WHITLEY COUNTY - Two former employees of Copeland and Romines, PLLC filed a lawsuit in Whitley County Circuit Court Tuesday in which they say attorney Shane Romines sexually harassed them while employed at the law office.
The lawsuit filed in court states that during the course of the plaintiffs’ employment, Romines repeatedly subjected both plaintiffs - separately - to sexually graphic material, inappropriate touching and more, which is detailed throughout the lawsuit. Both plaintiffs say that Romines wanted them to be "loyal" in exchange for their continued employment or his loyalty.
One plaintiff was hired by Copeland and Romines in July 2010 and was constructively discharged in May 2020. The other plaintiff was hired in September 2017 and was also discharged in May of this year.
The lawsuit says that Romines made it clear to one of the plaintiffs that a condition of their employment with the law office was contingent on them “being friendly” with Romines.
The lawsuit says that the plaintiff soon “realized that ‘being friendly’ with Romines was being absolutely ‘loyal’ to him and his behaviors, which included: allowing him to repeatedly send her obscene pictures via Snapchat, laughing off the repeated sexual fantasies and demands he made to her", allowing him to touch her inappropriately during the work day, answering his questions about her own private sex life, talking about this genitalia, and agreeing she would "always be loyal" to him.
The lawsuit says the sexual harassment began to increase, stating that as the plaintiff would give in to one type of harassment, Romines would then do more.
“He also repeatedly asked her to come into his office, and after the door was closed insist she come over to his desk on the pretext of looking at something on his computer,” the lawsuit later reads.
The lawsuit says that when the plaintiff would come closer to Romines’ desk, he would reach his hand under her clothing and say, “You know I’ve been good to you, so this is what you need to let me do.”
Whenever the plaintiff attempted to confirm her job security with Romines, he made clear to her that her continued employment was conditioned upon her “being friendly,” and challenged her that she needed to be “more friendly” in order to prove that she was deserving of her continued employment and any additional perks, the lawsuit says.
In March 2020, the lawsuit says Romines came over to the plaintiff’s desk, as he had done many times before, and placed his genitalia on her desk. After asking that the plaintiff touch his genitalia, the lawsuit states the plaintiff picked up a letter opener and said, “Or, like Lorena Bobbitt, I can cut it right off.”
The lawsuit says that from that day forward, Romines began cutting the plaintiff off from her job even though he continued to send obscene naked pictures and videos of himself to her.
“He ghosted her and hired someone to replace her,” the lawsuit says.
The second plaintiff says in the lawsuit that after months of Romines sending her obscene photos of himself and inappropriately touching her in the workplace, he then began sharing the details about his own sex life and then asking about hers.
The lawsuit then states that Romines began sharing sexual fantasies he had about the plaintiff to the plaintiff. He would send her messages on Snapchat, inform her that he was taking part in sexual acts in his office, and would invite her to join him. The plaintiff refused at first.
The lawsuit then reads that the plaintiff began showing up late to work, and that Romines confronted her.
“He stated ‘I will send you a Snapchat asking you to come to my office and ‘Be Thirsty’, and you need to respond ‘Yes’, do you understand,” the lawsuit reads quoting Romines confronting the plaintiff on her tardiness to work.
The lawsuit says that within the week, Romines sent the plaintiff the Snapchat message and the the plaintiff went out on lunch, took several shots of alcohol, and contemplated on whether or not to return to work.
The lawsuit says that the plaintiff did return to work and that Romines had sent the rest of the office’s staff on their lunch break. Romines sent the message again and the plaintiff went to his office where she was forced to perform a sexual act, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states that between June 2018 and March 2020, Romines continued to demand that the plaintiff continue to visit his office, where he would perform sexual acts on her. The lawsuit states that like the first incident, Romines would allow the plaintiff to leave work for her lunch break, and when she would return inebriated, the rest of the office would be out on their lunch breaks.
“The only reciprocation Romines offered [the plaintiff] for his monstrous and inhuman behaviors was allowing her to keep her job, which he knew she desperately needed,” reads the lawsuit. “He paid her a little over minimum wage, or $22,000 per year. He also assured her that as long as she remained ‘loyal’ to him, he, as a prominent person in the community, would stay ‘loyal’ to her.”
The lawsuit says that the plaintiff eventually took a sick leave and never returned back to work for Romines.
The two plaintiffs then got in contact with one another in the month of May and learned that both had been victims of harassment from Romines.
The plaintiffs ask for a trial by jury in the lawsuit, which was filed by Attorney Barbara Bonar of Bonar, Bucher and Rankin, PSC in Covington, Kentucky.
The Times-Tribune reached out to Romines Tuesday afternoon for his comment on the matter. Romines informed the Times that he would have an official response in a couple of weeks and asked that we print that as well, which The Times-Tribune will when that is provided.
A lawsuit only represents one side of the case and is an accusation only. The Times-Tribune does not print names of victims.