MSN Music Blog - Reverb

Stop the presses: drugs in the music biz!

Lawsuit alleges rampant drug use at Universal Music Publishing Group

By percy thrillington Apr 10, 2013 5:10PM


They say the music industry is dying, but according to an article in today's Hollywood Reporter, some time-honored practices are alive and well. The article reports a lawsuit being brought against Universal Music Publishing Group by a former security guard who claims to have witnessed, heard tell of, and be offered illegal substances by many visiting artists—including Adam Levine, Macy Gray, Jamie Foxx, T.I. and their various entourages—all of which contributed to a hostile work environment and which eventually led to her termination. This is a classic example of an easy story to laugh off, but try to imagine how it must have been for this 41-year-old African American woman to try and convince a roomful of deeply stoned musicians and/or their hangers-on to move their cars to the appropriate parking area. It wouldn't be a huge surprise if this turned into a big story.

The story, via THR, is here:
According to a lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Universal Music Publishing Group's presence in Santa Monica has been "infiltrated with pervasive drug use where you could smell marijuana seeping from various offices, and openly used in common areas, and lounges."
The complaint comes from an anonymous security guard who describes herself as a 41-year-old African American woman who began working there in 2010. She's now suing Universal Music Group-owned UMPG, her employer Universal Protection Services, the building's management and others over alleged labor violations including a hostile work environment.
Marijuana might be legal for California residents with a medical card, and local authorities in Santa Monica may have placed less prioritization on policing personal use of pot, but flagrant drug behavior at the workplace is not okay with one woman. In her complaint, she speaks about how "artists and high profile celebrities began visiting the premises with drugs in hand and oftentimes offering drugs to Plaintiff, which she refused."
The suing security guard says she repeatedly objected to superiors, but that the building's management "turned a blind eye," adopting an "anything goes" philosophy, and that she personally witnessed drug use or drug paraphernalia from Macy Gray, guests of Jamie FoxxMC Ren, rapper T.I.'s entourage and heard about drug use when Adam Levine visited. She also alleges that UMPG executives participated in the raucous behavior.
The anonymous plaintiff says that she "became torn between her professional integrity and losing her job," and that her objections were laughed off.
For example, she says that on one occasion, Levine was at Universal Music Publishing Group's recording studio with guests. The security guard complained about marijuana she smelled, asking who was in the studio.
The UMPG manager allegedly replied, "It's Adam Levine. You know from Maroon 5 ... He can do whatever he wants ... If he wants to come to the lobby and do a line of cocaine on the floor, it's ok."
The security guard says she later complained to her supervisor at Universal Protection Services about this. She was allegedly told that the building's management "is aware of what goes on in the studios, but it is not okay. He [Adam Levine] cannot be out there in the lobby doing that." The recording studios are located in one of three buildings connected via courtyard. Across the way is UMPG.
The lawsuit states that UMPG would contact her when on duty to give her a "heads up" to expect "blazers," slang for marijuana smokers.
"UMPG notified Plaintiff they had candles and incense to put in the studio lounge to keep down the marijuana smell," says the complaint. "On another occasion, UMPG notified Plaintiff to expect Jimmy Iovine of Interscope/Geffen Records and to 'make sure to keep the front gate open.' When Iovine arrived Plaintiff escorted Iovine to the lounge area, where as they walked down the hallway corridor, it was occupied with candles and incense burning."
She adds that when she arrived with Iovine in the lounge, she witnessed "blazers," along with American Idol participants.
The salacious complaint then details all sorts of other activities happening around her -- She was told to be on high alert when rapper YG and his entourage would show up and to make sure there weren't guns around. She says she was subjected to racial slurs from artists. And that it was a sexually-charged workplace, too.
"UMPG employees were complaining about finding bras hanging in the studio and people being found passed out in the showers after partying and drug use," states the lawsuit. "Plaintiff found condoms plastered in the men's bathroom while on patrol. She began witnessing UMPG employees engaged in intimate touching and grinding, involving buttocks and genitalia."
An incident involving rap star T.I.'s entourage seemingly became the event that changed things for the plaintiff and paved the way for the lawsuit.
On January 7, the security guard says she was on duty and smelled marijuana seeping from the studio corridor when T.I was in a recording session with rapper Future. She was allegedly told that it was going to be "another busy night," and later had trouble with T.I.'s bodyguards when she requested they move vehicles to the designated parking area. The request was refused, reportedly because the bodyguard said, "I gotta be able to get this boy outta here if a shootout or something goes down."
The security guard complained to UMPG about what she was told. Two days later, she says she received a call from the operations manager at her security company, who informed her at a meeting that he was aware of her written complaints and told that she was suspended.
She wasn't allowed employment back on the premises. "In effect," says the lawsuit, "Plaintiff was constructively terminated."
She's now seeking protection under California's "whistle blowing" statute and alleging discrimination, retaliation, being subject to unsafe work conditions, harassment, infliction of emotional distress and more. She demands an unspecified amount of lost and future earnings, medical bills and general and punitive damages.
We've reached out to the building's management firm and Universal Protection Services.
A spokesperson for Universal Music responded, "While we cannot comment on the allegations between the plaintiff and her employer, we can say that the allegations as they relate to Universal Music Group are absurd."
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