Tavis Smiley ordered to pay $2.6M to PBS for violating morals clause in his contract

Tavis Smiley will have to pay damages after losing his countersuit

Tavis Smiley morals clause PBS lawsuit thegrio.com
Then talk show host Tavis Smiley speaks during the 'Tavis Smiley' panel at the PBS portion of the 2011 Winter TCA press tour held at the Langham Hotel on January 9, 2011 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Tavis Smiley may not be facing any criminal charges for sexual misconduct, but his workplace relationships will cost him. Variety reports that the former PBS host will have to pay $2.6M for violating the morals clause in his contract with the network in a ruling issued August 5.

Tavis Smiley thegrio.com
Tavis Smiley (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)

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The original decision was handed down in March of this year when Smiley lost a countersuit from PBS. The host of his own PBS show, and then one with Dr. Cornel West, Smiley, 56, was a personality on the network from 2004 until he was terminated in December of 2017.

The termination occurred after three women working with Smiley alleged sexual harassment and that Smiley retaliated against them professionally after the end of their relationships.

Smiley sued PBS in February of 2018, saying that the network had used a “sham investigation” to terminate his show. PBS countersued and according to Variety, six women who previously worked with Smiley testified that his workplace conduct was unprofessional. One of the women was paid $325K to settle a sexual harassment complaint.

Smiley admitted to dating women who worked for him but said those relationships were consensual and that his company, TS Media, had no prohibitions against workplace dating. In 2018, he told Good Morning America that he never used favoritism “upwards or downwards” in personnel decisions.

But a jury found differently. After three weeks of testimony, it awarded PBS $1.5M and agreed when the network asked for more damages, setting the total award at $2.6M.

“He lied, in our view,” PBS’ lead attorney Grace Speights said after the verdict in March.

“In the midst of the #MeToo movement, he violated our morals clause… You can’t have a consensual relationship between a manager and a subordinate because of the power dynamic. It’s never consensual because that manager has power over all aspects of that person’s employment.”

Three other women alleged Smiley oversaw a toxic workplace that included abusive language and behavior.

The woman who was awarded a settlement said that when Smiley asked her for sex and she turned him down, he told her “I’m tired of you telling me no. I’m tired of you rejecting me. I’m going to show you what happens to people when they reject me.”

Another woman said that she felt pressured to have a sexual relationship with Smiley and that when it ended, she believes that she was fired because the relationship became known to other coworkers.

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“I felt like my job was in jeopardy and that if I didn’t do what he wanted sexually, I would lose my job,” she told the jury.

Smiley has made no public comment on the resolution of the lawsuit.

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