Alva Johnson v. Donald J. Trump and Donald J. Trump For President, Inc.,
This is a federal lawsuit led by Public Justice Foundation Board Member Hassan Zavareei, with fellow Board Member Janet Varnell as local counsel, and Public Justice as co-counsel, against the Trump for President Campaign, and against President Trump personally, in the Middle District of Florida.
The case is on behalf of a former employee of the campaign, Alva Johnson, an African-American woman who served as a senior staffer. Johnson alleges that while she was employed by the campaign, she was forcibly kissed by the President himself during a campaign rally in Florida in front of several other people, and also that she was paid less than white employees and male employees who had the same, or lower, level of responsibility and credentials.
Ms. Johnson’s work for the campaign was widely respected and successful. After Trump forcibly kissed her, she felt confused and humiliated. She immediately shared her experiences with her family members, crying as she recalled the incident. Then, in October 2016, the Access Hollywood tape of Trump discussing inappropriate and predatory treatment towards women came out. And Ms. Johnson was instantly transported back to the moment Trump kissed her. Days later, she left the campaign, traumatized.
As a condition of working for the campaign, Johnson was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. It is a very sweeping and one-sided document, of a sort that Public Justice has opposed as unconscionable and unreasonable in a variety of other settings. The non-disclosure agreement also included a forced arbitration clause.
There is strong evidence that the Trump campaign violated the Equal Pay Act. While Ms. Johnson was paid an average of just over $3,600 per month during her time on the campaign, payroll documents show that others — particularly white men — were much more richly rewarded for their service, in some cases making double or nearly three times as much as Johnson. Courts have repeatedly held that non-disclosure agreements cannot be used to hide illegal activity. No non-disclosure agreement should prevent an employee from bringing claims of illegal misconduct in court.
Johnson is one of several women to allege forcible touching and kissing at the hands of President Trump, and is one of multiple former employees to publicly draw attention to the Trump administration’s usage of non-disclosure agreements and forced arbitration. She is also part of a pattern of women staffers of the Trump Campaign being underpaid; for this reason, Johnson is seeking to bring the case as a collective action on behalf of women who receiving unlawful pay at the hands of the Trump Campaign. As Johnson told Ronan Farrow of the New Yorker, “I am suing because my work holds the same value as the work of my white male counterparts. I am suing because this predatory behavior should not be minimized, especially when committed by the most powerful man in the world.”
- Jennifer Bennett
Paul Bland, Karla Gilbride, Public Justice
Hassan Zavareei, Katherine Aizpuru, Tanya Koshy, Tycko & Zavareei LLP
Janet Varnell, Brian Warwick, Varnell & Warwick PA