The New York Daily News is reporting that Nancy Silberkleit, co-CEO of Archie Comics, is being accused of gender discrimination by male employees. Reports say she has referred to male employees as “penis” instead of by name. Silberkleit’s lawyer responded by saying the case should be thrown out because white males are not a “protected class”.
Silberkleit seems to be taking the lawsuit somewhat lightly saying she couldn’t possibly have discriminated against her underlings as they are white males and mocked the claims by yelling “Penis! Penis! Penis!” in a business meeting.
Lawyers for the plantiffs, which includes Archie president Mike Pellerito and editor-in-chief Victor Gorelick, say in their new filing: “[T]he word ‘penis’ became somewhat of a campaign slogan and her preferred method of referring to employees in lieu of their names.”
The former art teacher told the Daily News: ”It’s cruel and mean and inaccurate. I do not act the way it’s been reported.” She called the accusations “extremely damaging to myself and Archie Comics.”
Silberkleit became co-CEO after her husband, Michael, died in 2008.
The company’s other CEO, Johnathan Goldwater, filed suit against Silberkleit in 2011 calling for her ouster, claiming she was unstable and running the company into the ground. The suit was settled last year with an agreement that Silberkleit would have limited interaction with the employees and a go-between would represent her interest in the company.
The disute got raised again when the go-between she had chosen, Samuel Levitin, filed papers saying Silberkleit needed to be removed, stating she had become unhinged and wanted to “tart-up” the characters of Betty and Veronica.
Silberkleit responded by accusing Levitin of sexual harassment and calling for his firing.
The new $32.5 million lawsuit includes claims that Silberkleit has stalked employees, made veiled threats and used intimidation that included asking about a handgun that her husband had kept in the office and bringing in Hell’s Angels to scare the employees. They are seeking a court order to keep Silberkleit at least two miles away from the offices.
Silberkleit claims to have had almost no dealings with the employees and says she is very rarely in the office as she travels the world promoting the company.
When asked if she would consider walking away from the company her husband’s father help found, she said: ”That hasn’t even crossed my mind. I love what I do. I love the brand. Everyone has that, ‘I heart Archie’ in them, and I’m proud of that.”