Not satisfied with just the selected salacious bits from the Porcelain Twinz’ discrimination lawsuit versus The Box and owner Simon Hammerstein? Then enjoy the entireity of the complaint after the jump, containing the previously released parts plus further details of vermin-infested living conditions and a poo-smeared green room (don’t forget the obligatory blowjobs). Life on the stage — so glamorous!
———————————– Plaintiffs, Amber Langley and Heather Langley, by their attorneys, Tuckner, Sipser, Weinstock & Sipser, LLP, respectfully complain as follows:
Nature of the Case
1. This is an action arising under the laws of the City of New York seeking damages to redress the injuries that Plaintiffs Amber and Heather Langley have suffered as a result of being discriminated against on the basis of their sex and subjected to a hostile work environment based on sex.
2. Plaintiffs Amber Langley and Heather Langley are identical twin sisters, hailing from Portland, Oregon. Plaintiffs are known professionally as The Porcelain Twinz, and they were employed as performers at The Box, an upscale restaurant and theatre located in lower Manhattan, during the relevant time period.
3. The Box, as well as co-Defendant and co-owner Simon Hammerstein, are “employers” as defined in S8-102(5) of the New York City Administrative Code, as they employ 4 (four) or more persons.
4. Plaintiffs are well-regarded, internationally recognized performance artists, and the pioneers of a cabaret theatrical milieu known as fetish-burlesque.
5. Plaintiffs worked at The Box five nights per week during their one year tenure prior to suffering the adverse employment action that ended their relationship with Defendants.
6. Plaintiffs were seen in performance by Christopher Jerrytone, a patron of The Box who saw Plaintiffs’ performance at Dante’s Cabaret in Portland, Oregon, and based on the strength of that show, Jerrytone advised Serj Becker, a principal of The Box, to hire Plaintiffs to perform at The Box.
7. Defendants contacted Plaintiffs while they were still in Portland, in or around the spring of 2007, and asked if Plaintiffs would come to New York and perform at The Box. It was initially suggested that Plaintiffs perform at The Box for two weeks, but Defendants informed Plaintiffs that lodging costs would not be provided, notwithstanding the custom and practice in the entertainment profession of priding room, board and air fare costs to out of town performers.
8. Following lengthy discussions with Defendants regarding these terms and conditions of prospective employment, Plaintiffs finally felt compelled to accept Defendant Hammerstein’s offer to lodge Plaintiffs for two weeks in his own loft apartment directly above The Box.
9. Upon information and belief, Plaintiffs arrived at Hammerstein’s apartment on July 9, 2007 and immediately declined Hammerstein’s proffer to powdered cocaine, a narcotic held in tall supply by Hammerstein, as Plaintiffs would soon discover.
10. Plaintiffs room was contiguous with the main living/kitchen area in Hammerstein’s loft. There were glass doors with draped cream-colored sheets providing little privacy; the dingy room Plaintiffs shared with an insect infestation was quite small, proximately causing fever and other symptoms of unwellness to Plaintiff Heather Langley.
11. Notwithstanding Plaintiffs’’ challenging short-term residential situation caused by Defendants’ failure to cover reasonable travel and lodging costs, Plaintiffs concentrated on their well-received act at The Box.
12. After Plaintiffs’ two week trial at The Box ended, they were asked to remain on the program for an additional two weeks. After four weeks of successfully performing at The Box, Plaintiffs conferred with Associate Producer Robyn Foresta, who then conferred with Hammerstein’s business partner, Richard Kimmel, regarding the prospect of negotiating a long-term contract of employment between the parties. Kimmel and Hammerstein agreed to offer Plaintiffs permanent employment but at a substantially reduced rate of pay compared with their earnings during this first limited engagement. Despite the diminution of their performance-related earnings, the opportunity to perform in a long-running engagement in New York City at this prestigious venue represented the continued fulfillment of Plaintiffs’ career aspirations.
13. After the first four weeks, Plaintiffs departed New York and performed shows that they had previously contracted for outside of Ne York prior to commencing employment at The Box.
