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Vaughn v. Radio One of Indiana, L.P.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

December 30, 2015

KELLY VAUGHN, Plaintiff,
v.
RADIO ONE OF INDIANA, L.P., Defendant

          For KELLY VAUGHN, Plaintiff: Mary Beth Ramey, Richard D. Hailey, RAMEY & HAILEY, Indianapolis, IN.

         For RADIO ONE, Defendant: Andrew J. Dorman, REMINGER CO. L.P.A., Cleveland, OH; Brian P. Nally, REMINDER CO., L.P.A., Indianapolis, IN.

         ORDER ON DEFENDANT RADIO ONE'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         SARAH EVANS BARKER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before us on Defendant Radio One of Indiana, L.P.'s (" Radio One" ) Motion for Summary Judgment. [Dkt. No. 64.] The motion is fully briefed. [ See Dkt. Nos. 72, 79.] For the following reasons, we GRANT Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Background and Facts[1]

         Kelly Vaughn's Employment with Radio One.

         Radio One owns and operates various radio stations in the Indianapolis, Indiana area. [Declaration of Jacqueline D. Kindall, Director of Human Resources for Radio One (" Kindall Decl." ) at ¶ 2.] During the relevant time period, Radio One employed approximately 86 employees, one-third of whom were female. [ Id. at ¶ 6.] At the time of the events giving rise to this litigation, Radio One's entire Human Resources department was female. [ Id. at ¶ 5.]

         Plaintiff Kelly Vaughn was a part-time employee of Radio One as a board operator/on-air talent from May 29, 2012 until July 2012. [Deposition of Kelly Vaughn (" Vaughn Dep." ) at 14, Ex. 2; Dkt. No. 72-1 (WTLC Press Release).] At the time she joined Radio One, both Chuck Williams, Vice President and General Manager of Radio One, and Karen Vaughn,[2] the Program Director of WTLC-FM, were enthusiastic about having Ms. Vaughn as part of the Radio One team. [Dkt. No. 72-1 (Karen Vaughn stated, " Kelly is a true radio professional. As a staple within the Indianapolis market, her expertise in broadcast news will be a great addition to the Tom Joyner Morning show. We are elated to have Kelly on our team." ) (Chuck Williams stated, " We are very excited to have Kelly join our Radio One Indianapolis team. Her many years of professional News and Service work have helped Kelly become an icon in the market." ).] At the time she was hired by Radio One, Ms. Vaughn was also employed by LeSEA Broadcasting, Channel 40. [Vaughn Dep. at 38-39, 41, 62, 68.]

         In July 2012, Ms. Vaughn's position changed to a part-time news announcer. [ Id. at 19-20.] At all times during her employment, Ms. Vaughn was a part-time, at-will employee and reported to her direct supervisor, Program Director Karen Vaughn. [ Id. At 20, 35-36; Kindall Decl. at ¶ 6.] Ms. Vaughn believed that Krishna Henderson-Hutchinson was also her supervisor for AM radio-related matters. [Vaughn Dep. at 21-23.]

         As a condition of her employment, Ms. Vaughn was required to agree to Radio One's policies and procedures. [Kindall Decl. at ¶ 7.] One such policy was Radio One's Business Ethics and Conduct Policy, which provided in relevant part:

(Image Omitted.)

[Vaughn Dep. at 30, Ex. 5 (Radio One Business Ethics & Conduct Policy) at page 1 of 6.] An employee's failure to comply with the Business Ethics & Conduct Policy could subject that employee to disciplinary action. [ Id. at 30-31; Business Ethics & Conduct Policy at page 4 of 6 (" Disregarding or failing to comply with this policy may subject an employee to disciplinary action, up to and including termination." ).] Ms. Vaughn signed the Radio One Business Ethics & Conduct Policy on June 1, 2012. [ Id. at Ex. 5, p. 5-6 (" I hereby represent that I have read this policy and that I understand its terms." ).]

         Ms. Vaughn also agreed to follow Radio One's Conflicts of Interest Policy. [ Id. at 36, Ex. 7.][3] That policy provided in relevant part:

(Image Omitted.)

[ Id. at 36-37, Ex. 7 at p.1 (" Conflicts Policy" ).] Examples of conflicts of interest include: using the Company's name or property to further an employee's personal interests or diverting business opportunities away from the company. [ Id. at Ex. 7 at p. 2.] The Conflicts Policy further provided:

(Image Omitted.)

[ Id. ] Like the Business Ethics and Conduct Policy, the Conflicts Policy expressly noted " that any person found to have violated this policy shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment." [ Id. at 37-38, Ex. 7 at p. 3.] Ms. Vaughn signed the Conflicts of Interest Policy on June 1, 2012. [ Id. at 6 of 7 (" I hereby represent that I have read this policy and that I understand its terms." ).]

         The Amos and Abdul Show.

         In the latter part of 2011, Ms. Vaughn approached the late Amos Brown and " pitched" to him the idea of a TV show for LeSEA Broadcasting (" Channel 40" ). [Vaughn Dep. at 15-16; Brown Dep. at 14.] At that time, Mr. Brown was an on-air personality for Radio One, hosting Afternoons with Amos Brown, a daily talk show airing on Radio One's WTLC-AM radio station. [Kindall Decl. at ¶ 3, n.1; see also Brown Dep. at 31 (Mr. Brown was engaged in the radio industry from 1975 until his untimely death in 2015).] Ms. Vaughn sought to create and produce a TV show called " Amos and Abdul," which would consist of a point-counterpoint debate between Amos Brown and Abdul-Hakim Shabazz on hot-button issues (the " Show" ). [Vaughn Dep. at Exs. 9, 16.] Mr. Brown testified that he had not been approached about an Amos & Abdul Show prior to the above-referenced pitch in 2011. [Brown Dep. at 14.] According to Ms. Vaughn, Mr. Brown claimed he had permission from Radio One to do the Show, but, as it turned out, that was not true. [Vaughn Dep. at 101.]

         In planning the Show, Mr. Brown met with managers and sales representatives of Channel 40. [Brown Dep. at 30.] Ms. Vaughn purchased the rights to several URLs, including AmosandAbdul.com; TheAmosandAbdulShow.com; and AmosandAbdulShow.com. [Vaughn Dep. at 42, 61-62, Ex. 21.] Ms. Vaughn also created social media pages on Facebook and Twitter using the name and likeness of Amos Brown and photographs of Mr. Brown he had had taken specifically to promote the show. [ Id. ; Brown Dep. at 33-34.] Generally during this time Radio One relied on Mr. Brown's judgment with respect to the use of his image and name and did not require Mr. Brown to have his Facebook pages or Twitter posts pre-approved by Radio One. [Brown Dep. at 22, 73-74.]

         Ms. Vaughn never received approval from Radio One to create or produce the Amos and Abdul show, purchase URLs with the names Amos and Abdul, or create social media accounts using Mr. Brown's name and likeness. [Kindall Decl. at ¶ ¶ 3, 8; Vaughn Dep. at 96-97, 130-32.] According to Radio One:

Ms. Vaughn never disclosed her involvement in the TV Show or that she was the Executive Producer to Radio One, never received approval from Radio One to develop the TV Show or use Amos Brown in the TV Show, never received approval to provide these services for one of Radio One's competitors, never received approval to purchase URLs and social media pages using the name and likeness of one of Radio One's employees, Amos ...

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