SUPERVISORS AND TALK SHOW HOSTS
The courts, with increasing regularity, receive complaints from female
employees who assert that they have been the subject of sexual abuse or
harassment by a supervisor. In a recent California Supreme Court case, however,
two female employees reported sexual harassment, although they were not the
specific targets of the supervisor’s sexual
The plaintiffs, former employees of the Valley State Prison for Women,
asserted that the chief deputy warden of the prison where they were employed
provided favorable treatment to numerous female employees with whom the warden
was having sexual affairs.
The warden allegedly maintained a sexual affair with his secretary, with
an associate warden, and with another department employee. It was reported that over a period of
several years, the warden engaged concurrently in sexual affairs with these
three female employees. The court
notes that there was evidence these affairs began in 1991 and continued until
1998. It was also reported that the
three women squabbled over the warden, sometimes in emotional scenes witnessed
by other employees.
One of the female employees engaging in a sexual affair with the warden
boasted that he “would be forced to give her . . . the promotion or she would
‘take him down’ with her knowledge of ‘everY scar on his
In two instances, the warden promoted one of the women to facility
captain positions in preference to one of the plaintiffs, although the plaintiff
was more qualified. The woman
engaging in the affair with the warden “enjoyed an unprecedented pace of
promotion to the managerial position of associate warden, causing outraged
employees to ask such questions as, ‘what to do I have to do, ‘F’ my way to the
The court concluded that a hostile work environment was shown to have
been created for all employees by such widespread favoritism, evidence of
considerable flaunting of the relationships, and the warden’s indiscreet
behavior at a number of work-related social
In another action alleging abuse of another kind, that of age abuse,
entertainer Marty Ingels placed a call to a radio talk show produced by Westwood
One Broadcasting Services, Inc., featuring Tom
The show, according to the allegations of the defense, had the second
ranked share of men aged 25-34 radio audience in the Los Angeles market during
its time period.
While listening to the Tom Leykis show, Mr. Ingels noted that the host
was discussing “luring dates, girls, and being popular” and that Mr. Leykis was
providing advice to the young male caller.
Mr. Ingels elected to call the show and to “challenge him on his beliefs
and win a moral argument . . . .”
When Mr. Ingels finally got through to the station, he told the screener
that his age was 60. The screener
made jokes about his age and essentially told him that he did not belong on the
show. After being placed on hold
for approximately 11 to 12 minutes, Mr. Ingels decided to address the issue
of age when he got on the air.
The following is an excerpt of the conversation undertaken between Mr.
Ingels and Mr. Leykis:
CALLER: Hey, Tom, I hope you got an
answer for me. I had to actually
muscle my way in here, because I am older than your demographic.
LEYKIS: You’re not just older than
by demographic, you’re the grandfather of my
CALLER: What’s that got to do with
what’s in my brain and what I have to say?
LEYKIS: Because we’re not aiming at
people your age, Pops . . . . I
don’t really care how smart you are, Pal.
You know what, we have a targeted demographic on this program; you don’t
fit it, period. You’re way too old,
Pops. You don’t belong on the
air. Call a big band station. Call somebody else. Don’t call
“It’s called targeted demographics. ‘Oh, it’s all about advertising, isn’t
it?’ Yes. Yes it is. Do you hear how many commercials are on
this show? We sell lots of
advertising, because we have got a targeted demographic that people want to buy,
and it doesn’t include people who don’t go out and ride motorcycles and drive
expensive cars and drink beer. Ha,
As a consequence of the telephone discussion, Mr. Ingels alleged in his
complaint that Mr. Leykis had put him on the air and “proceeded to berate and
humiliate Ingels and refused to allow Ingels to air his opinions or participate
in the show because of Ingels’ age.
As a direct and proximate cause of Defendants’ conduct, Ingels suffered a
loss of dignity, hurt feelings, and emotional upset and distress in an amount to
be determined at the time of trial.
Ingels also seeks treble that amount as allowed by
The action was ultimately dismissed, the court noting that the state had
no compelling interest to justify application of state discrimination laws to a
radio talk show.
The moral of the story?
Unexpected abuse at the hand of a supervisor is different from abuse to
be expected from a radio talk show host.
[This column is intended to provide general information only and
is not intended to provide specific legal advice; if you have a
specific question regarding the law, you should contact an
attorney of your choice. Suggestions for topics to be discussed
in this column are welcome.]
Reprinted from The Journal
Myles M. Mattenson © 2005