Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Arbitration for 'Idol' Sex Harrassment Suit

Fox News reports that arbitration was ordered in a case brought by a former assistant production accountant for the company behind "American Idol," who claims he was fired for complaining of sexual harassment by a male contestant.

Magdaleno Olmos filed suit March 9 in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging wrongful termination and violation of the state's Fair Employment and Housing Act. He is asking for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Along with American Idol Productions Inc. and former contestant Mario Vasquez, named defendants are Fremantle Media North America Inc., Fox Entertainment Group Inc. and Fox Broadcasting Co., all listed in the lawsuit as co-owners of the popular show.

All of the defendants "knew or should have known that Vasquez was gay or was widely rumored to be so," the lawsuit states.

Vasquez dropped out of the top 12 talent search competition during the fourth season of "American Idol" in March 2005, saying he wanted to focus on personal aspects of his life.

The lawsuit alleges that Vasquez withdrew from the show after Olmos came forward with his complaints and discussed them with executives and attorneys for American Idol Productions and the other defendants.

But Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael C. Solner ruled today that Olmos knew when he was hired that he was signing an agreement to arbitrate disputes and not file a lawsuit. Solner granted a defense motion to send the case to arbitration and put a hold on the lawsuit.

Defense attorney George R. Hedges praised the ruling.

"It's the right decision," Hedges said. "His claim has no merit."

Olmos' lawyer, Thomas S. Campbell, opposed putting the case in front of an arbitrator. He told Solner it was unclear whether Olmos received a handbook from the company that explained the arbitration process to him. He also said the language of the arbitration rules gave an unfair advantage to his employer.

Olmos claims the sexual harassment began in February 2005.

On one occasion, Vasquez followed Olmos into a restroom at CBS Studios, where "American Idol" is taped, and knocked on the door of a stall Olmos had entered, according to his lawsuit.

When Olmos opened the door, Vasquez, who had lowered his pants, pushed him further into the stall, touched him in a sexual way and tried to unzip his pants while asking "if he wanted oral sex," the lawsuit alleges.

Olmos claims he was able to get out of the restroom, though Vasquez grabbed his arm to try to stop him from leaving.

Olmos chose the restroom over one that was closer to the "American Idol" stage because he wanted to avoid running into the show's participants, according to his lawsuit.

Due to Vasquez's celebrity status, Olmos claims he "was afraid to defend himself physically against Vasquez's sexual harassment and battery for fear of losing his job."

When Olmos complained to a supervisor, the latter questioned whether he initiated the incident, according to his court papers. He also claims the supervisor told him nothing could be done and that he would probably be fired for reporting the alleged harassment.

On numerous other occasions, Vasquez stared and smiled at Olmos. But when he complained to a supervisor, he was told "that he was crazy, was imagining this and should keep this information to himself because no one would believe his account," according to his lawsuit.

Olmos alleges he was fired in May 2005 in retaliation for his complaints against Vasquez.

Olmos began working for American Idol Productions in October 2002, and his contract was renewed each of the next two years, according to his lawsuit.


And talking about sex, new "American Idol" champ Jordin Sparks isn't having any until after she gets married. That's right, US Weekly magazine according to Reality TV World, reports that Sparks is saving herself for marriage.

Even though Sparks sports a platinum band on her wedding finger, don't expect to see the American Idol sixth-season champ walking down the aisle anytime soon.

"This isn't a wedding ring, and there's no boy anywhere," Sparks told Us Weekly in the magazine's June 18 issue.

Instead, the 17-year-old Glendale, Ariz., native said she's worn the "purity ring" with the inscription "True Love Waits" since she was 13. Sparks is the youngest Idol winner out of the Fox mega-hit's six installments, and while other Idol champs and finalists are reportedly smitten by everyone from professional athletes to television news anchors, Sparks says she isn't in any rush to get involved in a romantic relationship.

"I haven't been in love yet," she told US. "I am saving myself for marriage."

Due to her Christian upbringing, virginity is just one of the values that Sparks says she believes in. "I think that [abortion] is wrong," Sparks told Us. "I'm not going to try to debate people on it; that's just my opinion... I believe what I believe."


while, love is in the air for Season 5 finalist Kellie Pickler , who told People magazine that her boyfriend, Canadian hockey player Jordin Tootoo, and she have this in common: "We're each other's biggest fans."

The former "American Idol" contestant, 20, and the Nashville Predators right wing, 24, met after they bought condos in the same Nashville complex, where Tootoo spotted Pickler and asked for her phone number.

Pickler told People they were friends at first, but the relationship had turned romantic by spring. "We're from real different places, but they're both small towns so we're a lot alike too," she said (she's from Albemarle, N.C.; he grew up in Rankin Inlet, a small town in Nunavut in Canada's Northwest Territories).

Now, she says, "We let each other shine in our moments and are so proud of each other. I go to games and I'm the fan in the Predators jersey, screaming my head off. He comes to my concert with a Pickler T-shirt and he does the same."

