Archie Comics is the only remaining independent comic book publisher in the country, with a history going back to the 1930’s. Its flagship comic book has been a mainstay of the comics world for decades. The company even keeps management in the same set of founding families: the co-CEO’s, Jonathan Goldwater and Nancy Silberkleit, are descendants, by birth or marriage, of the company’s founders. The two took over as co-CEO’s of the company in 2008. Recent events, however, have challenged the notion that the company is anything like the peaceful Riverdale setting its founders created.
Last summer, Goldwater filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court on behalf of the company against Silberkleit, alleging a series of acts of sexual harassment against the company’s employees. According to Goldwater’s complaint, on at least one occasion she entered a room full of male employees and repeatedly yelled the word “penis.” A private investigator, whose report was reportedly attached to the complaint, described her as a “loose cannon.” Employees allegedly complained about other sexual comments made by her, including making jokes about sex toys and telling an employee “I need to adjust my balls.” The complaint claims that employees are afraid of Silberkleit’s “erratic behavior and her bullying.”
A judge issued a restraining order last summer preventing Silberkleit from directly communicating with employees of the company. The order barred her from the company’s office, and she is prohibited from speaking publicly about the suit. An amendment to the restraining order allows her to work on certain company business, but she is still prohibited from communicating with employees.
The lawsuit is unusual in the sense that the company filed suit against its own officer on behalf of its employees. A typical sexual harassment case begins with a complaint by an employee to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the New York state or city agencies that investigate alleged employment discrimination and harassment. If one of those agencies concludes that actionable conduct occurred, the employee may proceed with a lawsuit.
In January, Goldwater filed another lawsuit in New York Supreme Court against Silberkleit, asking the court to remove her as director and co-CEO of the company. Goldwater filed the suit in his individual capacity as a shareholder of the company. The complaint incorporates the allegations of the sexual harassment lawsuit, and claims that her conduct towards employees and vendors “seriously and substantially impair[s] the Company’s operations.” It alleges that Silberkleit exposed the company to the risk of liability to employees and to investigation by the EEOC.
Silberkleit denies all of the allegations against her, saying that they are a means of forcing her out of her leadership role in the company. She had no corporate management experience when she took the co-CEO position in 2008, and says she only did so to preserve the continuity of the company after her husband died. She alleged, in an interview with The Daily Beast that took place before the injunction prevented her from speaking to the public, that the whole dispute is actually about her co-CEO wanting to sell the company.
The New York sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates represent victims of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, fighting to protect their rights. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.
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EEOC Sues New York Laundry Company Over Sexual Harassment, New York Employment Attorney Blog, March 14, 2012
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Sexual Harassment Suit Against Radio Station Describes Work Environment Similar to Television’s “Mad Men,” New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 19, 2012