Urban One, Inc. faces a proposed collective action filed by two women who allege they’re owed unpaid overtime and were subjected to sex-based discrimination and retaliation for reporting sexual harassment while working for the media conglomerate.
Urban One operates over 50 radio stations across the country in addition to a television network and an online portfolio of digital brands, the lawsuit explains. The plaintiffs say they worked as non-exempt hourly employees at the defendant’s Radio One Atlanta office yet were not paid time-and-a-half overtime wages for the hours they worked in excess of 40 each week. According to the suit, Urban One’s policy was to pay overtime hours at employees’ “regular” rate, which was denoted as such on their paystubs. The plaintiffs claim that while their wage statements sometimes listed “overtime” hours, these hours were paid at their half-time rate instead of the statutory time-and-a-half rate.
The lawsuit further alleges that the plaintiffs were paid less than male employees in similar positions who performed the same duties. One plaintiff claims she has worked for Urban One as a production assistant for seven years without receiving a raise. The woman claims that she complained about her pay to Urban One’s regional vice president in February 2018 and was told she should “go somewhere else,” according to the complaint. Overall, the case claims similarly situated male employees are paid higher wages than the production assistant plaintiff and have received more favorable responses after asking for better pay.
The second plaintiff, who says she worked for Urban One as an unpaid intern and then a board operator until May 2018, relates an allegedly similar experience. Over her approximately six-year tenure in a paid position, the woman says she received a pay increase of only $2.50 per hour. Conversely, male employees, the suit alleges, were provided more substantial pay increases during their tenures at Urban One.
The lawsuit further claims that both plaintiffs were subjected to sexual harassment and then retaliated against after they complained. According to the women, Radio One Atlanta’s former vice president of programming and operations, David Smith (also known as “Hurricane Dave”), frequently made “sexually harassing comments” about their bodies, clothes, and personal lives. Both plaintiffs claim the man propositioned them for sex in exchange for career advancement opportunities, telling them, “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” According to the lawsuit, while each of the plaintiffs complained to their supervisors about Smith’s inappropriate behavior, no action was ever taken. The case claims the managers at Radio One Atlanta were never trained on how to handle sexual harassment complaints.
When the women brought the issue to HR, the suit continues, Urban One supposedly conducted a “sham investigation” into the reports of sexual harassment and “suspended” Smith. The women claim, however, that the man’s “suspension” actually involved Smith being sent on a Tom Joyner “Fantastic Voyage” luxury cruise paid for by Urban One.
Moreover, when Smith returned from the cruise, he retaliated against both of the plaintiffs for filing complaints, the case says. The production assistant plaintiff says Smith pushed her manager to put her on a final warning by falsely claiming she had been “cursing in the break room.” He then denied her a promotion to an “on-air” position with the “Classic” station by canceling her Facebook Live show, the case alleges.
The former-employee plaintiff claims she was similarly retaliated against when Smith began decreasing her hours after she rejected his advances. Smith allegedly told the plaintiff that he knew she had filed a complaint against him, and she was fired the same month, the lawsuit states. The plaintiff says she was told she had uploaded an incorrect file for a commercial on the Ricky Smiley Morning Show yet, according to the case, records show the files were “tampered with” while the woman was on vacation.
The lawsuit seeks to cover the following collective:
“All current and former board operators, production assistants, or individuals in similar positions that work or have worked for Urban One radio stations within the statutory period covered by this Complaint, have worked in excess of forty (40) hours per week and not been paid legally mandated overtime rates, and who elect to opt-in to this action pursuant to the [Fair Labor Standards Act].”