NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A former sales executive has filed a $5 million lawsuit against sports radio station WFAN and show host Joe Benigno over accusations of sexual harassment and a culture where “anything goes” among coworkers.
Lauren Lockwood, who was a sports sales executive the station for five years until her termination in 2017, named Benigno and others working at WFAN in her claims of a hostile work environment, retaliation and discrimination.
Benigno has been a WFAN personality for 24 years and currently co-host a midday show with Evan Roberts.
Lockwood’s complaint points out she was one of five female account executives in a sales team of 25 men who made “sexual comments, outrageous sexual solicitations, unwelcome touching, innuendoes and hostility on a near daily basis.”
The complaint also describes a work environment in which managers and sales team reps kept liquor in desk drawers, shared Jameson with pickleback shots and Tequila at the office and client events, and ran up company expenses for more booze up to $2,000 or even $4,000 per event with clients.
At one meeting, she describes a coworker as appearing “drunk and smelling of alcohol” bragging about strip club meetings with clients and “paying for two prostitutes (cost $1,300)” which he later allegedly filed on an expense report. Lockwood also said the coworker was allowed
“to go home early to sleep off the hangover.”
In terms of her dealings with Benigno, Lockwood relates scenes of the veteran broadcaster giving her backrubs, whispering “in her ear about having ‘threesomes’ with him and his wife and prostitutes” and sexual encounters with other women working at WFAN.
Lockwood said when she rejected Benigno’s advances, he complained to another WFAN employee he “can’t even give her a compliment.”
Benigno was removed from the programming schedule on Thursday and reportedly refuted Lockwood’s claims through his agent.
“Joe categorically denies the allegations,” said Mark Lepselter according to the New York Daily News. “My father once told me on any story, always consider the source and those who live in glass houses. We’re more than prepared to handle the situation if need be.”
Lockwood’s complaint also describes a “Bro’s Club” atmosphere where men were given lower sales quota’s to make their goals, given more lucrative accounts, given better perks to sports events and generally treated less strictly in the workplace.
In July 2017, a argument between a current and former WFAN employee in the station’s suite at the Barclay’s Center for the Mayweather/McGregor promotional tour – apparently comparing the two boxers – escalated into a fight in which Lockwood was caught in the melee. She was fired from WFAN the next day, the only employee to face such termination after the event.
Lockwood also claims WFAN employees conitnued to interfere with her attempt to get a new job after leaving the station.