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Pacifica Radio Network - Rocked by Discrimination
Discrimination at KPFA
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: July 11, 2007
Stewart & Musell (Counsel for Noelle Hanrahan and Maya Orozco)
Wendy E. Musell, Esq. 415-593-0083 (office)
Elisa J. Stewart, Esq. 510-381-6362 (cell)
Ganz & Gorsline, A Law Partnership (Counsel for Molly Paige)
Laurie Susan Gorsline, Esq. 310- 235-1700 (office)
Philip J. Ganz, Jr., Esq. 310-235-1700 (office)
Law Offices of Toni Jaramilla (Counsel for Sheri Epstein)
Toni Jaramilla, Esq. 310- 551-3020 (office)
Law Offices of Carl C. Belgrave (Counsel for Andrea Clarke)
Carl C. Belgrave, Esq. 718-522-3033 (office)
Progressive Radio Network Rocked
By Violence, Discrimination, and Sexual Harassment
Five women in legal actions against radio stations in the progressive Pacifica Radio Network have encountered stunningly “un-progressive” practices in the network’s handling of women’s complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination.
Women at all five of Pacifica’s major market stations have fought to compel Pacifica Radio Foundation and its member stations, including Berkeley’s KPFA, to immediately end physical threats, harassment, discrimination, and sexual assaults against women, as well as their retaliation against the women who report the misconduct.
Recurring allegations are that Pacifica refused to investigate the women’s complaints, refused to discipline the perpetrators, fostered an environment of impunity, refused to prevent further harassment, hampered the women’s ability to perform their jobs, and subjected them to retaliation and, in some cases, termination.
Among those who claim they have been victimized are senior managers, investigative reporters, hosts, a station news director, and administrative employees. And these women all claim that they have found the disconnect between the network’s progressive rhetoric and its handling of discrimination within its own ranks to be startling.
Molly Paige, news director at KPFK in Los Angeles and one of the complainants, explains: “I came to Pacifica because I was attracted by its appearance of inherent idealism . . . its mission statement to promote ‘lasting understanding between nations and between the individuals of all ...nations, races, creeds, and colors.’ Instead, I discovered to my horror, when it came to the working conditions of its own employees, I was expected to tolerate and acquiesce to the very harassment, discrimination and retaliation that Pacifica was supposed to stand against. The hypocrisy of this organization that I so admired is heartbreaking.”
Among the current cases are:
$ Los Angeles: This week, Pacifica’s Los Angeles station KPFK will be named in a second employment discrimination complaint so far this year. Sheri Epstein, the assistant to the General Manager, is filing in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging race and disability discrimination and retaliation by Pacifica, KPFK and the General Manager. Epstein contends she was refused reasonable accommodations for her disability, subjected to termination and retaliation when she complained of race and disability discrimination and unpaid overtime.
Earlier this year, Molly Paige filed her own lawsuit against Pacifica and its KPFK General Manager Eva Georgia alleging sexual and racial harassment and retaliation, among other things. (LASC Superior Court Case No. BC 365 777)
New York: Andrea R. Clarke, creator and host of WBAI’s “Sister From Another Planet,” has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and is preparing to file a lawsuit against the station, its parent company, the Pacifica Foundation, and Robert Scott Adams, WBAI’s interim general manager alleging sexual assault, sexual harassment, discrimination, sexual abuse, retaliation, negligent hiring, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful termination.
$ Berkeley: On June 26, 2007, Pacifica’s flagship station, KPFA, recently made a final payment of attorneys’ fees in settlement of the sexual harassment complaint of award-winning investigative reporter Noelle Hanrahan. This brings the total award in that case to $258,000. Hanrahan’s was just the latest in a deluge of complaints of discrimination and harassment made against KPFA in recent years.
According to KPFA’s own documents, KPFA alone has spent more than $525,000 in legal fees in the last eighteen months. Recently released audited reports show legal fees of $392,000, the largest budget line item after salaries and health care. Not included in that figure are the $133,000 paid recently in Hanrahan v. Pacifica, and bills in an undisclosed amount from KPFA’s sexual harassment defense firm.
