Sinclair Broadcast Group Sued for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

Three former employees claim a Sinclair affiliate discriminates against women and ignored complaints about harassment.
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Three women are suing burgeoning conservative media giant Sinclair Broadcast Group for sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation amid its $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media.

Jaclyn Mason, Richelle Meiss and Rebecca Zak are suing Sinclair, along with its digital comedy venture Circa Laughs, Medio Pictures Partners, Airplane! writer-director David Zucker and Medio COO Randall Sherman. 

Mason, Meiss and Zak claim Sinclair ignored sexual harassment and discrimination at Circa, according to a complaint filed Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. 

The three women say they were hired by Circa as staff writers; Meiss was hired in July 2016, Mason in February 2017 and Zak in March 2017. They were each supervised by Sherman, who they claim "created an abusive work environment hostile to women by engaging in humiliating, demoralizing and alarming conduct."

They claim Sherman routinely called women "sweetheart," often compared the plaintiffs to his emotional and unreasonable teenage daughter, suggested women have lower IQs, claimed women weren't valuable at work unless they were attractive or "suitable for intercourse" and assessed in front of other employees whether each of the plaintiffs "was or was not 'fuckable.'" 

In addition to sexual harassment, the women claim Sinclair, Sherman and Zucker routinely discriminated against female employees. They claim the company paid women less than their male counterparts, provided only men with paid vacation and excluded women from important meetings.  

Mason says she complained about Sherman's conduct and was told Sinclair would investigate the matter. Medio's counsel took statements from all three plaintiffs and other female employees. No corrective action was taken, according to the complaint, and the three women were subsequently laid off. 

The women are suing for sexual harassment, sex discrimination, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination and/or harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Read the complaint below.)

“Circa does not tolerate unprofessional behavior of any kind," said Manny Fantis, head of content and branding at Circa, in a statement Tuesday to The Hollywood Reporter. "The allegations in this case are against an external service provider, not a Sinclair employee, and we will take steps to ensure that no one, regardless of their relationship with the company, compromises the positive work environment that we support.”

Dec. 19, 2:45 p.m. Updated with a statement from Sinclair.