The Grammys have long been criticized for failing to properly recognize female artists and artists of color. Now there is an explosive issue facing the 63-year-old parent organization of the awards, and it involves sexual harassment.
Each year, the Recording Academy, formally known as the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, puts on the Grammy Awards. Just one week before the show aired, the organization announced Chief Executive Officer Deborah Dugan had been placed on administrative leave.
The reason? A senior female member of the organization made a formal allegation of misconduct against Dugan. A few days later, Dugan responded by filing a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) complaint, alleging the Recording Academy engaged or permitted gender discrimination, unequal pay and sexual harassment.
Dugan, who is the Recording Academy’s first female CEO and has only held the job for six months, claims she was retaliated against after sending an email to a human resources executive that there was an “old boy’s club” mentality at the organization. The email also accused another executive of sexual harassment.
Dugan alleges that Sam Katz, a former chair of the Recording Academy’s Board of Trustees, sexually harassed her at a business dinner. That was before she was hired as CEO. Dugan claims that Katz tried to kiss her and repeatedly commented on her appearance. She says that since that initial meeting, Katz had continuously made remarks regarding her looks. Katz denies Dugan’s allegations.
In her EEOC complaint, Dugan alleges the real reason that the former CEO did not have his contract renewed was due to allegations he had raped a female artist. That same CEO had been asked about the lack of female winners at the 2018 awards, and he replied that women artists must “step up,” comment many found offensive.
The email includes a statement by Dugan that the Grammy’s lack of diversity. That fact has kept major R&B and rap stars from inclusion for prime categories such as Album of the Year.
According to the complaint, the Recording Academy paid exorbitant legal fees to its counsel. When Dugan wanted to hire other lawyers, she was not permitted to do so to protect the “old boy’s club.”
Besides, the complaints state that a board member sexually harassed the former Chief Information Officer. When the woman reported it to the human resources department, she was told if she did not resign, she would be fired.
Three weeks after she sent that email, Dugan was put on administrative leave. Her attorneys say the move was done in retaliation for Dugan raising concerns about how the company operated.
One lawyer notes her complaint against the Recording Academy “highlights tactics” similar to those used by movie producer and accused rapist Harvey Weinstein. He adds that the Recording Academy is deliberately trying to shift the focus away from its own illegal activities and “impugn” the character of Dugan.
The Next Step
The EEOC will either investigate Dugan’s complaint or mediation may come into play. If the EEOC declines to investigate or conducts an investigation that does not find evidence of discrimination, Dugan might file a lawsuit against the Recording Academy.
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