$ Berkeley: This week, Maya Orozco will contact the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to file a complaint alleging sexual assault, sex discrimination and retaliation arising from two separate occurrences of sexual assault on the premises of KPFA by a co-worker, for which three successive managers refused to investigate or take remedial actions and instead demoted Orozco, and took away necessary tools to perform her job in retaliation for making complaints. After her complaints, the harasser was promoted.
“In the end, women working at stations throughout the network are demanding the answer to one question,” states Noelle Hanrahan. “Do the women at Pacifica Radio have the right to work in an environment free of violence, intimidation, and retaliation? And the most disturbing part of the answer is that workers are forced to find it in a courtroom.”
Pacifica Foundation, a network of listener sponsored radio stations, historically vocalizing a strong commitment to human rights, diversity and equal rights now finds its actions speak louder than its words.
The Pacifica Foundation began in 1949 with first listener sponsored community radio station, KPFA in Berkeley, CA. In the 56 years since, Pacifica has added 4 other stations in the United States. The second sister station in the Pacifica Network was KPFK in Los Angeles, CA, followed by Pacifica's first station outside of California - WBAI in New York.
Pacifica touts itself as a progressive organization; however, complaints of a practice and pattern of gender and racial discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation has come to light through a number of administrative and court filings by female employees in the California and New York stations. Although individual facts of the harassment may differ, Pacifica’s response to the complaints has been uniform. All of these women contend that the Foundation retaliated against them by refusing to investigate their complaints, refusing to discipline the perpetrators, refusing to prevent further harassment, frustrating the women’s ability to perform their jobs, subjecting the women to discipline and in some cases, termination. Some of the allegations made in these cases are summarized below:
In 2005, NOELLE HANRAHAN, an award winning investigative reporter, filed suit when she was fired after complaining of sexual harassment and discrimination.
Hanrahan alleged that in October, 2001, Bernstein informed her, “I’m going to torture you until you quit or I force you to leave.” Hanrahan informed General Manager Bennett of the incident, stating that she believed the actions were the result of sexual harassment and sex discrimination.
Over the next five months, Hanrahan repeatedly requested that KPFA and Pacifica investigate her allegations and that disciplinary action be taken. During that period, according to the complaint, Hanrahan was exposed to an escalating pattern of
harassment from Bernstein, who refused to talk with her, refused to inform her of information necessary to perform her job, and locked her out of editorial meetings. In one incident a master tape of an interview Hanrahan was preparing to air was erased, in an alleged attempt to sabotage her work and force her to resign.
Throughout this period, according to the complaint, no investigation was conducted and no disciplinary action taken against Bernstein, despite Hanrahan’s repeated requests to management. According to Hanrahan, Jim Bennett, the General Manager told her, “If you file a grievance it will only get a lot worse.” Not long afterward management
demoted Hanrahan, allotting her only 40% of the Flashpoints program.
On November 20, 2001, Bernstein verbally attacked Hanrahan on the air, accusing Hanrahan of making false allegations against him and of attempting to take over the radio program. He encouraged listeners to call KPFA and call for her dismissal. Less than three months later, Hanrahan was placed on involuntary leave and banned from the KPFA building.
Citing KPFA’s failure to implement an effective procedure for reporting, investigating or addressing complaints of discrimination or harassment, the complaint alleges that prior to Hanrahan’s hiring, a number of other female employees had complained of Bernstein’s sexual harassment, discrimination and workplace violence. Those female employees resigned or were forced out of their positions as a result.
Hanrahan stated. "My every attempt to have my grievances addressed was met with retaliation and a wholesale cover-up. Sadly, I was left with no other option but to turn to the courts for redress."
Hanrahan was recently awarded over $250,000 in resolution of her civil suit. She continues to seek reinstatement through the union process.
While Hanrahan’s case was pending, another female Flashpoints producer, resigned, citing abusive behavior by Bernstein as the cause. In an open letter to the Local Station Board, Echeverría stated:
“ . . . I was FORCED OUT. I was left with no choice ¬ I reported unfair
treatment, favoritism, abuse and hostile working conditions on the
Flashpoints program - perpetrated by Executive Producer Dennis
Bernstein and I was met with complete disrespect, and disregard when I
reported the abuse to the General Manager, Roy Campenella.”
EIGHT FEMALE KPFA WORKERS COMPLAINED OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT BY FORMER KPFA MANAGER
Also while Hanrahan’s case was pending, eight female workers at KPFA contacted the Department of Fair Employment and filed complaints against the station's General Manager, Roy Campanella II, for sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, threatened violence, repeated violation of workers' right to organize, and retaliation.
