wrestling / News

Kelly Klein Sues ROH & Sinclair Alleging Discrimination, Harassment

February 26, 2021 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas

Former ROH star Kelly Klein has filed a lawsuit against the promotion and parent company Sinclair Broadcasting, alleging discrimination and harassment among other things. Heel By Nature reports that Klein filed the lawsuit against the companies on Wednesday. Klein was released from ROH back in late 2019 alleging breach of contract after she publicized emails between herself and ROH General Manager Greg Gilleland, and claimed that the company didn’t have a concussion protocol.

The 28-page lawsuit alleges that ROH breached their implied contract with Klein, owes unpaid royalties, violated state and federal Equal Pay acts, and discriminated against her, harrassed her, and operated an unsafe work environment. Named in the lawsuit are Gilleland, ROH creative director Hunter “Delirious” Johnston, ROH COO Joe Koff, and Jay Lethal.

Klein alleges that ROH created an environment through negligence and “illegal actions” which resulted in injuries to herself and other talent, noting that she was injured during a match on September 16th, 2016 and that “Nobody employed or engaged by Defendants checked on Klein’s condition and no medical staff was available to evaluate her.” She says she reported the injury to BJ Whitmer, the agent who put the match together, but that no medical treatement was made available to her. When she told Johnston she was going to seek pain treatment, he “did not offer any information, guidance or information regarding treatment” and she had to seek treatment at her own expense without any reimbursement or attempt to reach out to her by ROH regarding the injury.

She goes on to detail other injuries she suffered in 2018 where there was similarly no medical personnel or treatment made available, and said that she told announcer Ian Riccaboni in December 2018that many of the female talent didn’t feel safe working with other women wrestlers “who were reckless and not properly trained” and Riccaboni said he understood, but that Todd Sinclair, who was the main booker for women’s matches, “really liked those reckless women wrestlers but that he would have a talk with him about it.” She says she spoke with Sinclair in late January 2019 about her safety concerns and that Sinclair said he hadn’t heard about this before “despite Klein previously overhearing another performer complaining to Mr. Sinclair about certain wrestlers being reckless and unsafe.” Sinclair allegedly said that the women in question were only booked for a few more dates. She said she had a similar conversation with Sinclair, Johnston, and other agents after a March 2019 match in which she was injured, “but the conversation fell on deaf ears.”

The list of incidents goes on with four more in 2019 in which she was injured, found that an opponent wasn’t up to date on required bloodwork, or talked with executives about issues.

She also alleges several instances of discrimination, including the fact that all female wrestlers were paid a lower wage “than their comparable male counterparts.” She alleges that Jay Lethal approached her in January of 2017 when she was in a hot tub at a hotel where the talent were staying after an event and “while leering at her in a way that made Klein uncomfortable, started harassing her by asking her questions about whether her boyfriend was there, if she was staying in the hotel alone and how long she would be at the hotel.” She says that after she got an email a couple weeks later saying that Lethal would be the new agent working with female talent, she responded and said she had seen and experienced several situations involving him that made her uncomfortable and was not willing to work with him, asking that another agent be assigned to her matches. She says that Whitmer was told in February by Lethal that he had been informed of Klein’s complaints by Johnston.

Klein says that in July 2018, Sinclair spoke with Klein about other female talent’s complaints about Lethal, and she told them about her interaction with him. She says that there was no previous investigation as they were not told. She also lays out several instances where she spoke with ROH management about disparate treatment between male and female talent including creative storylines, pay, and more. She alleges that she asked Gilleland about her salary in December of 2018 and wanted a raise to $24,000 a year, and he rejected it because he would have to pay all female wrestlers the increased pay as well. She notes that “This salary was substantially below the salary that the male wrestlers were paid and the decision to pay the salary was based upon the fact that Klein was a female” and that she was “asked to make more appearances, with no limit regarding the frequency of appearances, than the other female talent.”

She claims that when she met with Koff about pay equality and sexual harassment, Koff said that he thought the situation with Lethal had been resolved, when nothing had been done. An HR employee for Sinclair was present and she says she brought it up to HR, including the fact that management revealed her name to Lethal despite there being no formal investigation, to which Koff allegedly “stated that there was no documentation for the 2018 claim and that HR was only for employees and she was not an employee.”

Klein is seeking $75,000. You can see a full copy of the suit here.