Benzino Slapped With Sexual-Harassment Charges

Former Source editor in chief and vice president accuse owners of abuses.

Just days after formally relinquishing his post as The Source magazine's chief brand executive, Raymond "Benzino" Scott, one of the hip-hop glossy's co-founders, has been named in court documents accusing him of gender discrimination and sexual harrassment.

The documents were filed early Monday morning with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by two of the monthly's highest-ranking former female executives.

Also named in the documents is CEO David Mays, who co-owns The Source with Scott.

The documents accuse both men of committing gender discrimination, sexual harassment and unlawful retaliation against women. The action was filed on behalf of all current and former female employees of the magazine by former editor in chief Kimberly Osorio and former Vice President of Marketing Michelle Joyce.

The charges follow Friday's announcement that Scott had resigned (see [article id="1499853"]"Citing Eminem Feud And Other Reasons, Benzino Quits Source"[/article]). In a statement, Scott explained that he was tired of the legal wrangling with his nemesis, rapper Eminem, and felt the magazine had gotten too rigid for his liking.

"Everyone is too politically correct," he said. "I plan on creating another magazine that has my voice which represents the little guy. It's because of the manipulation of SoundScan and radio that hip-hop is losing its edge."

Monday afternoon, however, Benzino reconsidered his resignation, announcing that he would not be stepping down after all. According to a press release on the reversal, Benzino will continue to work "to make The Source bigger and better."

According to the charges, female employees were constantly discriminated against on the basis of their gender, in favor of male employees -- not only with respect to hiring and promotions, but compensation, benefits, working hours and discipline.

Rather than hire or promote women, the documents claim that Benzino, who is originally from Boston, appointed members of his hometown clique to positions for which they weren't qualified, and that they rarely showed up for work. When these male employees made mistakes or failed to do their jobs, the filing says Mays and Scott would blame those shortcomings on their female supervisors and co-workers.

In addition, the charges further claim that Scott and Mays yelled at, belittled and verbally abused female workers, and even fired or forced out many competent and capable female employees (Joyce was let go in January, and Osorio was replaced in March) for minor work-related indiscretions. It also claims that they consistently subjected female employees -- from interns to the top brass -- to degrading acts of sexual harassment.

The alleged abuse was so widespread that many female employees hid in their offices to avoid being sexually harassed, according to court papers.

"After dedicating five years to The Source, I could no longer endure the blatant gender discrimination and harassment, so I spoke up," said Osorio -- who holds a degree from New York Law School -- in a prepared statement. "But it only hurt the situation because I was fired shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, discrimination and harassment in the workplace is very common, and now I must speak out for all women who have been victims of this same type of treatment."

"I chose to take a stand for women of the hip-hop generation and for all women who quietly endure such treatment for fear of retaliation and for those women who have suffered in silence and quietly surrendered," added Joyce.

According to the filing, both Osorio and Joyce had complained about the discriminatory treatment of women at The Source, but those grievances were ignored. Rather than remedy the situation, the court documents charge Scott and Mays with showing them the door.

Osorio, the magazine's first female editor in chief, was terminated just days after refusing to withdraw an e-mail she'd sent to the magazine's human resources department in which she complained about the treatment she and other female employees endured during their tenure, according to the charges.

In addition, Osorio says in court documents that the magazine's work environment was both hostile and sexually charged. She states that women were chastised for speaking their minds and were threatened physically and publicly debased -- both during and after their employment.

Court documents claim that Scott fired one female employee, a senior member of the accounting department, because "all she does is walk around here with her big ass and pillow talk with mother----ers." Osorio also says in her complaint that women were repeatedly denied advancement at The Source, and alleges that Scott utilized the magazine to carry out his personal attacks on some of hip-hop's leading figures.

More specifically, Osorio claims in the court papers that Scott ordered the magazine's editors to publish articles about Hot 97's Angie Martinez and the station's program director, Tracy Cloherty, which suggested both women were sexually promiscuous and "had advanced their careers in the rap music industry by having sex with many entertainers and performing certain sexual acts."

In the office, according to the charges, Scott's objectionable behavior was commonplace. Osorio and Joyce witnessed Scott and other male employees sexually proposition, touch and try to kiss female co-workers. Scott once demanded that a female subordinate sit on his lap. He asked Osorio to have dinner with him on numerous occasions and even asked her to spend a weekend with him in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the filing claims.

Scott also asked her personal questions about who she was dating and publicly boasted about his sexual conquests "with a number of prominent females in the rap music industry," according to the charges.

In Joyce's complaint, she claims male workers placed bets on who would be the first of them to sleep with an intern. She also said a male employee, upon noticing she had a lollipop in her mouth, made inappropriate comments about it.

"Osorio and Joyce have shown extraordinary courage in coming forward, and we will fully vindicate their rights at trial," said Kenneth P. Thompson, their attorney and a former federal prosecutor. "All women should be treated fairly and with the utmost respect whether they are in the world of hip-hop or not, and we will prove that in this case."

Thompson said he will be filing a federal lawsuit in the coming months, and will be seeking class-action status for both suits. Filing discrimination charges with the EEOC is the first step in the litigation process that will ultimately result in a federal court action.

The Source has issued a statement in response to the charges: "Neither of those women ever filed any complaints during many years of working at The Source. It raises a lot of questions when these types of charges are made subsequent to valid and legitimate terminations of their employment." The magazine's statement goes on to level accusations against Osorio and Joyce, adding, "Also, it is a fact that Osorio had sexual relations with a number of high profile rap artists during her employment as editor in chief. We also suspect that Joyce falsified health claims in an effort to attack The Source when she learned that she was going to be terminated. We look forward to our day in court on this matter."

This report was originally published at 11:33 a.m. EST on 4.11.05

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