Former Ring of Honor Kelly Klein has filed a lawsuit against ROH and Sinclair Broadcasting citing breach of an implied contract, unpaid royalties, discrimination and harassment, and an unsafe working environment among the charges.
Klein, 30, wrestled for the company from 2015 through 2019 when the relationship soured. In the filings, it revealed that an amended contract for the performer was to expire at the end of 2019 and then go month-by-month. ROH ended its relationship at the end of 2019.
The website Heel by Nature obtained the documents from the lawsuit filing and have posted the entire suit.
Those named in the suit are General Manager Greg Gilliland, ROH COO Joe Koff, Hunter Johnston, and wrestler Jamar Shipman a.k.a. “Jay Lethal”.
Klein believes her contract with the company was not extended due to complaints about the disparity in pay for the female performers, criticism of ROH’s medical protocols and lack of safety, and sexual harassment.
The suit outlines several injuries Klein incurred going back to 2016 with instances of head and neck injuries that she states were not adequately treated on-site. Klein states in the suit that she suffered a concussion on April 7, 2018, in New Orleans at Supercard of Honor that led to Klein unable to kick out and the wrong finish occurred. This was to establish the first Women of Honor champion with Sumie Sakai defeating Klein that night. Klein says she reported the injury to BJ Whitmer but there was no medical personnel available to check on her.
Later that year, she claims she informed announcer Ian Riccaboni of the dangerous female wrestlers being used and was told that Todd Sinclair is the one that books the women and was a fan of those specific women listed. Klein conveyed similar concerns to Sinclair and booker Hunter Johnston.
Klein also outlines a head injury sustained in October 2019 wrestling Lana Austin that led to her speaking incoherently, unable to form sentences, and laying on the floor backstage. She believes she told Marty Scurll about the issue and fellow wrestler Mandy Leon sought out help for Klein. In a 2019 interview with SI.com, Koff responded to the handling of Klein’s concussion after the match with Austin stating:
I wasn’t there, but I was made aware that Kelly did not realize she was concussed until sometime after the match. That hour could very well be a true lapse of time. But as soon as she reported she was concussed, she received immediate attention. Kelly declined the option to go to the hospital at that point. Ring of Honor had management present at the event, including the hired operating agent for the tour. I will tell you that as soon I learned about it, I texted her and she told me she appreciated my text and told me she was fine.
Klein has not wrestled since that match with Austin in October 2019.
In November 2019, Klein stated she had a meeting with Joe Koff about the on-site issues and was told there was a concussion protocol in place and that medical staff was always available, which Klein contradicts in the suit.
Regarding the charges of harassment, Klein says she had an uncomfortable experience in January 2017 while in a hot tub and approached by Shipman/Jay Lethal. She said the conversation made her uncomfortable and led to Klein asking for a different agent for her matches when she was informed Lethal would be the agent for the women’s matches. Klein states that the complaints about Shipman got back to him.
In December 2018, Klein states she requested a raise from $20,000 to $24,000 per year and was turned down by Gilliland, who stated that the women were all paid the same and would require them to raise all their salaries.
In November 2019, Klein outlines a meeting she had with Koff with a human resources representative from Sinclair present. Klein said she complained about the unequal pay structure compared with the male talent, and the sexual harassment from Shipman. On the latter, Koff thought the issue had been resolved and Klein said it had not and that it created a hostile work environment when Klein’s complaints were relayed back to Shipman.
Her contract was not renewed at the end of 2019, which Koff stated at the time was due to Klein sharing confidential documents and emails with another contractor.
Klein has requested a jury trial and is seeking relief “in an amount greater than $75,000”. She is being represented by lawyers Julian Haffner and Stephen P. New.
New issued a statement to WrestleZone emphasizing that the suit also seeks to strike down Klein’s status as an independent contractor:
The one thing the [wrestling news sites] are all missing is the misclassification allegations in the lawsuit as well. We are asking the court to strike down the independent contractor agreement in its entirety. This could be revolutionary for the entire industry if the federal judge rules in our favor. I’m excited to see how this will go.
The following articles are outlined in the suit with regards to Klein’s status as an independent contractor:
73. The arbitration provisions purport to apply to the determination of whether Klein is, in fact, an independent contractor or an employee and its terms purport to prohibit the determination that Klein is an employee as the arbitration provisions attempt to prohibit the modification of the contract.
74. The State of Maryland has a strong public policy that employees be paid the wages they are due and a strong public policy to ensure that individuals are not misclassified as independent contractors when, in fact, they are employees.