Sex Order Made Her Sick, Ad Rep Says

     LITTLE ROCK (CN) – An ad rep for Gannett TV was “physically sickened” by her boss’s order to have sex to nail down a car dealer’s account, and he fired her when she refused, she claims in court.
     Kelly Easby-Smith claims her boss went so far as to demonstrate the “grossly immoral” sex acts he wanted her to perform to keep the auto client, who was “on the fence” and considering advertising at another station.
     She sued Gannett dba Tegna dba Today’s THV 11 in Pulaski County Court. She also sued Arkansas Television Company, its president Michael Caplan, and her former supervisor Byron Wilkinson, the station’s sales director.
     Gannett, based in McLean, Va., is best known for its flagship newspaper, USA Today. Its newspapers, TV stations and other media reach more than 110 million people a month, about 33 percent of U.S. households with TVs, according to the complaint.
     In her Aug. 18 lawsuit, Easby-Smith says she had 30 years experience in the industry when Caplan recruited her in 2013 to sell ads for THV 11. She says Wilkinson came onboard as THV 11’s director of sales in 2014, becoming her immediate supervisor.
     “Defendants did not want employees to question policies or directives by white male supervisors and management, including defendants Wilkinson and Caplan, when it came to business judgment in obtaining accounts in the automotive and advertising market,” Easby-Smith says.
     This year the company became “desperate, because of competition,” and pressure built to increase ad sales, particularly with a large auto client who was considering moving to another station.
     “Defendants were at risk of not obtaining this lucrative, advertising business account. It was during this time of high stress and pressure to obtain this account that plaintiff was requested to perform sexual acts or favors for potential male clients to obtain advertising business for defendants,” she says.
     There was nothing subtle about it, Easby-Smith says. She claims that Wilkinson “specifically requested and pressured plaintiff to bypass the adverting agency, contact the large, potential client directly, call immediately, and do whatever was necessary to obtain their business for defendants, including performing inappropriate sexual acts or favors. Defendant Wilkinson verbally requested and demonstrated the type of sexual acts that he said plaintiff should engage in to obtain the large, advertising client for the monetary advancement of defendants’ business.”
     Easby-Smith says she became “physically sickened, shocked and stunned by the request,” which she refused.
     When they lost the client, a meeting was called with Gannett’s corporate representatives, at which Easby-Smith confronted Wilkinson and Gannett’s corporate HR director with her allegations, but they both “deliberately avoided and ignored plaintiff’s grievance concerning her direct supervisor’s grossly immoral, illegal, unlawful and wrongful conduct,” the lawsuit states.
     She says Gannett conducted no further investigation into her complaint and then, “contrary to its own employment policies, Arkansas law, public policy and reasonable modern business behavior, terminated the victim of the wrongful conduct – the plaintiff.”
     “Defendants concealed, suppressed, and omitted the material fact that once plaintiff was employed at THV 11, defendants would require her, as part of her job duties and responsibilities, to identify and obtain advertising clientele, at all costs, including trading herself to advertising clients for sex or sexual favors, or find serious repercussions from the defendants, including termination and discharge from employment,” the lawsuit states.
     Gannett did not reply to a request for comment Thursday.
     Easby-Smith seeks lost wages and commission, trebled, and punitive damages for wrongful discharge, outrage, gender and sex discrimination and negligence. She is represented by Phillip Duncan.

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