The accusations of sexual harassment and abuse of power levied against Eric Ferguson continue to pile up as a fourth accuser has come forward, while the station he hosts mornings at, Hubbard hot AC “101.9 The Mix” WTMX Chicago, is hit with a $10 million lawsuit from a former co-host of Ferguson’s.
Melissa McGurren, who worked for 22 years at the station, filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against Hubbard Radio Chicago, claiming the company did not perform an investigation or conducted “a sham investigation” of her earlier allegations and that Hubbard attacked her credibility and integrity with comments it made to staff last week, the Chicago Tribune reports.
In court documents filed Oct. 5, McGurren called Ferguson “a serial abuser of women” and claimed that station management for years “has protected Ferguson in allowing him to continue in perpetrating his misconduct that goes far beyond the limits of decency despite ample notice from me and many of my co-workers that Ferguson’s behavior is unlawful.” McGurren went on to say that the long-running morning host “has grossly abused his power, and his conduct was the major reason the station became a hostile working environment.”
Her accusations were submitted as supporting evidence in an amended defamation lawsuit brought by former WTMX Associate Producer Cynthia DeNicolo against Hubbard. DeNicolo also sued Ferguson, claiming he abused his power to coerce sexual favors from her early in her career and then prevented her from advancing after she rebuffed efforts to restart an “unwanted sexual relationship.”
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McGurren first made her accusations in a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, shortly after leaving the station in December 2020. She reiterated that position in a demand for arbitration filed June 24, 2021.
Now, in her defamation suit, McGurren accuses Hubbard of intending to injure her and jeopardize her new career. She currently co-hosts mornings at Audacy crosstown country “US99” WUSN.
In response to McGurren’s earlier claims, VP/Market Manager Jeff England said in an email to staff that the company “thoroughly investigated this matter previously. Suffice it to say that we do not agree with Melissa’s characterization of events.”
“Hubbard Radio’s statement” that the company “thoroughly investigated” McGurren’s allegations “is false,” according to McGurren’s suit, as reported by the Tribune. “A thorough investigation would have uncovered that Jennifer Ashrafi brought many of these same issues, that corroborate Melissa’s ‘characterization of events,’ to England in January 2020, months before Melissa filed her charge” with the EEOC.
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Ashrafi, who was afternoon co-host and traffic reporter at WTMX using the on-air name Jennifer Roberts, is the fourth former female staff member to back claims against the station and Ferguson.
Much like McGurren made allegations attached as a filing in another former WTMX employee’s suit, Ashrafi is using a similar legal maneuver. In a declaration attached to McGurren’s defamation suit, Ashrafi said the station was “a hostile, humiliating atmosphere” for female employees. While not claiming that Ferguson abused her specifically, Ashrafi said the disgraced morning host was “rude and dismissive to women.”
“His abusive behavior is open and known by all at The Mix,” she said. “It is humiliating to watch and dehumanizing to know that nothing can be done because the management at The Mix approved Ferguson’s misconduct by their silence in not reprimanding him.”
Ashrafi’s filing continued: “This is one of many examples of microaggressions and suggestive comments women at The Mix are expected to endure (in addition to being underpaid and marginalized). By November 2019, I could not stand to be in that hostile work environment another day. In January 2020, I resigned after I lined up another job.”
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Amidst the continuing allegations, station management pulled Ferguson off the air, saying he will be sidelined through October.
“We take these allegations seriously and we are confident in the results of multiple investigations we have initiated,” England said when announcing to staff that Ferguson would not be hosting mornings in October. “But we also owe it to ourselves and our listeners to have a deliberate and thoughtful process about our path forward, and candidly we are not there yet.”
DeNicolo has also filed a separate $10 million defamation lawsuit against Hubbard Radio Chicago. Both she and McGurren are represented by attorney Carmen Caruso.
“The Mix and its corporate owners have been engaged in a coverup that is now exposed as a lie,” Caruso told the Tribune. “We look forward to getting them under oath for questioning.”