The Recording Academy, the nonprofit organization that puts on the Grammy Awards, is being rocked by allegations by its chief executive that she was retaliated against after raising concerns in an email to a senior human resources executive that the organization was operating under a “boys’ club mentality.”
Recording Academy released a statement that it placed Deborah Dugan, the organization’s first female chief and president, on leave for a “formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member.” Dugan responded by filing a 44-page complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging she was placed on leave because she spoke up to the company’s HR executive about the “boys’ club mentality” at the workplace that enabled the academy’s general counsel, entertainment lawyer Joel Katz, to sexually harass her.
Dugan said she was subjected to gender discrimination, sexual harassment and unequal pay, and also claimed that “the real reason” why her predecessor Neil Portnow was not reinstated by the company is because he had been accused of raping a female artist. Portnow released a statement calling the claims “ludicrous and untrue.”
Dugan’s accusations only add fuel to the raging fire the 63-year-old organization has been fighting in recent years over the Grammy’s failure to adequately honor female artists and artists of color.
“What has been reported is not nearly the story that needs to be told,” said a lawyer for Dugan in a statement. “When our ability to speak is not restrained by a 28-page contract and legal threats, we will expose what happens when you ‘step up’ at the Recording Academy, a public nonprofit.”
The “step up” comment is a reference to a comment Portnow made to Variety about the 2018 Grammys, when he was president of the organization. He was asked about the lack of female winners, and replied “women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level (need to) step up.”
The comments didn’t sit well with female artists nor their fans.
Workplace sexual harassment has been the topic of national conversations since the #MeToo movement provided victims a platform to reclaim their voice and seek justice for the wrongs committed against them. Beasley Allen lawyer Larry Golston practices employment law and business litigation in the firm’s Consumer Fraud Section and represents victims who wish to pursue justice through litigation.