Every year, people flock to concert festivals around the country, such as Coachella in California and Austin City Limits in Texas. New York hosted one of the most famous music festivals of all time, Woodstock, in the summer of 1969. These festivals offer opportunities for musicians to gain a wider audience, and for fans to see their favorite bands and find new favorites. Above all else, they are supposed to be fun, but more and more stories are emerging of sexual harassment and sexual assault against both concert workers and attendees. Employment statutes that offer protection against sexual harassment and hostile work environment might not apply in these situations. Still, employment law may offer a useful guide to the legal issues presented in these situations.
The Vans Warped Tour has put on a touring music festival every summer since 1995, with a focus on punk, metal, and related genres of music. The tour visits cities in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe. Each day-long show features multiple stages with dozens of performances. The 2015 tour began in June, came to the New York City area on July 11, and played its last show on August 8. It was also beset by several sexual harassment controversies.
In January 2015, multiple sexual harassment allegations surfaced against a singer-songwriter scheduled to perform on the Warped Tour. Several individuals, mostly minor teenagers, alleged that the musician engaged in inappropriate communications with them via social media and text message. No legal actions resulted, but the musician canceled his touring activities and withdrew from the Warped Tour. The tour allowed him to play a show in Nashville, Tennessee in early July, however, which resulted in protests from the public and fellow acts alike.
An incident of alleged sexual harassment by the lead singer of another Warped Tour band, also in July, resulted in the band’s removal from the the tour. While en route to a show in Cincinnati, the lead singer was accused of sexually harassing a merchandise saleswoman. After the woman went to tour staff, the band was asked to leave the tour. The tour’s founder and manager reportedly considered allowing the band back, but at a “town hall” meeting attended by about 275 people involved in the tour, around 75 percent voted in opposition to the band’s return, partly due to the sexual harassment allegations.
No single legal remedy would be available in these situations, and employment statutes might be of little help. One complicating factor is that the tour consists of a touring company and numerous separate legal entities, including bands, roadies, lighting and sound technicians, and others. These entities are bound together by contract, with few employer/employee relationships.
People who are on the tour for their jobs might be able to assert legal claims under an employment statute if the harasser is a co-worker or supervisor with the same employer, or if the employer has taken on a legal duty to protect the person. In other situations, a person may have to rely on common-law claims based on premises liability or general negligence, whether they are a concert worker or a guest.
Lawsuits seeking to hold concert organizers liable for injuries sustained in mosh pits may offer the best analogy. Concert organizers, including the Warped Tour’s organizers, have taken an active stance on discouraging moshing—a high-impact style of dancing—as a result of legal liability, which has included civil and criminal proceedings.
The sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates represent employees, former employees, and job applicants in the greater New York City area who are asserting claims for sexual harassment and other unlawful acts under city, state, and federal employment laws. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you.
More Blog Posts:
Criticism of Art Production Highlights Lack of Protections for Performers, New York Employment Attorney Blog, February 28, 2013
Former Stagehand Sues Metropolitan Opera for Sexual Harassment, New York Employment Attorney Blog, October 12, 2012
EEOC Settles Sexual Harassment Claim with Music Publisher, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 12, 2012