The lawsuit, first reported by the New York Times, was filed in California State Court in Los Angeles and contends that exonerating evidence was ignored by the organization.
Thirteen Reasons Why was a 2007 bestselling book on teenage suicide that later became a cultural phenomenon when it was adopted into a Netflix series.
Asher and illustrator David Diaz were expelled at the same time last year from the writers organization over allegations of sexual harassment.
“Both Jay Asher and David Diaz were found to have violated the SCBWI code of conduct in regard to harassment,” said Lin Oliver, the organization’s executive director, in an email to the Associated Press. “Claims against them were investigated and, as a result, they are no longer members and neither will be appearing at any SCBWI events in the future.”
Asher denied the allegations at the time. But arriving as they did at the height of the #MeToo movement, they had a major career impact, resulting in many lost opportunities for appearances and other engagements.
“I do not condone harassment of any sort, and have spent my entire career standing up for its victims, so these statements were devastating,” said a statement from Asher sent to the Times.
According to the Asher lawsuit, Oliver received emails in April 2017 from seven anonymous women in her membership. They alleged Asher preyed on women at the group’s conferences, making them “feel unsafe” to attend in the future.
Asher acknowledged affairs with women he encountered at thes conferences, but claims the relationships were consensual and that he did not threaten or offer to help them professionally.
Instead, Asher claims in the lawsuit that “an individual upset over Plaintiff’s success” was behind the emails to Oliver, and that she ignored a followup in which one of the seven anonymous women told her that the allegations made in April were false. But “no further investigation” was conducted.
Asher also claimed one of the email authors had “sexually coerced him at a SCBWI Conference” and had done so for more than a decade.
Andrew Baum, a lawyer representing Oliver and the organization, told the Times that Asher’s lawsuit “is entirely without merit” and “appears to be an attempt by Asher to repair his name and reputation after it became public that his private actions were inconsistent with his public persona of being an advocate and ally of women.”
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