Third woman accuses radio host Eric Ferguson of inappropriate behavior
Melissa McGurren, former morning co-host on WTMX 101.9-FM, accused Ferguson of creating a “hostile working environment” in a court filing Tuesday.
Another former co-host has accused popular Chicago radio host Eric Ferguson of being a “serial abuser of women” at the radio station where they worked, according to court documents filed Tuesday.
Melissa McGurren, former morning co-host onWTMX 101.9-FM, worked at the Hubbard Radio Chicago station that’s more popularly known as The Mix for more than two decades before leaving in 2020.
Executives from the radio station said at the time they were surprised McGurren declined a contract extension. Apart from posting a cryptic message to social media in which McGurren said “the truth will come out,” she was mum about her reasons for departing.
She now claims that she left because station executives refused to rein in their star radio personality, whose harassment, ridicule and shaming became “unbearable.”
Her claims were added this week to an existing lawsuit filed in May by another former Mix co-host Cynthia DeNicolo, who claimed Ferguson coerced her to perform sexual favors for him, which she gave into for fear of losing her job.
“For many years, Ferguson has grossly abused his power, and his conduct was the major reason the station became a hostile working environment,” McGurren said, according to court documents.
McGurren’s claims, before being added to the lawsuit, were shared in a December complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and in an pending arbitration process, which is where McGurren’s contract calls for disputes with her employer to be settled.
Ferguson would “frequently and inappropriately touch many younger female employees or sometimes younger female listeners, at company events in Chicago or abroad in Mexico during company retreats,” McGurren alleges, according to court documents.
McGurren described a work setting in which Ferguson would “yell at, harass and or demean” her — both on and off air — for everything from what she wore to work to simply clearing her throat in the studio.
According to court documents, Ferguson coerced McGurren in 2011 into wearing a bikini and getting a spray tan at work. A video of the event was posted to social media over McGurren’s objections. The video drew “many unwanted sexual comments from men on social media.”
Ferguson also gave McGurren, who turns 52 on Thursday, the business about sitting in another studio separated by a window during the pandemic, which benefited McGurren because of pre-existing conditions including asthma. She gave in to Ferguson’s ridicule about the arrangement and joined him again in the same studio “even though I felt very unsafe in doing so.”
In another instance, Ferguson didn’t like McGurren’s good mood one morning because he was in a bad mood and made her walk back her car and return so “she could start her day over again.” A video of the “walk of shame” was posted to the radio station’s social media but removed after it “generated a negative reaction” from fans, according to court documents.
When McGurren tried to speak to Ferguson directly about his conduct, he would hold a hand up to her face and “shush” her or yell at her that she didn’t know what she was talking about, according to court documents.
McGurren and others raised concerns to company leadership on hundreds of occasions but nothing changed because they chose to protect the popular radio host, according to court documents.
One manager “would tell me to brush off Ferguson’s inappropriate and harassing behaviors by saying things like ‘that’s just the way Ferguson is and all radio geniuses act like that’ or asking me why I let Ferguson bother me,” McGurren alleges in court documents.
His behavior was “open and notorious” but the common response was “We all needed to protect the quarterback,” she alleges.
In a note to employees Tuesday, Jeff England, vice president and market manager of Hubbard Radio Chicago, said Ferguson would not be on air through the end of the month, according to a report by Chicago media columnist Robert Feder. England also said in the note, “we do not agree with Melissa’s characterization of events.”
England didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
McGurren’s statements were added to a lawsuit previously filed by DeNicolo, a former assistant producer on Ferguson’s show, Feder reported. According to DeNicolo’s lawsuit, Ferguson “coerced sexual activity” and made “unwanted demands for oral sex.” DeNicolo was fired May 1, 2020, and in the lawsuit alleges Ferguson was behind her firing.
A third woman, former sales employee Kristen Mori, said in a court document that Ferguson groped her at a station Christmas party in 2003, Feder reported. That statement, along with other allegations of misconduct, was included in DeNicolo’s lawsuit.