14. Plaintiffs then returned to Portland to pack their belongings in order to permanently move to New York. Plaintiffs returned and continued to live in Hammerstein’s apartment while they actively continued a challenging search for a rental apartment of their own, given their limited budget.
15. As soon as Plaintiffs began residing with Hammerstein again, he commenced a campaign of sexual harassment against them. Plaintiffs clearly communicated to Hammerstein that they considered his sex-based advances unwelcome. Hammerstein responded by calling Plaintiffs “prudes” among other pejorative sex-based terms, and generally degraded the terms and conditions of their employment by barely acknowledging their individual or collective presence. In retaliation for their declination of Hammerstein’s sexual advances, Plaintiffs were thereafter notified that they must move both themselves and their property out of Hammerstein’s residence as quickly as possible.
16. Plaintiffs distanced themselves from Hammerstein at the outset of their employment at The Box in order to avoid his predatory ways and inappropriate questions concerning, among other illegal inquiries, whether Plaintiffs had current boyfriends/lovers and whether or not they “shared” them with one another. Plaintiffs regularly steered clear of Hammerstein’s apartment until late into the night, in order to avoid him, as he regularly invited people to his loft and once advices Plaintiffs that “everyone was waiting for them” in order to be entertained with the “fetish and bondage gear” that they used onstage in their act.
17. Approximately one month after Plaintiffs began searching for an apartment, Foresta told Plaintiffs that they had to leave Hammerstein’s apartment immediately and that they should stay in a hotel. As Plaintiffs had nowhere else to stay without incurring exorbitant nightly hotel costs, they sent a text message to Foresta and told her that they were unhappy with The Box and were highly emotional due to the situation they found themselves struggling with through no fault of their own, and they indicated that they were going to move back to Portland. Foresta texted Plaintiffs back, indicating that Plaintiffs continued presence at The Box was desired, and she thereafter became more flexible with respect to Plaintiffs’ departure from Hammerstein’s apartment.
18. Approximately two weeks later, Plaintiffs found an apartment in Brooklyn within their budget. However, they were required to produce a co-signatory for additional security on the apartment. On behalf of Plaintiffs, Foresta asked Hammerstein if he could agree to act as a guarantor for Plaintiffs to assist them in securing the apartment and he agreed. Plaintiffs were scheduled to move into their new apartment on or about November 7, 2007.
19. On or about November 6, 2007, Hammerstein summoned Plaintiffs into his bedroom while all three of them were in his apartment. Plaintiffs were packing for the imminent move inside of their own room and ignored his initial request due to his previous discriminately behavior. Shortly thereafter, Hammerstein again called to Plaintiffs to come into his room “to talk,” and when they entered Hammerstein’s bedroom, they found him lying in bed in his underwear.
20. Hammerstein enjoined Plaintiffs to “get undressed and come lay down with me.” Plaintiffs hesitated, as they did not wish to be intimate with Hammerstein. However, Plaintiffs felt compelled to accede to Hammerstein’s directive, as he had co-signed the lease on their new apartment.
21. Hammerstein required Plaintiffs to remove their underwear before demanding that they fellate him. Plaintiffs performed as ordered before engaging in oral sex with each other at Hammerstein’s direction, while he masturbated. Hammerstein engaged in sexual intercourse with Plaintiff Heather Langley and other sexual acts with Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs thereafter departed in disgust from Hammerstein’s bedroom.
22. The following night at The Box, Hammerstein informed employees there that he had enjoyed a “threesome” with Plaintiffs the previous evening. He falsely insinuated that they were willing and eager participants in their own degradation and objectification.
23. Plaintiffs, in particular, and other female performers in general, endured a severe and pervasive hostile work environment based on sex throughout their employment at The Box.
24. In or around September 2007, while Plaintiffs were engaged in conversation with a photographer following the night’s performance, Hammerstein walked by Plaintiffs and placed his hand inside Amber Langley’s pants, as he attempted to insert his finger into her vagina. Hammerstein then attempted to pull her into a curtained “VIP” booth, but she freed herself from his grasp before Plaintiffs departed into the safety of a room with other people present.
