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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A 24-year-old nanny, who was sued by actor Rob Lowe and his wife for allegedly violating a confidentiality agreement, filed a counter-suit against the couple on Tuesday, claiming that the "Brothers and Sisters" star groped and sexually harassed her.
Jessica Gibson, who began working for the Lowes when she was 17 and abruptly quit in late February, charges that among other things the 44-year-old actor stuck his hand into her pants, grabbed her bottom, exposed himself, masturbated in front of her and showed her pornography.
Gibson claims that Lowe's wife, Sheryl, a Hollywood make-up artist, walked around the home naked, made vulgar remarks and once told the young nanny that she would never find a boyfriend because only married men would want to have sex with her.
"The rich and famous are not above the law," Gibson's Los Angeles-based attorney, Gloria Allred, said. "They are not granted any special immunities. The rich and famous, just like any other employer, must not sexually abuse their employees."
The lawsuit, which was filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, seeks $50,000 in general damages as well as unspecified punitive damages and unpaid wages for Gibson, who was paid $18 an hour by the Lowes.
Last week the couple sued Gibson and two other former employees claiming that they had violated confidentiality agreements signed as a condition of their jobs and that she had lied about having sex with the Emmy-nominated actor.
Those lawsuits were filed the same day Lowe said on the Huffington Post Web site that Gibson had quit without explanation and was demanding $1.5 million or she would "accuse us of a vicious laundry list of false terribles."
Lowe also posted text messages Gibson sent him, apologizing for her sudden departure, saying that she "did not leave out of spite or anger" and had "nothing bad 2 say" about them.
Allred told Reuters the messages were sent to appease Lowe. "She was trying to flee the situation, get away from it. She was afraid of risking their anger at that point," she said.
On NBC's talk show "Today," Gibson was asked why she stayed with the Lowes, who have two sons aged 13 and 14, for seven years if she was being abused. She responded, "I loved the children. I needed the job. I always thought it would get better. And I was scared."
Lowe, who first gained fame as a member of the so-called Brat Pack, starred in such hit 1980s films as "The Outsiders" and "St. Elmo's Fire." He was nominated for an Emmy for his role as a presidential speech writer in "The West Wing."
In the late 1980s, he was embroiled in a scandal after a videotape surfaced that showed him having sex with two young women, one of them a teenager, while attending the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Sandra Maler