Two former employees at Copeland & Romines Law Office have filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against attorney Shane Romines.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Whitley Circuit Court.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs, Cassandra Hibbard, of Gray, and Dana Vanover, of Williamsburg each worked for the firm for several years before they were terminated from their respective positions on May 4.
When reached by The News Journal via the Copeland & Romines Facebook page seeking a comment, Romines denied the allegations.
“I’ll comment with my answer in two weeks and am confident these charges will be found to be false,” Romines said.
Vanover was hired as a legal assistant in July 2010.
Hibbard was hired as Romines’ receptionist in September 2017.
“During the course of Plaintiffs’ employment, Romines repeated subjected both Plaintiffs – separately – to sexually graphic memes and photos, including, sexually explicit photos of his penis erect and partially erect,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit goes on to state that, Romines repeatedly made obscene and sexually explicit comments to the plaintiffs during their employment, including detailed descriptions of his sexual fantasies involving them, and demanding they describe their own sex lives to him.
The lawsuit went on to allege multiple instances when Romines grabbed each plaintiff by their breasts and buttocks.
Finally, the plaintiffs claimed that Romines sent sexually explicit videos of himself.
“Defendant Romines included the question, ‘Offended?’” the lawsuit claims adding that when Vanover questioned whether he intended to send the sexually explicit video to her, responded, “Yes, and I was thinking of you the entire time.”
Vanover claimed in the lawsuit that Romines made it clear that a condition of her employment was that she “be friendly” to him.
“At first, this did not seem like a difficult condition, but over time, Vanover came to realize that ‘being friendly’ was being absolutely ‘loyal’ to him and his abusive behaviors,” the lawsuit claims noting that included allowing him to send obscene pictures, laughing off his repeated sexual comments, allowing him to touch her breasts and buttocks, and providing details of her own private sex life.
“As the sexual harassment began to increase, and Romines continued to remind Vanover that her continued employment was conditioned upon her ‘being friendly,’ Vanover became more and more anxious about complying,” the lawsuit states noting that when she gave in to one demand Romines would add more demands.
Among the increased demands, the lawsuit claims Romines asked Vanover to send him nude photographs of her.
After her marriage ended in 2018, leaving her a single mother of three, Vanover claims that Romines demands again increased to her providing him with oral sex.
According to the lawsuit, Romines used Vanover’s struggles to his benefit, offering financial perks such as making house payments and upgrading her cell phone.
“Although Vanover repeated declined all his requests and demands for oral sex, she continued to try to otherwise remain ‘friendly’ to his other sexual abuses so as to keep her job,” the lawsuit claims.
When Vanover got engaged in April 2019, the lawsuit claims that Romines became angry and while personally attacking her fiancé and marriage plans.
“Romines continued his verbal attacks on her fiancé and her wedding plans during her entire engagement period, while he also continued all the other previously described sexual abuses,” the lawsuit claims.
As the alleged abuse continued to worsen, the lawsuit claims that Vanover increased her medication and began drinking heavily to get through the workday.
On March 10, the lawsuit claims that Romines again exposed himself to Vanover at her desk, asking her to touch him.
“Vanover, scared, shaken and physically ill, but at the end of her rope, picked up her letter opener and said, ‘Or, like Lorena Bobbitt, I can cut it right off,’” the lawsuit states alleging that Romines backed away.
However, according to the lawsuit, Romines cut Vanover off for her job, and while he continued to send naked and obscene pictures, he stopped giving her any work to do.
“He ghosted her, and hired someone to replace her,” the lawsuit claims.
It wasn’t until April 30 that Vanover and Hibbard, who, according to the lawsuit, has been prevented by Romines from communicating with each other by taking lunch together, or by texting each other on cell phones, reached out to each other and learned they had both been harassed.
“Vanover took a sick leave and never returned back to work for Romines,” the lawsuit states.
“Following Vanover’s departure from Romines’ firm, Romines began and continues to spread vicious rumors about her, describing her as a gold-digger and slut, and disparaging her otherwise good name in the community.
Hibbard alleges in the lawsuit that Romines asked her for pictures of her breasts, with which she complied in order to keep her job.
As the harassment continued, Hibbard stated in the lawsuit that she was dealing with her mother being critically ills and attempting to care for her son.
When Hibbard asked Romines for leniency in juggling her work and family schedule, the lawsuit claims that Romines offered to being lenient if she would give in to his demands.
“Hibbard began drinking heavily, including during the workday,” the lawsuit claims.
“The only reciprocation Romines offered Hibbard for his monstrous and inhuman behaviors was allowing her to keep her job, which he knew she desperately needed,” the lawsuit claims noting she made approximately $22,000 annually.
After Hibbard and Vanover’s meeting on April 30, the lawsuit states that she too took sick leave and never returned to work.
Each woman released a statement through their attorney, Barbara D. Bonar.
“The minute he started abusing me, he led me down a very dark path, training me to accept his abuse, which went on for years. His perverse sickness made me feel trapped, guilty and very alone… in chains. I felt powerless to resist,” Vanover said in her statement. “When I found out he was doing this to other young women, I knew I had to come forward. I am doing this for me. I am doing this for all the women past and present who he sees as victims. But I am especially doing this for my beautiful daughter.”
“It took everything I had to stand up to this monster. He lied and manipulated me. He deceived me that he was important and powerful, and that I was nothing. His abuse of me was something no human should ever experience,” Hibbard said in her statement. “But now I know that he is the one who is nothing. For all the other young women like me that he sees only as victims, I have found my voice to warn them to keep them safely away.”
Publisher’s Note: A lawsuit only represents one side of the story. When the defendent makes a public statement, that will also be published.