The president and co-founder of PodcastOne, Chris “Kit” Gray, is facing a lawsuit filed by his former executive assistant, who says she was fired after refusing to ship cannabis products legally purchased in California to his home in Florida where cannabis is illegal. PodcastOne is also named as a defendant in the complaint.
Cherri Bell, an executive assistant with more than 20 years of experience including seven years at PodcastOne — which was purchased by media company LiveOne in 2020 — alleges that she was terminated on Feb. 10 in retaliation for refusing two requests by Gray to ship cannabis vape pens, gummies and other THC products across state lines through FedEx.
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The suit, filed by Bell’s attorney Timothy McCaffrey Jr. in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday (Feb. 24), claims that after relocating his residence from California to Florida “in or around November 2021,” Gray “began planning trips to the Los Angeles area beginning in January 2022” and, following each of those visits, asked Bell “to ship various items to his home in Florida in random boxes that she was instructed to collect from around the office” using the company’s FedEx account.
“On or around” Oct. 18, 2022, the suit continues, Gray sent Bell a text message requesting that she ship some clothing to his family in Florida along with another package he left at the office. “In this text he also thanked her and mentioned again that he did not want to take the contents [of the package] on the plane and that he was nervous keeping it at the office,” the complaint reads. Inside the package, Bell claims she found “smoking paraphernalia from a marijuana dispensary including vape pens and vials” and subsequently decided not to ship the items after determining it was illegal to send drugs and drug paraphernalia across state lines.
Bell was right: While marijuana possession is legal in a number of states, possession and transportation are barred at the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act. Using FedEx as a drug courier to ship more than 50 grams of cannabis can land a person in federal prison for five years.
When Gray allegedly asked about the package weeks later, Bell says she responded via text that she did not feel comfortable sending the envelope. Gray then allegedly responded, “‘Oh I wouldn’t sweat that,’ completely dismissive of Plaintiff’s concern even though he had admitted to Plaintiff that he was nervous about carrying the package and leaving it at the office,” the complaint reads. Gray also allegedly told Bell he wished she would have told him earlier, “since apparently his supply was running low,” and that he had shipped “similar items approximately ten times in the past.”
Two days later, Gray allegedly asked Bell to drop off the package, along with a few bags of “gummy bears,” with another female employee, who would take care of the shipment. Following this incident, Bell claims she “noticed a definite change in her working relationship with Gray and the way he treated her,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit alleges that Gray began to retaliate against Bell in the days and weeks that followed, including by delaying repayment of her expense report, giving her negative performance reviews and attempting to isolate her from the rest of the staff. While Bell was on medical leave for work-induced stress, it continues, Gray terminated her.
Bell is suing Gray and PodcastOne for illegal retaliation, wrongful termination and failure to pay wages upon termination.
Billboard made multiple attempts to reach Gray and PodcastOne/LiveOne officials but did not receive a response.
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