Music Publishing Giant Schirmer's President Sued After Firing Female Employee
G. Schirmer, Inc.-an arm of Music Sales Corporation, one of the world's largest music publishers-and its President Robert Thompson were sued today in New York Supreme Court for wrongfully terminating a new mother who objected to the hostile work environment Thompson created by flaunting his sexual relationship with a young intern in the office, in violation of Music Sales' company policy.
Promotion Manager Heather "Mattie" Kaiser, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, says that in 2016 Robert Thompson began targeting her for complaining to Music Sales leadership about Thompson's exploitative workplace relationship, which was in direct violation of the company's written policy and caused havoc among the female staff working under Thompson. The policy prohibits employees who are romantically involved from remaining in a reporting relationship, or in positions where one individual affects the compensation of the other.
According to the complaint, Defendant Thompson and the intern "would regularly vent their relationship troubles in the office and Music Sales employees would either see or hear them fighting," and employees were "put in the difficult position of having to explain and defend" the relationship to clients. The Complaint adds that "[o]n one occasion Ms. Kaiser saw . . . President Thompson in a video chat window on the intern's computer screen, clearly talking to the intern while lying in bed."
"No employees should be put in the untenable position of having the boss make life miserable in the office because of his inability to conduct himself professionally with female employees," said Steven Wittels of Wittels Law, who represents Ms. Kaiser. "Mattie followed proper procedure in reporting the gross misconduct to upper management, but when she got pregnant, Thompson stepped up his retaliation campaign to drive her out of the company," Wittels added.
As soon as Ms. Kaiser announced her pregnancy Mr. Thompson escalated his harassment, stripping Ms. Kaiser of her responsibilities and then firing her and damaging her reputation as a successful promotion manager in the world of classical music.
The complaint states that "[d]espite a difficult pregnancy, which included debilitating preterm contractions, Ms. Kaiser worked diligently until she went into labor . . . . on one occasion Ms. Kaiser actively participated in a video conference while suffering through the pain of contractions, and lying on the floor in an attempt to alleviate them." Yet "[w]hile on family leave, Ms. Kaiser learned through an internet blog that Music Sales had hired another promotion manager, a male," to replace her. Afraid for her job, Ms. Kaiser "personally invested in a back-to-work seminar for new moms, and purchased equipment and clothing that would make it possible to continue breastfeeding while working."
When Ms. Kaiser returned from maternity leave, however, she was told that despite her need for nursing accommodations, as a promotion manager she was still required to attend after-hours industry events and performances, and that working 13-hour days was "just what moms in our industry have to do." Still, Ms. Kaiser worked the long hours despite Music Sales' failure to pay her overtime as required under the wage and hour laws. During one evening performance that Ms. Kaiser was required to attend, she had to use a handheld breast pump in the bathroom during the intermission. Worst of all, in spite of all of her efforts to keep up her work despite her employer's hostile attitude, two weeks later, Ms. Kaiser was told that she was being fired.
Music Sales and G. Schirmer are two of the many companies recently exposed for the doubly discriminatory practice of blocking new mothers from continuing their careers while at the same time facilitating and allowing male executives' exploitation of younger female employees. In bringing the lawsuit Ms. Kaiser hopes to shed light on the lack of support for working mothers in the music industry, and the toxicity and sexism that pervade companies like Music Sales and its subsidiary G. Schirmer.
The lawsuit seeks unpaid wages and punitive damages for the substantial harm Thompson, G. Schirmer and Music Sales caused both her professional and personal reputation.
Ms. Kaiser is represented in the matter by Steven L. Wittels and Sharon Samuel Ourien of Wittels Law, a national class action and civil rights firm.
About Wittels Law, P.C.
Steven L. Wittels, recently named a "2018 Super Lawyer" for his success in litigation, is a nationally recognized attorney who concentrates in civil rights, consumer fraud and general public interest cases, representing plaintiffs fighting employment discrimination, labor and wage violations, consumer fraud, predatory lending, whistleblower, mass torts and other wrongs through both individual and class actions. Mr. Wittels was lead trial counsel in the largest gender discrimination class action ever tried to a jury in New York - which resulted in a $253 million jury award for compensatory and punitive damages.