By CRISTIN REECE
Two local radio personalities filed suit in Houston County’s 3rd Judicial District Court earlier this month against the owner and executives of a local radio station, alleging sexual harassment, assault, disability discrimination and other violations of the state’s Labor Code.
Weston Entertainment owner Gregg Weston of San Antonio, and station representatives Eric Eisbrenner and Don Raumaker are all named as defendants in the suit brought by plaintiffs Carla Turner and James Heil, former morning on-air talents of KBHT ‘The Outlaw,’ 93.5 FM.
The pair are seeking “unspecified amounts, which would be left up to the jury to decide,” according to attorney-in-charge Tim Garrigan. Garrigan, a partner with Stuckey, Garrigan & Castetter law office in Nacogdoches, and Elaine Berkley, an attorney with Griffith & Griffith in Crockett, are representing the plaintiffs.
The suit states all three defendants “unlawfully and intentionally violated the prohibitions against sexual harassment, disability discrimination and retaliation...,” and specifically names Raumaker as being sued for assault.
The suit outlines the patterns of alleged abuse and violations and states, “In early May, 2011, defendants Eisbrenner and Raumaker first appeared at the station, which was doing business as KBHT ‘The Outlaw,’ and introduced themselves as “partners” and “consultants” who were on a fact finding mission for Weston Entertainment. (Weston Entertainment acquired the station in 2006.)
“Two or three weeks later, the general manager announced ... Raumaker and Eisbrenner were becoming station consultants, meaning they would have considerable power over the employees and the future of the station.”
The suit alleges Raumaker spent more time at the station and “began making Turner uncomfortable by paying inordinate amounts of attention to her,” including “talking about his [genital size], the sexual disinterest of his wife, his resulting need for a ‘Palestine girlfriend,’ and claiming extraordinary sexual abilities ..., talking about Turner’s body parts... graphically describing what he wanted to do, sexually, with a co-worker who he promoted to office manager. ...[texting] inappropriately... [telling Turner] he had looked up Turner’s skirt and knew what her underwear looked like....”
This sort of thing continued whenever Raumaker was at the station, often in the presence of employees, clients, advertisers and, on occasion, children.”
The suit states Turner would “openly express her disapproval,” and “made every excuse to avoid spending any time with Raumaker that was not absolutely necessary to the station.
“Opposing Raumaker’s sexual harassment without jeopardizing her job and future at the station became a very difficult, eventually impossible, balancing act for Turner.”
The suit states in June 2011, Raumaker’s “offensive sexual conduct” escalated sharply to “offensive physical contact [which] constituted not only sexual harassment but assaults under the common law of Texas,” when he allegedly “stood in front of Turner in the production room and dropped his pants and threatened to drop his underwear too. ... Raumaker would paw at Turner when she was on-air and could not object without going out of character. He would inappropriately touch her leg, rear end, neck and arms...” and at one point in July 2011, “cupped her breasts.”
At the same time, the suit states, Raumaker began offering Turner the general manager’s position at the radio station, which she declined. Before the month was out, “Raumaker announced Turner was now the general manager and in charge,” the allegations claim, and “Turner’s name was added to the signature card at the First Community Bank as general manager.”
It was during that time period as well, the suit alleges Raumaker also “grabbed her violently by the arm and yanked her off her seat causing her headphones to fly off,” and called her vulgar names after she “turned her back on him to speak into the microphone.”
“While treating Turner in this way, Raumaker told others that she was a ‘rube’ and that ‘she’ll sleep with me or she’ll be out of a job and we’ll get somebody who will’ or words to that effect,” the suit states.
During that same time frame, the suit states Turner tried to report Raumaker’s conduct to Eisbrenner, who “made no assurances of support or that Turner could do anything else to address Raumaker’s inappropriate behavior.” Turner also reported the harassment to Weston Entertainment Vice President Lydia Hankins and included copies of inappropriate texts and recordings of at least one inappropriate conversation to show how she’d been treated. Hankins reportedly said she’d handle the matter appropriately and contacted Heil, who confirmed his co-worker’s reports of sexual harassment.
“Hankins said she was looking into the matter and would take any action they deemed appropriate,” the suit states.
After lodging her complaint, the suit states Raumaker told Turner “she no longer had any titles,” and “she was no longer the general manager ‘because of [her] phone call.’”
Turner and Heil at that time both went to the Grapeland Police Department and filed written statements with the police about Raumaker’s assaults and conduct and “because Raumaker angry and threatening to others.” Plaintiffs’ attorneys were unclear whether or not a criminal case had been filed against Raumaker and phone messages to the Grapeland police chief on Thursday were unreturned.
When Hankins did finally address Turner’s complaints, the suit states, “Hankins ... said [Weston Entertainment] were angry with her and threatened to have her arrested for recording conversations (that Turner had been a party to and had every right to record). ... Hankins said Raumaker was in charge, he had Weston’s support, he could do or say what he wanted, and they needed to get behind Raumaker or quit.”
Hankins reportedly had a similar conversation with Heil.
It was at that point Turner got a lawyer who met with Turner, Hankins and Eisbrenner and “[made] it clear Turner felt harassed and looked to them, Eisbrenner and Hankins, for help. Eisbrenner and Hankins were noncommittal about what they would do next.
“Thereafter, Raumaker never returned to the station. Eisbrenner was in charge... offered no job security to Turner, confirmed she held no titles... and told her to train others to do the things she had been responsible for. Eisbrenner’s actions suggested that he wanted to humiliate Turner, make an example of her in front of other employees and force her out of her job. Eisbrenner refused to tell Turner where she stood in the organization.”
The suit continues, stating “Through August 2011, Eisbrenner openly talked to other employees about the fact that Weston Entertainment wanted to fire Turner, but couldn’t because of legal problems, so they wanted to get her to quit.”
Turner’s pay was reduced, her hours drastically changed and her name and image were removed from the station’s website during this time period. A mental health professional Turner began seeing at the time recommended she take a leave of absence for her mental health. Eisbrenner allegedly “threatened that he would have to replace her if she took a leave of absence,” and refused paid medical leave, which the suit states had never been denied before.
At the end of August 2011, Turner filed discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Civil Rights Division of the Texas Workforce Commission, reporting the harassment and retaliation.
In September 2011, “when it became apparent to the defendants that Heil had been supportive of Turner’s plight and had helped report the harassment and assaultive behavior to the police, Eisbrenner... told Heil to take a mandatory two week paid holiday – that had not been requested,” court documents state. “Eisbrenner repeatedly assured Heil that his job was waiting for him to return, the defendants would not agree on a date for him to return. They changed the locks and locked Heil out of his e-mail account. While Eisbrenner made assurances to Heil, he told other employees that he had no intention of returning Heil to work.”
Finally, the suit states Eisbrenner told Heil to return to work on Oct. 3, 2011, and when he did Eisbrenner fired him.
At the end of September 2011, Heil filed discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Civil Rights Division of the Texas Workforce Commission.
“[The] defendants’ actions toward Turner and Heil... proximately caused them to lose valuable compensation and fringe benefits, and to suffer humiliation and other emotional distress,” the suit alleges.
The radio station is currently operating as KBPC ‘Pine Country’ 93.5 FM.