Fittingly, their first date was to a hockey game, a sport about as foreign to Pickler as Tootoo's native tongue, Inuktikut. (The first player of Inuit descent to play in the NHL, Tootoo is also fluent in English.)

"We had a little communication problem at first," Pickler says with a laugh. "And I had never been to a hockey game -– we didn't have hockey in Albemarle. I had no idea what was going on, but I loved it anyway. It's so fast and exciting!"

When she was interviewed, Pickler was planning a break from Brad Paisley's "Bonfires and Amplifiers" tour to travel north of the border to spend a week with Tootoo and his family.

"I'm just so excited about seeing where he is from," she told the magazine. "It will be a totally different culture and I'm fascinated by other cultures. I have no idea what to expect. I know they do a lot of hunting and fishing and they eat what they kill. It's not like there's a Subway down the street. It's also been snowing up there, so I'm going to learn to drive a snowmobile. If it's anything like 4-wheelin', I'm set!"


Jillian Recchi (or Jillian Blyth or Jayaradhe as she was known in the Hare Krishna movement a decade ago) talked to about her children Shyamali and Sanjaya Malakar who became famous overnight, thanks to "American Idol."

"Both Shyamali [Rosaria Malakar] and Sanjaya [Joseph Malakar] embraced their Indian cultural roots."

Recchi, who spent over two months with her 17-year-old son in Hollywood, was often joined by daughter Shyamali, and on one occasion her former husband Vasudeva Malakar, who left his construction business and chores at the Hare Krishna temple in Seattle, to be with his children.

Since her divorce nearly a decade ago, Recchi, who since remarried, raised the children mostly on her own. She says she has not been a member of the Hare Krishna congregation for many years but the Indian spirituality is deeply ingrained in her and her children.

"I consider the Hare Krishna way of life to be my spiritual foundation," said Recchi, who met her future husband Vasudeva while she was a devotee at the Seattle Hare Krishna Temple 21 years ago. "I do not live in the temple though."

"Vasudeva was a classical Indian singer-musician-teacher for many years in Seattle," she continued. "He taught harmonium and bhajans to students at home. There was always Indian music in our home. I was a musician and played the flute, though I didn't pursue it professionally. We sang in the car with the children."

After the divorce, Shyamali and Sanjaya moved to Hawaii with their mother and lived there from 1996 to 2000. Both were in Hawaii children's musical theatre.

"Shyamali was always a precocious, intelligent child," Recchi says of her first born, an aspiring model, singer and actress. She was eliminated from the American Idol contest early on.

"She read by the age of 3, and had an amazing memory. She would listen to a song once and remember it. Sanjaya, too, had a great talent for singing and music early on. As soon as he was talking, he was singing, dancing and running around. Of course, they are always around music."

When Sanjaya continued to make steady progress in the competition, despite a lot of negative criticism, Recchi closed down her home business for a few months. "I have always had my own business," she says.

"Currently, I am an independent distributor for in-home water purification filters and distillers. I also manage and maintain some rental properties. This gives me flexibility of hours to be with and do things with my kids. I wanted to prioritise that; I didn't want to put my kids in daycare. I wanted to be there for them while they were growing up."

The children were exposed not only to Indian but also to contemporary and older American music, by Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, their mother added.

"It was their choice to participate in the competition," she says. "I told Sanjaya he couldn't enter because he was too young. He was very sad; my family got involved and finally decided he could try.

"When Shyamali got booted out, she took it really well. It didn't discourage her; she still wants to continue and pursue a music and acting career.

"For Sanjaya, unfortu-
nately, I wasn't there with him when he was voted out," she says, a trace of sadness in her voice. "I was with him for a solid two months, but I flew back to Los Angeles to be with him the day after he was eliminated.

"Sanjaya had a feeling he would get voted out after he saw a tape of his performance later that night. He mentally prepared himself for elimination: of course, he didn't tell me that!"

She says her son has taken this as a learning experience. "This will, I think, launch him into a very successful career," she says. "He wants to be an entertainer, whatever that might encompass. He has a real passion for singing; he also loves to act, he has thought of modeling and wants to be a spokesperson for charitable work."

What is the best advice she has given Shyamali and Sanjaya?

"As a mother, I always felt my children would go on to do great things," she said. "I taught them that whatever platform they might end up on, they should use it positively.

"They are very compassionate. People can see that. I think that was really why Sanjaya had such a large fan base. He is a genuine person who is not egotistical, very compassionate, and very well grounded.

"Even though they are very attractive people, I don't think they let that go to their heads because they realize it is a God-given gift. Any gift they have comes from God; they are just an instrument of that.

"That helps them stay grounded and focussed on the bigger picture. I would say that is probably one of the biggest things I have tried to give them as far as life lessons go."

And according to the New York Daily News, Sanjaya hasn't given up hopes for a career in showbiz. "My first objective is to legitimize my music," he told Steppin' Out's Chaunce Hayden, "then do modeling and acting." But his brief fame may soon be overshadowed. Buzz is that his sister Shyamali has been offered nude magazine spreads. Not that she'll be tempted, says Sanjaya: "She was never the type to flaunt it."

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