Judge rules in favor of Emmis in sexual harassment lawsuit

Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications Corp. has prevailed in a federal lawsuit brought by a former employee who alleged she was sexually harassed.

Kristine Esser Slentz, who worked as a digital content manager at Indianapolis station WFNI-AM 1070 “The Fan,” filed the suit in September 2016.

In her complaint, Slentz said she left her job at WFNI in December, 2015 because she was subjected to “frequent harassment and criticism”—with most of it coming from producers Tony Donohue and Kyle Knezevich. She said she had been hired by Emmis in October 2014 and promoted about six months later.

Slentz alleges that Donohue complained about her work performance via text messages he sent her after work hours. The frequency of these texts increased in March 2015, when Donohue told her he had found an article about bisexuality that Slentz had published on the Huffington Post website.

“Donohue talked about the article with almost everyone else who worked on their floor, and made many jokes and comments about it, many of which were derogatory,” the complaint alleges.

Slentz’s lawsuit's had sought “compensatory and punitive damages,” as well as interest, attorney's fees and court costs.

Court records show Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on Feb. 5 granted Emmis' motion for summary judgment, concluding the case should be dismissed without a full-blown trial. In the 18-page ruling, Magnus-Stinson found that Slentz “has failed to demonstrate that the alleged harassment was severe or pervasive enough to rise to the level of a hostile work environment.”

In response to IBJ's request for comment, Emmis issued this statement: "Emmis works hard to create and maintain a workplace that is respectful of all people. This is the commitment we expect each Emmis employee to demonstrate at all times.  Emmis aggressively defended itself against the allegations in this lawsuit and is very pleased in the district court's decision."

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