A former assistant at APA filed a lurid sexual harassment complaint on Wednesday alleging that a partner at the firm sent her graphic text messages and threatened to have her fired when she refused his advances.
The assistant, identified in the suit only as Jane Doe, alleges that top management fostered a “toxic, pervasive and sexually abusive environment.” The suit also claims that APA CEO Jim Gosnell routinely flew into violent rages, threw objects including a stapler and a trash can at her, and called her a “bitch” and an “icy cold c—.”
“APA’s culture promoted sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation and sexual violence against its female employees,” the suit alleges. “The men in power at APA were allowed to prey upon usually much younger female subordinates,” the suit claims.
In a response late Wednesday afternoon, APA said that the plaintiff had previously made the allegations internally. The company says that it took the matter seriously and hired investigators including a retired judge. The probe concluded that the claims were false and that the employee had fabricated text messages and emails in an effort “to shake the agency down,” the company said.
“APA refused to pay the money and months ago sued the former employee in arbitration for extortion and defamation,” said an APA spokesperson. “We believe she is now retaliating against APA and its agents through this frivolous public complaint in which she hides her identity.”
The suit quotes from text messages allegedly sent by Josh Humiston, a partner and head of the music department, to the plaintiff, propositioning her in graphic terms.
“Your body is so hot I’ve never seen it in a bikini you should come over to my pool,” he allegedly wrote. “If you f— me I’ll convince Jim (Gosnell) to pay you more money.”
When she declined, he allegedly responded: “You’re a f—ing c—… I’m going to get you fired bitch.”
The suit also alleges that Humiston repeatedly said she would have to have sex with him in order to become an agent. She alleges that when she complained to HR, she was told “that’s just the way life is working in talent agencies.”
The suit also quotes from text messages allegedly sent by Paul Santana, the vice president of talent, who is alleged to have made incessant sexual remarks. “You make me so horny,” he allegedly wrote. “If I take you on a weekend getaway I could finally live out these fantasies I have for you.”
She told him to stop, reminding him that he is married. “Those are just logistics sexy,” he allegedly wrote back, “let me deal with the wife.”
The text messages are attached as exhibits to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs’ law firm, Geragos & Geragos, did not immediately respond to the company’s claim that they were fabricated.
The suit also alleges that in the fall of 2017, an outside investigator was hired in the wake of the firing of agent Tyler Grasham for alleged sexual misconduct. The suit says that before the plaintiff was interviewed about her own allegations, Gosnell instructed her to have “memory loss.” After she related her allegations against Humiston and Santana, the plaintiff alleges that she was ostracized. Several months later, she says she was fired.
In its statement, APA threatened to take legal action against the plaintiff and her law firm.
“We are confident that this former employee, now on her fourth attorney, will not succeed with her scheme of extortion,” the spokesperson said. “We intend to take all appropriate legal action against her and her counsel.”
Update: Michael Popok, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys on the case, says that witnesses will be able to corroborate her allegations.
“She is not going to be the only witness on her behalf in that courtroom to prove her case,” Popok said.
He also stood behind the validity of the text messages.
“I am confident in my client’s veracity,” he said. “I have a plaintiff who is on record under oath saying everything that happened to her… It’s not going to be hard to get to the bottom of this.”