The women alleged that those who turned down Campanella’s sexual advances were retaliated against through public belittlement, threats to cut funding, criticism of their work to their supervisors, slander, and threats of termination.
Lisa Ballard, a union steward for the women stated, “We’ve exhausted all channels within the station and have been left with no alternative but to go to the appropriate state agencies. We care deeply about the well-being of KPFA, but the law guarantees us a safe, harassment-free workplace and neither KPFA nor Pacifica is acting to protect the workers at the station. It’s ironic, given KPFA's commitment to social justice."
This week, MAYA OROZCO, an administrative and production assistant at KPFA, contacted the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to file a Complaint alleging sexual assault, sexual harassment, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision and hiring against KPFA and Pacifica Foundation.
Until recently, Orozco work performance at KPFA had been unblemished. However after reporting for the third time, a sexual battery perpetrated by a member of apprenticeship program, Orozco’s work performance suddenly became the subject of criticism.
Orozco alleges that Chriselda Pacheco, an apprentice at KPFA, “put her finger in [Ms Orozco’s] butt.” Orozco was shocked and emotionally distraught by the touching and reported it to co-workers.
Orozco also alleges that Chriselda Pacheco “grabbed [Ms. Orozco] in the butt and pulled [her] butt cheek.” Orozco was again shocked and disturbed by Pacheco’s behavior and immediately reacted by using her foot to block Pacheco from grabbing her again. Orozco went into the restroom and burst into tears. A co-worker was present in the restroom and Orozco told the co-worker about what had just happened to her. She also reported the sexual battery to two other co-workers and made management aware of that she had been sexually battered while at work on two occasions.
Management’s response was to reprimand Orozco for defending herself in a physical manner and told her that she could be banned from the building. Management also invited Orozco to mediation with Pacheco with a mediator selected by Pacheco. Orozco was deeply troubled that she was being asked to mediate, and thereby be in the same room for a number of hours or days with the person who had sexually assaulted her. Feeling that this would be unsafe for her, given Pacheco’s repeated sex assault of her at the worksite, Orozoco declined. KPFA and Pacifica Foundation failed to take any further action regarding Orozoco’s complaints of sexual harassment and sexual battery.
At some point, Orozco discovered that despite a history of alleged sexual battering, Chriselda Pacheco had been hired by KPFA to teach classes to apprentices off-site, where Pacheco would not be subject to supervision.
When a new General Manager was appointed, Roy Campanella, Orozco again voiced her complaint. When she told Roy Campanella about the sexual battery and that the person’s continued affiliation with KPFA left Orozco feeling threatened and unsafe. Campanella responded that he could not do anything because Pacheco’s work was not performed on KPFA premises. Again, no investigation and no further action were taken. At the time that Campanella made these false statements, he was under investigation for sexual harassment of a number of women that he supervised at KPFA.
After her repeated complaints, Orozco was allegedly called into a meeting with management. Orozco was informed that she was being laid off from KPFA until a new interim general manager was appointed. Orozco was not offered any other paid position in the interim. Moreover, she was told that there was no paid work available. However, Orozco is aware that there were other paid work functions and positions available at that time. Notably, Chriselda Pacheco allegedly remained in her position teaching classes on KPFA premises.
When she was reinstated, Orozco continued to have her complaints heard and allegedly reported to the new interim general manager. Thereafter, Orozco allegedly was not provided with items necessary to performing her job effectively such as a computer or a phone. Other employees were provided with these basic necessities for performing their work. The lack of a work station resulted in Orozco’s having to complete tasks at various locations throughout the building on an ad hoc basis. In addition, Orozco’s work became the subject of criticism for the first time in her history with KPFA. Most recently, Orozco was allegedly warned that she was on probation.
ANDREA R. CLARKE, creator, producer and host, of WBAI Radio program “Sister from another Planet” has filed a Complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and is preparing to file a lawsuit against WBAI Radio; its parent Company the Pacifica Foundation; and Robert Scott Adams, the interim general manager of WBAI.
The Complaint alleges that the Clarke was the victim of sexual harassment, sexual
abuse, hostile work environment, retaliation, negligent hiring, gender discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful termination.
