Lawsuit Alleges ‘Sexually Hostile Work Environment’ at WOIO

By Merrill Knox 

woio logoA lawsuit filed against Cleveland CBS affiliate WOIO accuses the station of “creating a sexually hostile work environment and retaliating against an advertisement sales employee who complained about it to station managers,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

The complaint was filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court last week by Kevin Flanigan II. It names WOIO parent company Raycom Media, general manger William Applegate and sales manager Debra Pando, the Plain Dealer reports:

According to the lawsuit, Pando hired Flanigan in 2007, telling him she was “taking a risk” because men didn’t normally perform as well as women. Flanigan said that despite being among the top performers in the department, he was pressured to engage in inappropriate sexual contact with other employees and clients and the use of drugs at corporate events involving clients.

According to the lawsuit, the drug use and sexual favors were common and encouraged to “foster new business relationships.” […] The lawsuit also alleges Pando often became drunk, acted inappropriately or passed out during or after events. During an “Opening Day” party – the suit doesn’t give a date – [sic] Pando removed some of her clothes and flashed people outside a bar.

Flanigan said after he complained about Pando, she tried to fire him and the station then conducted multiple investigations into his allegations, which resulted in his being told to work from home and later to report to a new supervisor. According to the suit, since returning to work Flanigan has been ostracized, bullied and intimidated, which has resulted in distress and the loss of potential commissions on advertising sales.

Applegate tells the Plain Dealer that the station intends “to defend ourselves vigorously” from “the numerous offensive and erroneous allegations contained in this suit.”