Industry News

Tim Connelly Vs. AVN

I impersonated a reporter Monday. I drove to the Santa Monica and Chatsworth Superior Courts to dig up lawsuits and stopped by the West Valley branch of the LAPD to try to dig up the police report on Inkyo Volt Hwang’s latest rape/kidnapping/pistol whipping.

I hit one for three, snagging the Tim Connelly Vs. AVN, Paul Fishbein file and getting a photocopy of the 27-page complaint, originally filed October 18, 2006.

Next on the agenda for this lawsuit is depositions (Paul Fishbein, Tim Connelly principally). There’s mandatory mediation in September. The trial is scheduled for January 2008.

I looked through Connelly’s ten page contracts (employment and consulting) with AVN.  His employment contract called for $30,000 a year salary in 2003, bumped up to $35,000 a year beginning May 1, 2004 and up again to $40,000 a year starting May 1, 2005.

Tim also got a $1,000 a month car allowance. All work-related miles over 12,000 a year would be paid at the rate of 30c a mile.

Connelly got a two week vacation, a $1 million life insurance policy and $2,000 relocation expenses (did not have to be itemized).

His consulting deal paid out $170,000 for the first year, $187,000 for the second year and $205,700 the third year. He was eligible for bonuses to be decided by the AVN owners (Paul Fishbein, Stuart Franks, Darren Roberts).

Connelly signed a one-year non-compete (meaning he couldn’t work for another trade publication for a year after the end of his AVN gig but he could work for a consumer publication right away).

AVN’s attorneys in this case (PC 039632) are Lerman, Pointer and Clarkson at 12121 Wilshire Blvd, #1325, Los Angeles, 90025.

Connelly’s suing for breach of contract, unpaid wages, physical disability discrimination, retaliation, termination in violation of California’s family rights act and wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

14. Plaintiff became employed by AVN in April 2003, pursuant to two written agreements (the “Employment Agreement” and the “Consulting Agreement”, both defined below). He was employed by AVN continuously until his termination on October 28, 2005 as Publisher of AVN Magazine and Editor of AVN.com. Plaintiff routinely performed services for AVN’s affiliate, Teddy Communications, Inc (“TCI”).

15. On August 8, 2005, Plaintiff attended a meeting with Paul Fishbein and Burt Messer (“Messer”), AVN’s Chief Financial Officer. At that meeting, Fishbein expressed concerning regarding Plaintiff’s absences from work and behavior. Fishbein inquired as to whether Plaintiff’s absences and behavior were a result of drug or alcohol abuse. Fishbein had also made such inquiry prior to the August 8, 2005 meeting or at any time prior to that time, did Plaintiff indicate that he was suffering from an addiction to alcohol or any other substance.

16. At the August 8, 2005 meeting, Plaintiff did state however, that he had been under a great deal of workplace stress and demand, which had been taking a toll on him. He indicated that he had been working long hours in what he considered to be a frustrating and demoralizing environment. Plaintiff informed Fishbein that he would seek guidance and appropriate care for his stress and requested and was granted a medical leave of absence. Plaintiff never agreed to go into rehabilitation, as he felt it was unnecessary, since he suffered from no addiction. Fishbein agreed that AVN would continue to pay Plaintiff while he was on medical leave.

17. Following the August 8 meeting, Plaintiff sought the assistance of Dr. Sharon Mithcell (“Dr. Mitchell”) of Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation (“AIM”). Fishbein and AVN were aware that Plaintiff was using Dr. Mitchell and AIM to help him with his problems. In fact, Dr. Mitchell and Fishbein spoke at length regarding her treatment of Plaintiff.

18. On August 29, 2005, Fishbein wrote a letter to Plaintiff stating it was Fishbein’s belief that Plaintiff was not in a rehabilitation facility. Fishbeinfurther stated that the basis for his [Fishbein’s] agreement to pay Plaintiff during his medical leave was that Plaintiff “would enter a bona fide and legitimate substance abuse program sufficient to deal with [Plaintiff’s] addiction.” In his August 29, 2005 letter, Fishbein informed Plaintiff that it was Fishbein’s opinion “that only after successfully completing at least a 30 day program, will [Plaintiff] be able to return to work at AVN and do your job safely and properly.” Fishbein concluded the letter by acknowledging that apparently the parameters of the agreement were not clear.

19. Plaintiff responded to Fishbein’s August 29, 2005 letter by letter on September 1, 2005, reiterating what he advised Fishbein at the August 8, 2005 meeting. Plaintiff informed Fishbein that Plaintiff had been under workplace stress and demand, which was taking a toll on him. Plaintiff denied ever telling Fishbein that he was suffering from an addiction to alcohol or drugs, and therefore he saw no need for a formal rehabilitation program, despite Fishbein’s belief to the contrary. In his September 1, 2005 letter, Plaintiff also informed Fishbein that Plaintiff had been consulting with Dr. Mitchell and was currently seeing a therapist, who was assisting Plaintiff with his concerns about his present situation.

