On January 21, 2020, Wigdor LLP filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC on behalf of Deborah Dugan, the former CEO and President of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the “Recording Academy” or, simply, the “Academy”) in connection with her claims of unlawful gender discrimination, sexual harassment, unlawful retaliation and unequal pay against the Academy.
Ms. Dugan became the Recording Academy’s first female CEO and President in August 2019, according to the EEOC Charge. As alleged, from the outset of her employment with the Academy, Ms. Dugan complained about and attempted to remedy the lack of diversity, sexual harassment and other gender-based improprieties at the Academy. On December 22, 2019, as alleged, Ms. Dugan sent an email complaint to HR detailing a slew of issues arising out of the Academy’s “boys’ club” mentality and approach to governance, including, among other things:
- Sexual harassment committed against her by Joel Katz, an attorney who is general counsel to the Academy and a former member and Chair of the Academy’s Board of Trustees (“the Board”);
- Egregious conflicts of interest arising out of the fact that attorneys that represent the Academy also represent individual Board members and members of the Board’s Executive Committee;
- Improper self-dealing by Board members, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to themselves for work that was either unnecessary or that was already being performed by outside vendors; and
- Voting irregularities and conflicts with respect to nominations for Grammy Awards.
In addition, Ms. Dugan’s email also complained that she had been asked by the Academy to hire her predecessor Neil Portnow as a consultant for $750,000 after it became aware of allegations that he raped a female recording artist, as set forth in the Charge.
In response to her complaints, as alleged, the Academy unlawfully retaliated against Ms. Dugan by placing her on administrative leave only after she indicated her intent to commence legal action and refused to settle her claims on terms dictated by the Academy. The Charge alleges that the Academy further retaliated against Ms. Dugan by threatening her with termination and publishing false and defamatory statements about Ms. Dugan to the media.
Moreover, as set forth in the Charge, on January 20, 2020, the Academy’s interim CEO and President Harvey Mason Jr. penned and published a false, retaliatory and defamatory letter designed to “get out in front” of this Charge and further destroy Ms. Dugan’s reputation.
BREAKING: Wigdor LLP has filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC on behalf of Deborah Dugan against the Recording Academy (the Grammys). Below is a statement from her attorneys Douglas H. Wigdor and Michael J. Willemin.#DeborahDugan #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/46CxukAT2V
— Douglas Wigdor – Wigdor Law (@WigdorLaw) January 21, 2020
Statement from Douglas H. Wigdor and Michael J. Willemin:
“The complaint that we filed today against the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the Grammys) highlights tactics reminiscent of those deployed by individuals defending Harvey Weinstein. As we allege, the attempt by the Recording Academy to impugn the character of Deborah Dugan is a transparent effort to shift the focus away from its own unlawful activity. This blatant form of retaliation in corporate America is all too common, even post #MeToo, and we will utilize all lawful means necessary to ensure that those responsible are held accountable for their actions.”