Two former Hot 107.9 employees file lawsuit regarding wages, gender, discrimination, sexual harassment claims

“Hurricane” Dave Smith is not named as a defendant but is a major player in the suit

Originally posted Thursday, January 30, 2020 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Two women recently filed a class action suit in Atlanta against Urban One, the corporate entity that represents Atlanta hip-hop station Hot 107.9, over unpaid overtime. The plaintiffs also alleged sexual harassment at the hands of now former Radio One Atlanta vice president of programming "Hurricane" Dave Smith.

The defendant in this case is Urban One, which is based in Silver Springs, Md. Smith is not named as a defendant.

Smith was fired last August by Urban One after a previous lawsuit was filed by a former on-air personality Shorty Mack who claimed he sexually assaulted and harassed her. Smith later filed a defamation counterclaim lawsuit.

Desiree Lucas was hired at Hot in 2012 as a production assistant while Dominique Hinton joined the station as a production assistant and board operator the same year. Their responsibilities included assigning commercials to on-air personalities, assisting guests on the radio shows and ensuring commercials play and shows come back on time.

The lawsuit noted these jobs are categorized as hourly employment. They said they worked overtime but did not receive overtime pay of time and a half. The suit said they regularly worked more than 40 hours a week. Lucas makes $12.82 an hour - a wage that had not changed in nearly eight years. Hinton worked at the station from 2012 until she was terminated in 2018 and was paid between $10 to $12.32 an hour.

They believe male employees doing the same job were getting paid more than the women.

Both filed comparable sex discrimination and retaliation suits with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2018.

>>RELATED: Read the lawsuit here

This lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court in the Northern District of Georgia, also describes alleged behavior by Smith. He would make comments about the appearance of Hinton, according to the suit. Among them:

“What’s your favorite sex position?”

“I think about you. Do you think about me?”

“I think about you when I’m having sex with my wife.”

She also said he propositioned her with the line “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”

After she rejected him, he "began gradually reducing Ms. Hinton's hours, giving her less work and therefore less income." In April, 2018, she disclosed Smith's harassment to HR. She believes Smith's bosses conducted an investigation that month and Smith was "suspended." But he ended up going on Tom Joyner's "Fantastic Voyage" luxury cruise during that time.

She was fired a few weeks later. Management claimed she uploaded an incorrect file for the Rickey Smiley Morning Show but she believes files were altered while she was out of the office. “Smith and Urban One terminated Ms. Hinton in retaliation for her denying Smith’s sexual advances and for her reporting Smith’s sexual harassment,” the lawsuit said.

Lucas’ story is similar. She said in the suit that Smith also used the line, “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” When she noted that he was married, he allegedly responded, “Everyone cheats.”

When he made sexual comments about her, she reported the information to superiors but nothing happened. She did tell Monique Hudson, traffic director, who reported the complaint to HR in 2016 but Lucas was not able to discuss the situation privately with HR and it didn't go anywhere, the suit said. In 2018, she was contacted by HR about sexual harassment allegations and she reported Smith's comments and behavior.

Though Lucas is still employed there, she said Smith “retaliated” against her before he was fired himself by fabricating a story about her cursing in a break room and “pressed Ms. Lucas’ direct manager to put her on a final warning.” She said he also denied her a promotion for another station at Urban One and her Facebook Live show was cancelled.

Urban One, in response, provided this statement: “We are aware of the claims filed in November 2019 by Ms. Hinton and Ms. Lucas. Urban One does not comment on the specifics of ongoing litigation, however we deny all allegations, and intend to put forward a vigorous defense.”

Smith - a veteran radio executive who oversaw Atlanta radio programming operations for Urban One for several years - did not respond to a text seeking comment.

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