A sales executive at Pop Media has filed a sexual harassment and gender bias lawsuit against that company, her then-boss and Pop’s corporate parents Lionsgate and CBS alleging a hostile work environment, sexual harassment and intimidation.
Plaintiff Leslie Isaacs also claims she suffered retaliation for having reported the alleged misconduct.
In a lengthy suit filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court (read it here), Isaacs claims that, from the very beginning of her time at Pop Media, she endured demeaning, inappropriate and sexually explicit comments about female employees’ physical attractiveness, their wardrobe and their sexual desirability.
A Pop spokesperson did not address the specific allegations contained in the suit but issued a statement saying it takes claims of sexual harassment and discrimination seriously, investigates them and takes appropriate action.
“We have long had policies and procedures in place to prevent it and protect our employees, and we are committed to a diverse, tolerant and respectful working environment,” the spokesperson told Deadline.
Among the suit’s claims, Isaacs says her then-supervisor, Michael Dupont, Pop’s EVP ad sales, made sexist remarks including claiming that female sales executives were “only hired as a pretty face to entertain clients.” After one woman was named in the media as a top female media executive, the suit says Depont responded, “How about the Top Dumb Blonde Who’s About to Get Fired Award?”
Isaacs alleges Pop President Brad Schwartz made similarly demeaning remarks, including approving a press release with the headline, “Pop Puts Out,” over a female executive’s objections, and once boasting, “I may or may not have slept with her in college!'” referring to a female keynote speaker at a national women’s empowerment conference.
At a holiday party, Isaacs claimed, Pop national sales executive Beecher Scarlett asked her, “Hey, do you have a stanky pussy!?!'”
“Dupont was aware that Scarlett often made disparaging and inappropriate sexual comments about women and Pop female employees along with and in front of CBS and Pop male employees,” Isaacs alleges in the suit, adding that one CBS employee “told young female Pop sales employees to ‘show your clients your tits’ if they wanted to ‘make more sales.'”
Neither Schwartz nor Scarlett is named as a defendant in the suit, but Dupont is.
Isaacs claimed she was bypassed for a promotion, with Dupont claiming he lacked the authority — but also voicing concerns about hurting a male colleague Scarlett’s “ego” if she were promoted instead of him.
The sales executive alleged she experienced retaliation when she lodged a complaint with Lionsgate’s director of human resources, Eileen Kohler, stemming from a conflict with Scarlett. She says she was assured that her comments would remain confidential.
“Within a week or so of [Isaacs’] conversations with Kohler,” the suit says, “Dupont began telling employees at Pop’s New York office that [Isaacs] will ‘never be promoted’ and that [she] was ‘trying to get Beecher fired so she can get promoted. Beecher will never be fired and Leslie will never be promoted. She is crazy!'”
Dupont subsequently sent around an organizational chart showing Scarlett as Isaacs’ immediate supervisor with the new title of Regional VP. “In other words, Dupont demoted Plaintiff without explanation or review and promoted Scarlett as her immediate supervisor,” the suit alleges.
Isaacs says the demotion had “absolutely nothing to do” with her job performance.
Just last week, Pop president Schwartz asked to meet with Isaacs to discuss her future at the company. She believed the conversation would lead to a promotion. Instead, she learned that her allegations had been investigated and “that she had no claims to pursue.”
“I need to know what your plans are before we can discuss your promotion,” Schwartz allegedly told Isaacs, remarks she interpreted as a threat that she would need to drop any claims against Pop to get the promotion and raise she had requested.
Isaacs filed suit, seeking compensation for lost wages and lost future earnings, as well as punitive damages. The action also alleges age discrimination, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent hiring, retention and supervision.
Attorney Margaret P. Stevens of Daehnke Stevens LLP in Los Angeles is representing Isaacs in the suit.