Ex-employee files harassment lawsuit against ChaCha

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A former employee of ChaCha Search Inc. has sued the Carmel firm, claiming the owner’s wife harassed her for suspected infidelity with her husband, and that the company failed to prevent the harassment and a “sexually hostile” work environment.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in an Indianapolis federal court, focuses on a period in July 2013 when the wife of ChaCha founder Scott Jones came to conclude that he was having an affair with then-employee Renee Larr.

According to Larr's lawsuit, Jones’ wife, Vee Jones, confronted Larr at ChaCha's office on July 17 and both shouted at her and threatened her. Vee Jones claimed that Larr was "sleeping with" Scott Jones, which Larr says is untrue.

Over the next several days, Vee Jones used her Twitter account, which had more than 50,000 followers, to repeatedly threaten and disparage Larr.

Larr subsequently quit her job, according to the lawsuit, "due to the unimaginable condition of having to work for an employer [whose wife] conducted such a malicious and hostile campaign toward her.

“The sexual harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive that it altered the conditions of Larr’s employment and created an intimidating, hostile, offensive, and abusive working environment,” the suit alleges.

On top of the allegations that the CEO’s wife harassed Larr, the lawsuit claims ChaCha “received notice and knew, or should have known, that Larr would be sexually harassed.” And the company failed to prevent the harassment, which created a hostile work environment, the suit says.

The suit does not specify a dollar amount in damages it seeks. But it requests compensation for Larr’s lost wages and benefits, as well as damages for the “mental anguish and consequential harm she suffered.”

The lawsuit claims ChaCha violated the Civil Rights Act.

In an interview with IBJ on Thursday, Scott Jones said that the company did nothing wrong.

“[Larr] may have an issue with my wife, and that’s a separate issue," Jones said.

In September, Larr filed a separate case against Vee Jones in state court in Noblesville. The case remains open.

Regarding the new, federal case against ChaCha, Larr’s attorney, James A. Goodin, declined to comment beyond what was stated in the lawsuit.

According to the suit, Vee Jones had begun posting items on Twitter on July 16 about her suspicion that Scott Jones was having an affair with an employee. The suit also asserts that Scott Jones knew that his wife suspected Larr. However, Jones did not inform Larr.

On July 17, ChaCha's director of human resources told Larr at work that Vee Jones suspected her. Larr allegedly was told that the doors to ChaCha would be locked, and that Vee Jones would not be allowed entrance to the premises. However, Jones was able to gain access to the building.

After being confronted by Vee Jones with an offensive tirade, Larr asked other ChaCha employees to call the police. She was told that the police would not be called unless employees had permission from Scott Jones, who was not on premises at that time, the suit says.

ChaCha failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the harassment once it knew, or should have known, that Larr would be targeted, the suit charges.



  • Apprently Courtney Love already won a case like this
    http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4688426 In January of this year, Courtney love was sued for defamation using twitter. Her lawyers tried gettig the case dismissed but the judge had it go to trial with jury. The only thing VeeVee has to prove is she in fact believe that her husband and Renee were having an affair. Whether it's true or not is irrelevant. It's her twitter and if she believes something is going on, she may tweet about it. Renee's lawyer will have a hard time trying to prove that VeeVee did it knowing it to be false. And that she's just doing it to be malicious. If Renee wins this case against, it would be a first of its kind and set the stage for laws that will require every single person on social media to be careful of what they say. But since this is America, anyone can sue anyone for anything. Imagine if you have a nephew or a son... Or a child who called someone a name on social media, could they sue the parents for defamation since the child is a minor? What's criminal for adults will be criminal for minors as well. I don't agree with what she did, I wouldn't have done it myself. But she I would rather side on the right to free speech on what you believe, truth or not.
  • "Almighty Indy"??
    Hmmm..... never heard Indy described as "almighty" before. Where is ROBO from, Gnawbone?
  • Great Twitter Feed
    Until I read this column, I thought the ChaCha business model was the funniest thing about this company.
  • Crazy Wife, Crazy Life...
    Man, Scott's wife is a pistol.
  • Coverage Geek
    I suspect that this case, since it was filed separately from the state court case against Mrs. Jones, is all about trying to collect from the insurance company that underwrites ChaCha's employment practices liability insurance. If Larr's lawyers already know (or find out) that Mrs. Jone's allegations about the affair are true, then Larr has no case against Mrs. Jones. This gives Larr another avenue, because she still might be able to argue that a hostile working environment existed and ultimately reach a settlement paid for by the insurance company. Actually, if the lawyers didn't pursue this angle, she might sue them for malpractice and get some money that way. One takeaway here is that the employee manual has to apply to the CEO too.
  • Slander and Libel
    Free speech does not include publication, orally or in writing, of defamatory statements that result in real harm. On another note, I have never understood why people go after the person their spouse allegedly cheated with rather than the spouse. Attacking the current liaison isn't going to put a halt to the next one. Quit hanging on to the loser and have some self respect... leave the person and be done with it. Lastly, I agree... I hardly see where this is "news"... more like gossip. I guess it could affect Scott's ability to lead the company, however. Since life at home will be less than pleasant.
    • Time to grow up
      Michelle, 1. Yes, you can sue anyone for virtually anything. That doesn't mean you will win, but you can initiate the lawsuit. 2.Freedom of Speech prevents the government (emphasis on government)from preventing you from speaking - particularly political speech. It does not protect you from the being civilly liable for your speech, being fired from your job, or getting punched in the nose. 3. You are correct: Calling someone a whore on twitter could result in civil liability if the subject of the tweet brought legal action. Now - as to the merits of this case: If Cha-Cha knew there was going to be a problem and did little to prevent it, including not calling authorities when an employee was being threatened, there may be a case.
    • speach
      Freedom of speech only protects you from the government. If you say stupid things on the internet you are free to do so, but you are not free from the consequences of your actions.
    • Apparently you can sue for anything
      Apparently you have to be careful what you say publicly or you might get sued? Sure VeeVee went on a tirade, so what? She doesn't have the right to complain about someone who she thinks is sleeping with her husband? Why does she have to do it privately? With twitter being accessable to kids, what would happen if your child who's 18 called someone a whore on twitter? Should they get sued also? People need to consider freedom of speech here. Apparently Renee contacted a lawyer ASAP... There's no way a federal judge would grant Renee compensation for VeeVee's tweet. If that was the case, anyone can sue for someone posting on social media
      • Wha?
        No one could call police without Jones' permission? What kind of clown show HR department do they have over there? Geez...what a complete and utter embarrassment of a company...this story speaks volumes about the culture and Jones' "leadership."
      • "Who Cares"
        This would be a non issue in any other venue. Just because its Scott Jones of almighty INDY its an issue? I notice there are no apologies from Mr. Jones for his wife's actions at least on this report. What gives INDY? We all have more important things to read about than this non eventful story.
      • Really blaming the woman
        I agree it is not a good thing to sleep with a married man but BOTH OF THEM are responsible not just the woman who worked for Mr. Jones. Don't be such a cave man a blame the woman. Mr. Jones wife should NOT have used a public formatt to vent her scorn she should have been an adult and dealt with this off the work sight. Mrs. Jones had been warned not to tweet?!! Very unprofessional of all of them! Sue away, I hope she wins for being harrassed like that at work by one or both of them in the big picture. That is what happens when you mess with a crumb and you are the upper crust....
      • Twitter @VeeVee
        Interesting, even a bit amusing, tweets from Vee Jones (@VeeVee) in July. Several people warned her against using Twitter to share her grievances.

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