Jaclyn Mason, Richelle Meiss and Rebecca Zak are suing Sinclair, along with its digital comedy venture Circa Laughs, Medio Pictures Partners, David Zucker (writer and director of spoofs including Airplane!) and Medio COO Randall Sherman.
The three women joined Circa as writers between the summer of 2016 and March 2017 to help develop Circa Laughs. Their complaint, filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court, describes a pattern of mistreatment and a lack of response from the company.
Sherman, who supervised the women, “created an abusive work environment hostile to women by engaging in humiliating, demoralizing and alarming conduct,” the complaint contends. He allegedly often called women “sweetheart,” disparaged their intelligence and rated their value to the company according to how “f–kable” they were. In addition to underpaying women, the complaint alleges, the company also excluded women from important meetings and did not respond to the allegations.
In addition to sexual harassment, the women claim Sinclair, Sherman and Zucker routinely discriminated against female employees. They claim the company paid women less than their male counterparts, provided only men with paid vacation and excluded women from important meetings.
In a statement provided to Deadline, Circa stressed that the complaint was filed against a non-employee. “Circa does not tolerate unprofessional behavior of any kind,” said the statement attributed to Manny Fantis, head of content and branding at Circa. “We will take steps to ensure that no one, regardless of their relationship with the company, compromises the positive work environment that we support.”
Sinclair and Circa have both been in the headlines recently. The No. 1 station group is on the verge of closing a game-changing $3.9 billion acquisition of rival Tribune Media, which will put it in major markets for the first time and give it reach into a majority of U.S. households. Circa, which launched in 2012 as a mobile news app, has evolved since Sinclair acquired it in 2015 into an opinion-driven asset that critics view as a stealth weapon for the President Trump-friendly company as it looks to establish a national footprint.