Ex-employees sue Houston, Brown for
By Peggy Wright, Daily Record
Two women who worked for Mendham Township superstar Whitney Houston have
filed discrimination lawsuits against the pop diva and her husband, former
pop star Bobby Brown, with one of the ex-employees alleging that Brown made
unwelcome sexual advances.
Silvia Vejar of Fort Lee, a former personal assistant to Houston, and Rose
Hunt of East Orange, an assistant and dressmaker for Houston, filed suit on
Friday in Superior Court, Morristown. The complaints, filed by Morristown
attorney William Koy, demand compensatory and punitive damages from Houston,
Brown and Houston's corporation, Nippy Inc., based in Newark.
Aware that the lawsuits were imminent, Houston's attorneys, Jed Marcus and
Ivan Novich, two weeks ago attempted to launch a pre-emptive strike designed
to stop the ex-employees from publicly airing their grievances against the
They sued Vejar and Hunt to block them from disclosing information about
Houston and Brown, saying that the women, both fired in the spring, violated
employment confidentiality agreements.
But Houston's suit was filed using fictitious, generic names and initials.
Superior Court Judge Kenneth MacKenzie, sitting in Morristown, refused to
seal the singer's request for an injunction against her two former employees
and ordered that the document be filed with true identities disclosed.
Marcus and Novich said they would appeal, but some of the information that
Houston apparently sought to keep confidential now has been made public in
the lawsuits filed by Vejar and Hunt.
Neither Marcus nor Novich could be reached for comment on Friday. Koy also
said he had no further comment.
In her lawsuit, Vejar said she worked for Nippy Inc. for 17 years, most
recently as a personal assistant to Houston at the singer's home in Mendham
Township. Vejar alleged that, beginning in 1997 and ending with her
termination in May 2003, Brown engaged in a pattern of conduct that
"included unwelcome sexual advances and verbal and physical conduct of an
Brown's conduct created a hostile working environment that interfered with
Vejar's job performance, the lawsuit said.
Vejar reported Brown's conduct to Houston and unidentified others, but his
alleged harassment did not end, the lawsuit said, adding that Vejar believes
her firing was a direct result of rejecting Brown's advances and reporting
them to Houston.
Hunt, a 14-year employee who most recently worked as an assistant and
dressmaker to Houston until she was fired in March, corroborated Vejar's
claims in her own lawsuit.
Hunt's complaint also cites the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination -
which protects employees against sexual harassment, discrimination and
retaliation - and said she believes that her dismissal was a consequence of
reporting Brown's harassment of her co-worker.
Both women allege that they were punished for speaking out about Brown's
behavior, and that they have suffered emotional and psychological distress,
anguish and anxiety, and damage to their reputations and careers.
Lawyers for Houston have been in Superior Court, Morristown, numerous times
over the last decade, usually seeking restraining orders against alleged
stalkers or people falsely representing themselves as related to or
connected to Houston.
Brown, who also has had numerous run-ins with the law, is best known for "My
Prerogative," a 1988 single that became his signature hit.
7 FEBRUARY 2004