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Former MusiCares Employee Settles Wrongful Termination, Harassment Lawsuit With Recording Academy

Former MusiCares and Grammy Foundation vp Dana Tomarken has settled her wrongful termination and discrimination lawsuit against The Recording Academy.

Former MusiCares and Grammy Foundation vp Dana Tomarken has settled her wrongful termination and discrimination lawsuit against The Recording Academy. Details of the settlement agreement are not being released but Tomarken has requested dismissal of the lawsuit.

Tomarken’s legal team of Christine Adams and Jennifer Clingo released this statement on their client’s behalf:

“With the assistance of a retired judge acting as a mediator, Dana Tomarken and the Recording Academy have resolved their employment dispute. All parties have agreed to keep the terms of the settlement confidential. The Recording Academy and Ms. Tomarken care deeply about MusiCares’ mission of providing critical assistance to music creators in times of need. 

“Despite their differences, Ms. Tomarken and the Recording Academy were motivated to put this dispute behind them in order to allow the Recording Academy and the MusiCares Foundation to continue to focus on that mission.”

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The Recording Academy had no further response beyond the statement.

The settlement comes after eight months of legal wrangling. Tomarken filed lawsuit against the Academy in February alleging labor code violation, wrongful termination, discrimination based on her age and gender, unlawful retaliation, failure to prevent retaliation and discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The MusiCares Foundation, Grammy Museum and Grammy Foundation were also listed as defendants. 

The Recording Academy responded to Tomarken’s initial filing, saying, “[T]he accusations have no merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves.”

Tomarken had worked with the Academy for 25 years until she was fired in 2017. In her lawsuit, she accused the Academy of maintaining a sexist “boys club” atmosphere that “stymied” her career and said she was treated worse as she became older. She claimed that, while she was told her firing was over a a $2,500 bill for a MusiCares auction item she was late in paying, she believed she was actually let go because she complained over the use of MusiCares funds.

Following her termination, Tomarken sent a letter in May 2018 to the Recording Academy Board of Trustees outlining what she called a “toxic” working environment. She also accused then-Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow of abusing his position of trust and violating his fiduciary duty by “using MusiCares as a bargaining chip in Grammy Awards telecast negotiations to promote the Recording Academy’s interests over those of MusiCares,” according to her initial complaint. Tomarken claimed Portnow steered money away from MusiCares in order to fund a deficit created by last year’s Grammy telecast in New York City and that he was behind a deal to hold the MusiCares Person of the Year event at Radio City Music Hall instead of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. That decision over the venue, she said, resulted in an 80% drop in fundraising from $5 million in 2017 down to $1 million in 2018 — the lowest revenue had been since 2002.

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“He abused his position of trust and violated his fiduciary duty by, among other things, using MusiCares as a bargaining chip in Grammy Awards telecast negotiations to promote the Recording Academy’s interests over those of MusiCares,” the suit stated.

According to Tomarken, Portnow withheld information about the MusiCares’ fundraising decline from her and the MusiCares board of directors. She said she told Portnow at the time that she planned to make a report to MusiCares board members regarding the 2018 Person of the Year financial results — which Tomarken says Portnow feared would expose his alleged “misconduct and abuse of trust.” In turn, she claimed, Portnow “set about to exploit a culture at the Academy and MusiCares that was hostile and discriminatory to women like Ms. Tomarken in order to rid himself of the threat she posed.”

Portnow stepped down from in July after 17 years at the helm of the Grammys. His successor Deborah Dugan officially replaced him in August.