Attorney Andrea Pelligreni has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former client for a culture of sexism and improper behavior. A lawyer suing a client for such misconduct can be a challenge in itself, but when your client is named the “Insane Clown Posse” it is especially difficult. While many would view working with the Insane Clown Posse to be something of an assumption of risk, Pelligreni insists that she was shocked and moved to tears in working with the recording group and particularly two members of Insane Clown Posse, Joseph “Shaggy 2 Dope” Bruce and Joseph “Violent J” Utsler. Other defendants include Psychopathic Records; its president, William Dail; and some of its employees. It makes for a curious cite as an attorney sues defendants named “Shaggy 2 Dope” and “Violent J” and Psychopathic Records for being shockingly immature and demeaning and . . . well . . . insane.
Pelligreni says that she never expected that she would have to work in such an environment despite a group that performs songs with titles like “Psychopathic”, “Blacken Your Eyes”, “Red Neck Hoe”, “Ghetto Freak Show”, “I Stuck Her With My Wang”, “My Kind Of Bitch”, “Santa’s A Fat Bitch”, “Nothin’ But A Bitch” and “We Gives No Fucks.” These songs and the culture of such bands are likely to be at issue in the case.
She worked as a publicist and then served as “in house counsel” because outside counsel was too expensive. Her complaint depicts “a consistent culture of sexism and sexual harassment that has been ignored, cultivated and/or perpetuated by defendants and others in management.” She says that she was given a sex toy as a present, called a “bitch” and yelled at by the defendants. She also claims to have been asked to do illegal acts like acquire automatic weapons for a photo shoot. The use of the profanity by the group would seem not too surprising given the lyrics of their songs.
The lawsuit pits antidiscrimination laws against artists who cultivate the very sexist image and conduct proscribed by the law. The fact is that you cannot exempt yourself from antidiscrimination laws by simply claiming it is part of your edgy street personality or image. Artists are protected in creating songs or other forms of expression that are sexist or demeaning. However, as employers, they fall under the same laws as McDonalds or Apple Computer.
Andrea Pelligreni, 32, is suing under the Michigan law as well as common law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The common law claims are more problematic when an attorney seeks to represent a group known for outrageous and sexist conduct. There is also the difficult line to draw in confidential communications. For example, she is claiming that she was told to mislead government investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor who were investigating the record label. That will create obvious issues of confidential communications that from clients trying to determine their obligations of disclosure to a federal agency. These lines become murkier when an attorney starts as a publicist and then evolves into an attorney. It is not clear if she was performing both tasks at the time of these alleged violation.
What is clear is that she was not won over by such songs as “Please Don’t Hate Me” which is far less apologetic than the title would suggest.
In the meantime, there is a new attorney representing the Insane Clown posse.