Rohan Marley and his company Shashamane Group LLC have responded to a US$18.7 million lawsuit from their former employee Chloe Villano, who claims she was subjected to quid pro quo harassment, unlawful discrimination, and wrongful termination. The complaint was filed in the Central District of California in early June.
Villano, 34, who served as the CEO of Shashamane, a cannabis company founded by Marley, 51, alleged that he not only forced her to endure a hostile work environment but also demanded that “he be allowed to impregnate” her and that she does “not engage in sexual relations with any other man” in return for securing her stake in the company.
However, in a court filing on Friday, August 4, Marley and Shahamane pushed for an “immediate dismissal” of the allegations, which they have described as “frivolous” and an attempt to “exploit” the Marley name.
They argued that Villano, despite her “touted credentials” in the cannabis industry, failed to perform her duties as Shashamane’s CEO, which led to disruptions in business operations and her eventual resignation.
“She disrupted business, repeatedly lied, produced zero results for the company, tried to save face by resigning under the pretense that she “never wanted” to be the CEO, and then refused to civilly engage with Shashamane’s members or continue providing service of any services to the company,” they wrote in the filing obtained by DancehallMag.
“As a result, the Management Board terminated her membership,” they claimed.
They continued: “Unable to acknowledge her failure, [Villano] now seeks to leverage flirtatious and sexual telephone communications she willfully and consensually initiated with Mr. Marley—including communications where she sent him nudes and asked about his interest in having a baby with her—into claims of sexual harassment and retaliation.”
Their legal team, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit or alternatively, that the case be transferred from California to Florida, where Marley and most of Shashamane’s board members reside.
They also contend that the case should be thrown out because Villano’s allegations are under California laws that don’t apply to her situation, given that she worked for the company from her residence in Colorado.
“After joining Shashamane in June 2021, the only time she traveled to California for Shashamane-related business was a four-day trip in late October 2021,” they also claimed.
In her lawsuit, Villano explained that she first met Rohan at the Cannabis Business Awards in 2019. She said Marley expressed an interest in the industry, and he sought her expertise.
Although initially hesitant, she said she eventually joined Shashamane in March 2021, and three months later, her role was expanded to CEO with a promise of a 10% equity stake after two years at the company.
She said during her tenure, which lasted until March 2022, she positioned the company’s Lion Order brand “for a successful launch.”
In citing what she said was the disrespect and misogyny exhibited by Marley, and the hostile work environment he created, the other members of Shashamane “devalued her work, attempted to give credit for her hard work to its male members, and conspired to terminate” her before her equity in the company could vest.
She claimed that she objected to being singled out for termination/divestiture on the basis of her gender but that “shockingly” Marley presented her with “a classic quid pro quo proposition,” in which he would intervene on her behalf and extend his protection if she promised not to have sex with any other men.
Her lawsuit added that “on or about December 21, 2021, Villano had a conversation with Rohan “after he had announced that he was having a new baby (which Plaintiff understood to be his fourth baby with different women in a span of approximately one or two years) and Plaintiff told him that she was ‘not a concubine.’”
“Plaintiff told Defendant Marley that she respected him, but she wanted to find true love and she was an honest and very hard-working employee,” the complaint continued.
Marley and Shahamane, in their motion to dismiss, claimed that Villano never raised any issues of harassment or discrimination while she was employed at the company.
Villano is seeking $6.25 million for each of the three allegations, along with unspecified punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
Rohan Marley, who is the fourth son of Reggae legend Bob Marley, has requested a hearing on the motion to dismiss on September 11, 2023.