20. On September 1, 2005, Dr. Ira Heilveil sent a letter to Fishbein. In that letter, Dr. Heilveil informed Fishbein, that was currently treating Plaintiff for difficulties relating to stress and conflicts arising from his current employment. Dr. Heilveil informed Fishbein, that at that time, “returning to work would exacerbate (Plaintiff’s) difficulties, and that [Plaintiff] should not return to work until his current emotional situation improves.”

21. Fishbein responded to Plaintiff’s September 1, 2005 letter via letter dated September 6, 2005, in an attempt to “set the record straight.” Fishbein claimed once again that , Plaintiff admitted to suffering from a drug problem, and that he offered to continue to pay Plaintiffhis salary while he attended a rehabilitation program. Fishbein denied that Plaintiff had ever mentioned that AVN was a demoralizing work environment, and claimed that Plaintiff’s September 1, 2005 communication was the first mention of any work related stress by Plaintiff. Fishbein ended the letter by giving Plaintiff a 30 day leave of absence, with pay, so that Plaintiff could deal with his stress.

22. In an email dated September 7, 2005,  Fishbein expressed to Plaintiff that, “I guess we have a disagreement on what went down last month. I actually thought you’d be in rehab.”

23. On September 20, 2005, Plaintiff responded to Fishbein’s September 6, 2005 letter by email, reiterating their differing recollections of the August 8, 2005 meeting. Furthermore, Plaintiff again acknowledged that he was attending therapy twice a week with an appropriate professional, so as to correct his problem. Fishbein, responded on September 22, 2005 agreeing they had differeing recollections.

24. On September 28, 2005, Rene B. Lonner (“Dr. Lonner”), a licensed clinical social worker, sent a letter to Fishbein. This letter informed Fishbein that Plaintiff was under her care for stress-related issues and was unable to work at that time. She further informed Fishbein that Plaintiff would be re-evaluated on October 31, 2005.

25. On October 17, 2005, AVN sent Plaintiff a letter informing him that AVN would not be renewing his Employment and Consulting Agreements when they expired on April 30, 2006. At that time, Plaintiff remained on medical leave.

26. When Plaintiff called Fishbein to discuss Fishbein’s October 17, 2005 letter, Fishbein informed Plaintiff that things had not worked out and that was the reason for the non-renewal of the agreements.

27. On October 19, 2005, Glenn E. Lerman, Esq., attorney for AVN sent a settlement offer to Larry Drapkin, Esg., Plaintiff’s former counsel in an attempt to have Plaintiff resign his employment with AVN.

28. On October 25, 2005, Messer sent Plaintiff a letter informing Plaintiff that AVN was temporarily suspending Plaintiff’s AVN-issued American Express card, explaining that Plaintiff was not working at the time and had no need to use it for business purposes.

29. On October 26, 2005, Mr. Drapkin, counsel for Plaintiff sent a letter to AVN’s counsel, Mr. Lerman, communicating Plaintiff’s dismay at the non-renewal of his Employment and Consulting Agreements, given Plaintiff’s intention to return to work at AVN as soon as his healthcare provider determined he was medically able to work. Mr. Drapkin further reiterated the differing opinions of their respective clients concerning Plaintiff’s medical condition. Mr. Drapkin informed Mr. Lerman that Plaintiff and his medical care provider undertook what they believed to be the appropriate therapeutic plan to address Plaintiff’s mental health needs and that Plaintiff continued to make progress. In this letter, Mr. Drapkin on behalf of Plaintiffs advised AVN through its counsel that the non-renewal of the Employment and Consulting Agreements constituted discrimination and retaliation and urged AVN to reconsider.

30. On October 27, 2005, Fishbein received a letter from Dr. Lonner, informing Fishbein that Plaintiff was still under her care to deal with Plaintiff’s stress-related issues and was still unable to work at that time. Dr. Lonner informed Fishbein that Plaintiff would be re-evaluated by November 30, 2005.

31. On October 28, 2005, Plaintiff received a letter from Fishbein, advising that, effective immediately, his Employment Agreement and his Consulting Agreements with AVN were being terminated, pursuant to paragraph 3(a) (iii) of each such agreement for “intentional dishonesty.”

32. Until the moment of his termination, Plaintiff was in constant communication with Fishbein, informing Fishbein that he was receiving therapy to deal with his issues and that his medical provider believed that the chosen treatment plan was effective.

33. Following his termination, Plaintiff requested that AVN state the reasons underlying the termination, pursuant to Section 3 of the applicable Employment and Consulting Agreements. Plaintiff received no response at that time and still has received no response to this request.

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