Dorothy Carvello still remembers the day she was fired from her dream job at Atlantic Records for playing by the rules.
It was September 1990, and she had just written a memo to her boss reporting a possible violation of human resource policies, according to a lawsuit Carvello filed against the record label in New York state court earlier this week. Carvello alleged that during a work meeting in front of other male executives, her supervisor told her, “Honey, sit on my lap,” as a condition of attending the meeting, the lawsuit states. She said in the court papers that she refused, but the supervisor insisted, causing laughter in the room.
Carvello walked out of the meeting and wrote the memo, also lamenting the “juvenile demeanor of all the men at Atlantic Records.” She said she hopes the report will result in punishment from the manager and a change in the company.
Instead, Carvello, a former assistant who worked her way up to become the label’s first female artist and repertoire manager, said in court documents the next day that she received word she had lost her job.
“It was a dream job in a creative field and a very difficult job to get,” Carvello said in an interview with The Times this week. “And being treated as less than human was a very shocking thing to me.”
The alleged incident is just the latest in a long list of abuse cases, she said in the lawsuit. Carvello also alleged in the lawsuit that she suffered sexual harassment and assault from company executives after she was hired in 1987. That included Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic’s late co-founder and longtime CEO, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also names the Ertegun Estate and Warner Music Group, which owns Atlantic Records, as defendants.
It is the second lawsuit filed against Ertegun’s estate and the music label in as many weeks. Last week, Jan Roeg, a former music executive, alleged a similar pattern of sexual assaults by the late executive, accusing Atlantic of promoting a toxic work culture and covering up the abuse in a lawsuit against the label and estate.
Carvello told the Times that she hopes her lawsuit will ensure no one else has to endure what she went through.
“What I stand up for, and one of the reasons I do it, is that we need a safe environment where male and female artists or employees can file a complaint without being accused of anything,” Carvello said. “The people who complain should not be kicked out.”
In a statement, Warner Music Group said its company has changed since the time of the alleged incidents and takes “allegations of misconduct very seriously” and affirms that there are policies in place to ensure a safe work environment, such as a code of conduct and mandatory workplace training.
“These allegations go back almost 40 years before WMG was a separate company. We speak to people who were there at the time, bearing in mind that many key people are deceased or in their 80s and 90s,” the music company told The Times through a spokesperson.
Ertegun, who is widely credited with shaping the sound of American popular music for decades, died in 2006 at the age of 83.
But Doug Morris and Jason Flom – both named as defendants in Carvello’s lawsuit – are still alive and remain influential in the music industry.
The lawsuit accuses label executives of enabling Ertegun’s wrongdoing, and also alleges Flom and Morris. Carvello claimed in the lawsuit that it was Flom who allegedly asked Carvello to sit on his lap. And Morris allegedly fired Carvello for speaking up, the lawsuit said.
Morris and Flom had brilliant careers: Morris managed the three major labels Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment and founded the video streaming service Vevo. Flom became chairman of Atlantic Records and Virgin Records, founded Lava Records and is credited with launching the careers of pop stars such as Katy Perry and Lorde.
Flom is also an influential advocate for criminal justice reform and a founding member of the Innocence Project. He serves on the boards of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Legal Action Center, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, the NYU Prison Education Program, and other groups.
The organizations associated with Flom did not respond to requests for comment.
Flom did not respond to multiple requests for comment. And Morris could not be reached for comment.
Carvello told the Times she sees sexual assault in the music industry as an ongoing, ongoing problem.
After first going public about the assault allegations in her 2018 book Anything for a Hit, Carvello said many women in the music industry have shared their experiences of sexual assault with her.
“The overarching theme is that women are very afraid to come forward for fear of retribution,” she said. “I recently had a very, very big artist come forward and file a complaint, but they’re scared, and I understand that, and they have my empathy.”
Carvello said that early in her career she worked low-paying, entry-level jobs in the music industry. Carvello was the first in her family to attend college and said she sought a job in music with more stable pay and benefits, which she found at Atlantic Records.
After being hired as Morris and Ertegun’s assistant in 1987, the lawsuit alleges that Ertegun periodically grabbed her breasts and exposed himself to her and masturbated in front of her while dictating correspondence to her.
At the beginning of each day, Morris leaned close to Carvello, touched her shoulders and kissed her without her consent, the complaint said. The suit also said both men would regularly comment on their breasts and legs.
Multiple incidents of Ertegun grabbing Carvello’s genitals left bruises and lacerations, the lawsuit says. During another, Ertegun reportedly broke Carvello’s arm after slamming him into a table. The lawsuit states that after Carvello Morris reported the incident, he responded by saying, “What should I do about it?”
The complaint also alleged that Ertegun and Morris both used company funds to pay settlements to people who accused the couple of sexual assault, in exchange for signing non-disclosure agreements that promised silence.
Earlier this year, Carvello founded the Face the Music Now Foundation, which aims to repeal and stop the use of non-disclosure agreements that “silence survivors and allow perpetrators to continue their predatory behavior.”
In 2019, California enacted a law known as the #MeToo Act that banned non-disclosure provisions in settlements involving claims of sexual assault, harassment or gender discrimination. And on Wednesday, President Biden signed a similar federal ban.
Carvello says she understands why many survivors prefer to remain silent. After speaking out, she said she was struggling to find work in the industry. While she was still able to work for major labels like RCA and Columbia, she never regained the same clout as she did at Atlantic, where she worked as a talent scout to find artists to sign for the label.
“I’ve had to settle for lower-paying jobs, smaller companies, and really stay in the background,” Carvello said. “So yes, it was very difficult.”
Carvello said she hopes her lawsuit will bring about changes in the industry, such as safer ways for people to report incidents of abuse without fear of retaliation, such as: B. the derailment of their career.
“It’s very difficult to make these kinds of sexual assault complaints, it’s embarrassing, it’s humiliating,” Carvello said.
“It’s hard enough for anyone and then the whole industry comes down on you like a ton of bricks as a troublemaker or you don’t do with the program, it shouldn’t be like that. “
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2022-12-09/ahmet-ertegun-lawsuit-atlantic-records-dorothy-carvello Dorothy Carvello on why she’s suing Ahmet Ertegun’s estate