Clarke, who has been a fixture at WBAI Radio for more than 15 years in several different capacities, was hired in or about May 2006 as a membership complaints assistant, which involved resolving premium complaints from members/donors. Clarke’s problems at WBAI began on November 6, 2006, when Robert Scott Adams on his first day on the job as interim general manager at the Radio station, initiated improper communication to coerce Miss Clarke to become romantically and sexually involved with him and invited her to meet him in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, “so we could get to know each other in private”. Clarke firmly rejected his advances but Adams was unrelenting in the pursuit of a sexual relationship with Miss Clarke.
On one occasion, Adams demanded that Clarke visit him in his hotel room. Fearing the consequences of not showing up, Clarke went to the hotel where she alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Adams. A few days later, traumatized, devastated and humiliated by this event, she confronted Adams, and demanded that he stay away from her. Nevertheless, Adams continued vigorously to pursue sexual contact with Clarke. Clarke made it clear that she did not want to be involved in a romantic relationship with him and that he should concentrate on his new job assignment. As a consequence of Clarke’s refusal to involve herself with Adams, he told her not to return to WBAI, a directive she considered termination and with which she complied.
SHERI EPSTEIN, the assistant to Eva Georgia, General Manager of Pacifica Foundation, is filing a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging race and disability discrimination, retaliation, Labor Code violations and other claims. Epstein is a White woman with a disability, asthma. The lawsuit alleges that when Epstein was assigned by her temporary agency to work with Georgia, Georgia made comments regarding Epstein stating “I can’t have a White assistant! How would that look?” and that “having a White assistant does not go over well with the African American Community.” She further alleges that Georgia terminated Ms. Epstein during the time these comments were made. However, after a co-worker, Molly Paige (who also has her own discrimination claims against Pacifica) advocated for Epstein’s rehire, and given that Epstein’s work performance was excellent, Epstein was hired back. Epstein further contends that the discriminatory treatment, however, did not stop. Georgia's disparaging comments about Whites continued. Also, Epstein was treated differently in terms of her salary and pay increases.
Epstein's lawsuit contends that her ongoing requests for reasonable accommodation for her disability were denied, such as the purchase and use of an air purifier and cleaning of the air vents in her work area. Georgia stated to Epstein that her asthma was "all in her head." Georgia was also in the habit of burning incense and fragrant oils in her office. Not only were Georgia’s actions an OSHA violation, but it worsened Epstein’s asthmatic condition. The smoke and fragrance made it difficult for Epstein to breath, caused her headaches and made her choke, forcing her to seek medical treatment. However, when she took time out of her work day to attend to her health problems (which were exacerbated by Georgia’s actions), Epstein was penalized for alleged excessive absences.
Epstein contends that she was also required to work excessive hours, beyond her normal 8 hour daily work shift. However, she was not paid overtime and was routinely denied an uninterrupted rest and meal break as required by the California Labor Codes.
Epstein retained an attorney to advocate for her rights. Through counsel, Epstein protested the discriminatory conduct and Labor Code violations. She also filed charges with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. In retaliation for exercising her rights, Epstein's lawsuit alleges that Georgia began stripping away Epstein’s work duties and denied her access to e-mail and files which she needed in order to perform her job. Georgia also falsely accused Epstein of taking company files and denied Epstein’s request for a transfer. As to her disability, Georgia continued to burn incense despite being told that the fumes exacerbate Epstein’s asthma. As just another example of further retaliation, Georgia required that Epstein’s doctor appointments be scheduled only on the weekend or after hours, although her asthma specialist was only available during regular business hours. Epstein states, "I came to KPFK/Pacifica Radio with hope in my heart, believing I had found a place that shares in the principle of working towards a better world. I later discovered that Pacifica's mission statement, although wonderful, is not practiced inside its own doors. If I do not come forward with the truth, then I feel I would be letting the listeners down."
Epstein hoped to resolve her claims with Georgia and Pacifica but her settlement efforts were ignored, forcing her to file her lawsuit.
Earlier this year, MOLLY PAIGE, News Director at KPFK in Los Angeles filed a law suit against Pacifica Foundation, and it’s General Manager Eva Georgia, a Lesbian woman of African descent, alleging sexual and racial harassment and retaliation, among other things. See, Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC 365 777