The order upholds a jury finding from March. Smiley had sued PBS, contending racial bias by the service and wrongful termination without proof. Smiley was initially ordered to pay $1.5 million. But PBS requested more, citing the morals clause.
Judge Yvonne Williams agreed, awarding PBS $2.6 million on August 5. The new order includes $1.9 million in liquidated damages, equal to the money Smiley’s company, TS Media, received from PBS for production on the show’s last two seasons.
The network’s morals clause bars romantic relationships in the office.
EARLIER: A report by an external investigator hired by PBS claims former talk show host Tavis Smiley spent decades engaged in sexual relationships with subordinates and guests on his show, and committed acts of verbal abuse, inappropriate touching, and made unwanted sexual comments.
The report was unsealed as part of legal documents filed in connection with ongoing lawsuits related to Smiley’s dismissal. The 500-page report on his alleged misconduct was filed by Smiley’s legal team as part of its breach of contract legal claims. PBS has countersued and asked for $1.9 million in production advances to be returned.
Read the entire report here.
UPDATE: Tavis Smiley has issued a response through his representatives. “A weak case you play in the press, a strong case you play out in a court of law. I look forward to my day in court February 10, which I have finally been granted, after 2 years of fighting.”
The report and legal actions stem from a 2018 decision by PBS to end its relationship with Smiley, who fronted the L.A.-produced late-night talker Tavis Smiley for nearly 14 years. PBS said in 2018 it had “uncovered multiple, credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS.”
Smiley has denied all of the allegations, and claimed that he had stopped all consensual relationships with employees 10 years before the allegations surfaced. He also accused PBS of racial bias.
In a ruling Thursday, Smiley lost a bid to have PBS’s action tossed, arguing that the conduct they claim against him predated his current contract. D.C. Superior Court Judge Yvonne Williams disagreed, and said that PBS had also claimed more recent misconduct.
Among the allegations contained in the just-surfaced PBS report:
*** A former employee alleged that Smiley asked her to lunch, and then asked about her bra size, offering a trip to Victoria’s Secret at The Grove. The woman was eventually laid off from the show and was allegedly told that she “knew too much” about Smiley’s actions, according to the report.
*** Several women interviewed for the report claimed consensual relations with Smiley, but said that the power differences made for an uneasy relationship. One guest on the show who was involved claimed she was not invited back despite submitting to Smiley.
*** Another producer on the Smiley show who had a sexual relationship with him was told that the relationship would be kept secret. However, she was terminated when others found out. She told the investigators that she believed other office sexual relationships played a role in her dismissal.
*** Still another accuser said Smiley asked her why she was “playing so hard to get” on a business trip.
*** A woman claimed in 2000, Smiley grabbed her buttocks during a photo session, and then later purposely made contact between his penis and her buttocks.
*** One woman claimed that when she visited Smiley’s house, he opened the door and was not wearing pants. He later asked her to have a threesome.