Local radio personality Kelly Vaughn alleges in a federal discrimination lawsuit that Radio One, which operates the WTLC-AM and FM stations, showed preferential treatment to a male co-worker by firing her but retaining him after they worked on an outside project.
In the lawsuit filed June 6 in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Indiana, Vaughn says she conceived of a program featuring WTLC personality Amos Brown and local political commentator Abdul-Hakim Shabazz prior to being hired by Radio One in 2012 and working at the WTLC stations.
Once “The Amos & Abdul Show” aired locally on WHMB-TV Channel 40, management at WTLC fired Vaughn for working on the show’s development, the suit claims. However, Brown, who allegedly helped develop the show, was not fired.
Both Vaughn and Brown are African-American. But “preferential treatment was accorded to an African-American male by Radio One,” because Brown was retained by the station, according to the suit.
Vaughn’s suit requests lost wages, benefits and other compensation from Radio One, as well as unspecified compensatory, consequential and punitive damages.
Chuck Williams, vice president and general manager for Radio One Indianapolis, on Tuesday declined to comment on the suit.
Parent firm Radio One, based in Silver Springs, Md., is the sole defendant.
Vaughn says in her suit that she filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January and that the agency dismissed it. A dismissal is not necessarily a judgment of the merits of the plaintiff’s accusations. In some cases, for example, the EEOC finds it is unable to determine whether cause exists, which opens the door for the plaintiff to sue.
In a Feb. 11 response to Vaughn’s EEOC charge, Radio One called her allegations “plainly fabricated.”
“Her employment with Radio One was terminated due to violation of company policy and impermissible conflicts of interest, which Mrs. Vaughn refused to remedy after being provided ample time to do so,” according to Radio One’s response.
Prior to hiring Vaughn as a part-time announcer on May 29, 2012, Radio One officials had been discussing the creation of a radio show for Brown and Shabazz.
“Launching the ‘Amos & Abdul Show’ was well known and discussed as a programming objective of WTLC-AM,” according to the response.
Once station officials learned of the broadcast of the Channel 40 program, they told Vaughn and Brown they were in violation of company policy and ordered them to refrain from recording additional shows. Vaughn also was asked to transfer ownership of websites related to the show.
Brown was contrite and cooperated, but Vaughn ultimately stonewalled the station, the response said. So, while Brown was disciplined but retained by Radio One, Vaughn was terminated on March 5, 2013.
Mary Beth Ramey, the attorney representing Vaughn in the federal suit, did not return a call seeking comment on Tuesday morning.