her boss' attorney that her services would no longer be needed as of Jan. 17, 2005, the day she was scheduled to return from maternity leave.
But the open flow of information apparently stopped there.
L.A. Superior Court Judge Mary Thornton House wrote in a decision dated Sept. 24 that Crews' legal camp had committed "discovery abuses of a nature" that "severely prejudiced" Fishburne by blacking out portions of employment records the plaintiff was ordered to turn over last year, claiming that the hidden info was personal and irrelevant to the case.
The judge determined that the crossed-out passages actually contained daily notes about work that Crew had either done or needed to do for Fishburne. "There exists no doubt these diaries comprise a business record and fit into the categories of records requested back in February 2006 and ordered produced in July 2006," House wrote.
The judge also cited complaints from Fishburne's attorneys that Crews' lawyer, Nikki Tolt, had provided them with requested documents saved on computer disks that had been "intentionally stripped of electronic codes so as to be rendered unusable."
Turning to retired Judge Alan Haber for advice on how to proceed, House accepted her fellow jurist's recommendation and directed Fishburne attorney David E. Fink to draw up an order for her to sign that would formally dismiss the case.
Tolt, meanwhile, has been sanctioned for what Fishburne's lawyers called "grossly improper litigation behavior" and ordered to pay more than $6,000 in record-copying costs to the 46-year-old actor.