Sony Pictures Television Issues Legal Response to Briana Thomas Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Over ‘The Young and the Restless’

Sony Pictures Television, The Young and the Restless, Y&R, Young & Restless
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
Anthony Morina, Executive Producer, The Young and the Restless, Y&R, #YR
Photo by Howard Wise/JPI Studios

Earlier this month, Sony Pictures Television filed their 6-page legal response in Los Angeles County Superior Court to a lawsuit filed by former background actress Briana Thomas who appeared on “The Young and the Restless” in 2018 and 2019 as a barista. Thomas is suing the studio and CBS for wrongful termination alleging that she was fired after a series of incidents wherein the show’s current executive producer, Anthony Morina, who is also named as a defendant, would cozy up to her and give her compliments about her looks, often telling her she could “really be something” on the show. In one instance he allegedly tried to get her to “remove her sarong so that he could see her in a bikini.” During the alleged period, Morina was a supervising producer at the daytime drama series.

In its filing, defendants Sony Pictures Television Inc. and Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. note that it is “answering for themselves and no others,” in response to the “unverified” Complaint for Damages (“Complaint”) filed by Plaintiff Briana Thomas (“Plaintiff”). The studio provided four reasons for General Denial, including:

  1. Pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 431.30(d), Defendants deny, generally and specifically, each and every allegation contained in Plaintiff’s Complaint and each and every cause of action therein.
  2. Defendants further deny that Plaintiff has sustained any injury, damage or loss by reason of any act or omission on the part of Defendants, and specifically deny that Plaintiff suffered any of the damages alleged in the Complaint. 
  3. Defendants further deny that they had an employee-employer relationship with Plaintiff. 
  4. Defendants further deny that Plaintiff is entitled to any relief against Defendants on any ground whatsoever, and deny that Plaintiff is entitled to damages against Defendants in any amount. 

Further, Sony provided an Affirmative and Other Defenses statement, saying, “Having fully answered the allegations in the Complaint, Defendants assert the following additional affirmative and other defenses. In so doing, Defendants do not allege or admit that they have the burden of proof and/or persuasion with respect to any of these matters.”

There are 11 Affirmative Defenses or set of facts that Sony uses as it seeks to dismiss the claims brought against it by Thomas in her civil suit.

  1. Failure to State a Claim
  2. Statute of Limitations
  3. Laches/Waiver/Estoppel/Unclean Hands
  4. Good Faith/Business Judgment
  5. Preemption: Collective Bargaining Agreement
  6. No Public Policy Violated
  7. No Protected Activity
  8. No Penalties
  9. Improper UCL Claim
  10. Failure to Mitigate
  11. Additional Affirmative Defenses
    • Defendants presently have insufficient knowledge or information upon which to form a belief as to whether it may have additional, as yet unstated, affirmative defenses available. Defendants reserve the right to assert additional affirmative defenses in the event discovery indicates that it would be appropriate.

Sony is asking for judgment as follows:

  1. That Plaintiff takes nothing by way of the Complaint; 
  2. That the Complaint be dismissed with prejudice and judgment entered in favor of Defendants; 
  3. That Defendants be awarded their costs of suit; 
  4. That Defendants be awarded attorneys’ fees pursuant to statute and/or contract; and 
  5. For such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper. 

Representing Sony is lead attorney Marissa Franco of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

In her 22-page lawsuit, Thomas claims that Morina once complained about having to attend sexual harassment training sessions in the wake of CBS’ investigation into sexual harassment allegations brought against then CEO Les Moonves. Morina reportedly called the training sessions “bullshit” and that some “bitches” had “their panties in a bunch” and “didn’t know how to take a compliment.”

If that wasn’t the worst of it, the suit also claims that Morina once referred to a Black actress with short hair, saying, “[she] has a hot body, but it is too bad her head looked like a Chia Pet.”

“I’m the reason why you have a job,” Morina allegedly told Thomas at one point as he offered her “private acting lessons,” Deadline reported. “I am doing you a favor. I like you. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Representing Thomas in her lawsuit is Carney Shegerian of Shegerian & Associates, the same lawyer who filed a lawsuit accusing Mike Richards, the now former host and executive producer of “Jeopardy!” While he was overseeing things at “The Price is Right,” Richards was accused of discriminating against a pregnant model. He denied the allegations.

Thomas is seeking several forms of damages, including “unpaid wages, premium pay and statutory penalties” and fees.

A hearing has been set for February 15, 2022, for an Order to Show Cause RE: Dismissal. Should the lawsuit move forward, a jury trial is scheduled to commence in March 2023.