One of America’s largest talent agencies won a round in court Wednesday when a judge ruled that an agent who alleged she was fired for complaining about a “toxic, pervasive and sexually abusive environment” in the workplace will have to arbitrate her claims rather than take them before a jury.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey ruled that when the plaintiff accepted her job at the Agency for the Performing Arts, she signed an agreement agreeing to arbitrate all such claims. Mackey’s ruling also pertains to part of the case filed by the plaintiff, identified only as Jane Doe, against Collins Avenue Entertainment LLC, an APA client which was added as a defendant on July 31, a little more than a month after the original suit was brought.
The judge placed a stay on the case pending the outcome of the arbitration.
“I’m very pleased,” APA attorney Adam Levin said outside the courtroom. “It was the right result.”
Plaintiff’s attorney Matthew Hoesley argued the arbitration agreement was unfairly skewed in favor of APA and that the plaintiff never understood what she was agreeing to when she was presented with the signature page.
“She said she never read the thing,” Hoesly said.
But Levin told the judge that the woman and the APA mutually agreed to arbitrate the types of claims she asserts in the lawsuit.
“If I had a dollar for every time someone said they didn’t understand an arbitration agreement I’d be rich and on some tropical island,” Levin said.
According to one website, APA is one of the largest diversified talent agencies in Los Angeles with other offices in New York, Nashville, Atlanta, Toronto and London.
The plaintiff maintains she worked in a “toxic, pervasive and sexually abusive environment” at APA and that she was fired when she complained.
She alleges two APA executives harassed her.
“Plaintiff was incessantly subjected to sexual advances, crude and obscene comments, and retaliation, not at the hands of underlings at APA, but by its most senior apex management,” the suit alleges.
The plaintiff also claims she was sexually assaulted by Collins Avenue Entertainment’s COO in July 2017.
“When she dutifully reported the assault to APA, she was threatened by the company’s senior management and APA’s Office of the General Counsel to not report it to law enforcement or she would be terminated,” the suit alleges.
The plaintiff ultimately lost her job in August 2018, according to her court papers.
“It should come as no surprise that APA ultimately retaliated against plaintiff, firing her on some trumped up, pretextual allegations having no basis in fact,” the suit alleges.