Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Office L.A.-Style: At One of the Most Left-Leaning Radio Stations in America, a Straight White Woman Is Accusing Her Boss, a Gay Black Woman, of Sexual Harassment. Welcome to the 21st-Century Workplace

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Office L.A.-Style: At One of the Most Left-Leaning Radio Stations in America, a Straight White Woman Is Accusing Her Boss, a Gay Black Woman, of Sexual Harassment. Welcome to the 21st-Century Workplace

Article excerpt

LEAVE IT TO A LEFTY

Southern California radio station to turn the old 9 to 5 stereotype of sexual harassment on its ear.

KPFK FM news director Molly Paige, a white heterosexual woman, is accusing her black lesbian general manager, Eva Georgia, of sexual harassment. It's a rare "she said, she said" situation that could end up in a courtroom and bring to the fore bitter divisions that have plagued the radio station for years.

According to a lawsuit filed in February in Los Angeles superior court, Paige cites copious "inappropriate, sexually charged remarks, innuendoes and gestures as well as sexually offensive touching, which in turn resulted in a hostile, abusive, and intolerable working environment." For instance, Paige claims that Georgia repeatedly told her she needed to "get laid" and said she should try lesbian sex. Paige also charges that Georgia told her it excited her to watch her apply lipstick, caressed her hair without permission, and tried to coerce her into bed during a business trip by making "remarks of a quid pro quo nature." Paige also says that when she rebuffed her advances, Georgia disparagingly dubbed her "Molly White."

Pacifica Foundation-owned KPFK, one of five radio stations in its network, is renowned for uberliberal (some would say radically progressive) programs covering topics as diverse as 9/11 conspiracy theories and gay rights. It was the station's legacy of idealism that brought Paige there nearly three years ago.

"Instead, I discovered to my horror that I was expected to tolerate and acquiesce to the very harassment, discrimination, and retaliation that Pacifica was supposed to stand against," Paige said in a statement. "The hypocrisy of this organization that I so admired is heartbreaking."

Paige took three weeks of sick leave this summer before going on unpaid absence until mid September. At that time she'll decide whether to return to the listener-sponsored radio station or seek employment elsewhere.

Georgia isn't new to work-related conflicts. She filed her own lawsuit claiming wrongful termination from a gay and lesbian community center in Long Beach, Calif., and there have been allegations--unproven--of her impropriety at a community radio station she founded in her native South Africa.

When she was hired at KPFK in 2002, the hope was that Georgia would bring calm to a station in the midst of a bitter organizational struggle. However, the station manager has been involved more with contention than diplomacy.

"She's been controversial since she was hired," acknowledges Dan Siegel, the Oakland, Calif.-based lawyer representing Pacifica and Georgia. "The view of many of us was that people were uncomfortable with hiring a gay mixed-race woman to run an institution that had long been run by straight white men. Eva has been a polarizing figure if for no other reason than she replaced the leadership that had been entrenched, and that leadership had some support. From the day she was hired she has been subjected to a lot of slander."

How polarizing? Eighteen KPFK staff members--including longtime show hosts Ian Masters, Roy Tuckman, Don Bustany, Jon Wiener, and Suzi Weissman--submitted a petition to the Pacifica national board this July demanding a change in leadership. The petition claims the station is suffering from "mismanagement and unaccountability." It cites a recent vote of no confidence by the staff, a declining number of listeners and members, and issues of the maintenance of KPFK's broadcast signal. It concludes simply, "Nothing short of a change in management will do."

Despite the multiple controversies swirling around Georgia, the board has remained unwaveringly supportive of the station manager. It went so far as to issue a resolution this July hailing her "innovative leadership and dedicated commitment." "Under Eva Georgia's leadership," the board continues, "KPFK's paid and unpaid staff has become more diverse, and its programming has become more relevant to the needs of the Los Angeles area's diverse communities. …

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