Book of Xonia for follow-up The Walt Disney Co.. three times in nine years.
Court records describe what happened next after Book lost twice at trial and had an ongoing third lawsuit in her long legal war against a multibillion-dollar company: She filed for bankruptcy.
In a recent interview, Book said the experience caused great stress in her life due to her marriage to her family and her health. It also ruined his credit.
“Our life has never been normal again,” said Book, 64, of Winter Garden, who no longer works in Disney security and is disabled.
Book sued over allegations that the company discriminated against her and failed to promote her because she is Colombian. She also accused Disney’s director of security Melissa Merklinger of sexually harassing her when they took a picture together at a Disney event.
book advocate jerry girly said he believed the evidence showed Disney had discriminated against his client.
“She exercised her legal right to complain about being discriminated against,” Girley said. “If you have to tangle with the corporate giant, you have to have the proper resources. You have to understand… you run uphill.
What got the most media attention were Book’s claims that Disney kept a “toxic employee list” of names — presumably his own too — documenting workers who reported discrimination complaints to the company. ‘State or sued and taken other action.
Merklinger acknowledged that Disney Human Resources created the document when Girley inquired about the existence of a toxic employee file that blacklisted Disney employees, according to court documents. Girley questioned Merklinger during a 2017 deposition for one of Book’s trials.
“I’ve represented probably over 20 different Disney employees. Every other case that comes up, and we’ve asked for it (the list of toxic employees), and that’s a lot of litigation. It’s never produced,” Girley said recently. “I had a good faith basis to believe it existed, but I never got my hands on it.”
Disney did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
At the end of his litigation, Book owed Girley $16,500 in fees and a $31,000 judgment to The Walt Disney Co. Book also owed a $118,000 debt to Merklinger in a judgment after Book’s loss to the court, according to documents. In total, Book owed $254,457 for his lawsuits, credit cards, student loans and other expenses, according to court documents. She filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2019 and the case was closed in April 2020.
Disney or anyone else is unlikely to get any money, said Therese Radwan, a professor at Stetson University College of Law who reviewed Book’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing at the request of Florida Politics.
Book listed his most lucrative assets — like his $245,000 home, his 2015 Nissan Rogue and his 401(k) worth about $36,500 from his Disney career — as exempt, so they cannot be touched. “Most of her valuable assets are exempt… She’s not going to lose her house because of this,” said Radwan, who focuses on bankruptcy and commercial law.
“That means there are basically few assets with which to pay unsecured creditors, so they may receive nothing. They can be paid what we call pennies on the dollar, a very small amount.
Book’s lawyer was not bothered by Book’s debt to him. Book has no outstanding bills with him, Girley said.
Radwan called Book’s situation common in bankruptcy court.
But Radwan saw a “unique twist”.
Court documents show Disney reached a settlement with Book’s court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, which ended Book’s 2019 lawsuit pending in Orange County Circuit Court. In the settlement, Mouse paid the trustee in bankruptcy $10,750.
“Rather than pursuing litigation regarding the claims, the parties have engaged in good faith in arm’s length negotiations to resolve the claims,” according to the March 2020 agreement included in the bankruptcy filing.
This $10,750 will not go directly to Book and “presumably it will go to the trustee who can then distribute it to creditors because it is an asset that can be used. So it’s a potential source of funding to pay off some of its own unsecured creditors,” Radwan said.
After filing for bankruptcy, did Book regret taking Disney to court?
No, said Book.
She was already thinking about her next trial.