25. On another occasion, Hammerstein grabbed Plaintiff Heather Langley and dragged her into a stall in the women’s restroom. Langley’s shocked reaction to his manhandling her caused Hammerstein to open the stall door and allow her to leave.
26. Upon information and belief, Hammerstein provides prime placement within the show at The Box to female performers who are willing to engage in sexual relations with him. One Plaintiff’s performance was removed permanently from the schedule without explanation and Plaintiff emailed Hammerstein to indicate that they would perform fellatio on him if he would put their performance back into the show schedule. Hammerstein responded instantly, indicating only “Done”.
27. Plaintiffs were informed by various performers at The Box that Hammerstein had informed Kimmel that he “hated” their show, which was entitled Androgyny and that he never wanted to see it performed at The Box again. After Plaintiffs emailed Hammerstein with the sexual offer, Plaintiffs’ show ran for several months.
28. In addition to the unwelcome, sever and pervasive hostile working environment that Plaintiffs were compelled to endure throughout their employment at The Box, the environmental conditions at The Box were abysmally poor. The performer preparation room, nicknamed “the green room,” was infested with rats, cockroaches and maggots. There was broken glass on the floor, the ventilation was poor and performers were permitted to smoke tobacco, casting a thick pall of noxious smoke. Hammerstein confined his pet dog, a black Labrador, to the green room for days at a time, so canine excrement routinely permeated Plaintiffs’ work space. Plaintiffs saw rats and cockroaches in the green room on several occasions.
29. Plaintiffs witnessed and endured the performance of many illegal acts during the course of their employment with Defendants, including but not limited to, staff that behaved as prostitutes, in house illegal drug dealing and open illegal drug use throughout the club. Cocaine, heroin and marijuana were freely consumed; additionally, Plaintiffs witnessed Kimmel snorting cocaine at a private party at The Box.
30. Plaintiffs and other performers at The Box suffered profound degradation to the terms, conditions and privileges of employment with Defendants through physical and emotional abuse and unwelcome sexual harassment. Hammerstein would slap female performers’ buttocks so hard that his hand would leave an imprint on their skin, and in Heather Langley’s case, he left a bruise mark.
31. Plaintiffs were told to raise the level of sexuality within their performance in order to keep performing at The Box. Hammerstein advised Plaintiffs that their internationally lauded artistic performance was not sufficient for his club, and that if they wanted to remain at The Box they would need to incorporate actual sexual acts in their performance.
32. Hammerstein demanded that Plaintiffs perform a “Triple XXX” show, far outside the strictures of the “fetish-burlesque cabaret” theatre act that Plaintiffs created and perfected during the course of their innovative career.
33. On or about November 6, 2007, Defendants instructed and required Plaintiffs to perform cunnilingus on each other as well as vaginal penetration with simulated phalluses. Plaintiffs believed that if they did not alter their performance to appeal to the prurient interest of Defendants, they would be fired from The Box, necessitating a financially draining move back to Portland, Oregon.
34. Plaintiffs’ cabaret act involves the performance art melding of sexually taboo erotica with stylized, choreographed simulated sex acts. Plaintiffs are identical twin sisters who never before have engaged in incestuous sexual relations with each other—either privately-or professionally within the confines of their performance art.
35. As Plaintiffs wished to remain gainfully employed at The Box, they began employing glass dildos in their new act, which Defendants renamed Twincest. While Plaintiffs strove to perform these sexual acts in an elegant and beautiful manner, they remained extremely uncomfortable engaging in actual non-simulated sex with each other, which persisted until their constructive discharge.
36. As Plaintiffs could ill afford to live in New York City and survive on the salary provided by The Box, they requested a raise in salary. However their numerous requests were either ignored or denied.
37. Plaintiffs endured Defendants’ sex-based hostility and quid pro quo sexual harassment for an entire year, until on or about July 17, 2008, when they were constructively discharged.