Pop Singer Sues Producer for Sexual Harassment, Other Claims; Producer Counter-Sues for Extortion

The field of employment law extends beyond claims under statutes like the Fair Labor Standards Act or the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law. Employment law includes almost any legal issue involving an employer-employee relationship or almost any similar relationship. A pair of lawsuits between a pop singer and her producer demonstrate how “employment law” can encompass a wide range of issues. No express employer-employee relationship exists in the cases, but the singer’s lawsuit alleges that the producer has made it essentially impossible for her to work. The producer responded by filing his own lawsuit, alleging breach of contract and other claims.

The singer, who uses the stage name “Kesha” and previously used the name “Ke$ha,” has built a rather extensive body of work as a singer, songwriter, and performer. She released her first full-length album in 2010, but her career has been less active in recent years. She attributes that apparent slowdown in her career to a conflict with her producer, who does business under the name “Dr. Luke.”

In her complaint, Kesha states that she first signed a contract with Dr. Luke in 2005, when she was 18 years old. She alleges that he “has sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abused” her for the past decade, “to the point where [she] nearly lost her life.” Sebert v. Gottwald, et al., 1st am. complaint at 2 (Cal. Super. Ct., L.A. Co., Jun. 8, 2015). The allegations include “sexual advances” and “forc[ing her] to take drugs and alcohol in order to take advantage of her sexually while she was intoxicated.” Id. at 7. The “abuse and control” allegedly continued after she got her “big break” in 2010. Id. at 8. She also alleges numerous acts by the producer that have hindered her career in recent years, such as by preventing her from releasing albums or touring.

The lawsuit names the producer, several corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs) that are controlled by the producer, and the record label as defendants. Kesha claims that these other defendants knew about the producer’s alleged conduct, that they failed to remedy the situation, and even that they “engaged in efforts to cover up his conduct.” Id. at 2. The complaint asserts causes of action for the intentional torts of sexual assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligent retention and supervision. It asserts employment claims for sexual harassment, gender violence, and civil harassment, Cal. Civ. Code §§ 51.9 and 52.4, Cal. Code Civ. P. § 527.6; and a claim for unfair business practices, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 et seq.

The producer did not merely deny the allegations in Kesha’s lawsuit. He filed a separate lawsuit against her in New York, claiming that she, her mother, and her managers are not happy with her contracts, and they “will stop at nothing to get her out of them.” Gottwald v. Sebert, et al., 1st am. complaint at 1 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., N.Y. Co., Dec. 23, 2014). His lawsuit asserts causes of action for defamation, breach of contract, and tortious interference with a business contract.

If you need to speak to an attorney about an employment dispute in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group online, at 973-781-1204, or at (646) 867-7997.

More Blog Posts:

Former Employee’s Lawsuit Claims Privacy Violations, Wrongful Termination Based on GPS Monitoring, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, June 18, 2015

Former Post-Doctoral Student Files Lawsuit Against University, Supervisor, and Fellow, Alleging Sabotage of Experiment and Hostile Work Environment, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, July 7, 2014

Holiday Party Results in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, January 4, 2013

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