The longtime on-air sidekick of Philadelphia radio icon John DeBella has sued him for sexual harassment, claiming she got demoted — and eventually felt pressured to quit — after she told bosses that he crudely propositioned her for years.
In a federal civil-rights complaint filed Friday, Jennifer Neill, 43, of Yardley, claims that DeBella groped her breasts, repeatedly asked for oral sex, showed her sexually explicit images, grabbed her hand and rubbed his genitals, frequently made sexually graphic comments to her, nicknamed her “Bitch,” and otherwise sexually harassed her at various points during the 14 years she worked on his show at 102.9 WMGK-FM.
The 57-page complaint outlines multiple allegations of sexual harassment, including one conversation in which DeBella allegedly approached Neill as she pumped breast milk after returning from maternity leave and “asked to try some milk ‘from the tap.’”
Another time, he allegedly told her that women in radio are “useless” and “do not understand the technical aspects of the industry,” the lawsuit contends.
And in a holiday card he gave Neill, according to the lawsuit, DeBella allegedly wrote: “So along with the jokes, the ball-breaking, the sexual harassment, and the parental scolding, please know that I love you very much and can’t imagine doing this job without you. Now dry your eye and blow me!”
The full complaint can be read below.
Several supervisors were aware of DeBella’s lewd behavior but routinely ignored it, Neill claims.
For example, when a human resources manager once rounded a corner and encountered DeBella pressed up against Neill, the lawsuit states, the manager allegedly threw her hands in the air and reversed course, saying: “I don’t see anything!”
Neill complained to management in 2016, but an internal investigation resulted in no known discipline against DeBella, who reportedly told bosses the “jokes” were “mutual,” according to the lawsuit.
After the company’s investigation, Neill got demoted in November 2016 to traffic reporter — and submitted her resignation the next month, she claims in her lawsuit.
Named as defendants are DeBella, the Florida-based Beasley Broadcast Group and the Texas-based IHeartMedia, Inc., and TTWN Media Networks.
A Beasley spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying only: “Beasley prides itself on being an equal opportunity employer and takes such allegations very seriously.”
The other defendants didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Neill also filed complaints with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016.
Caren N. Gurmankin, Neill’s attorney, also couldn’t be reached.
DeBella, 66, has worked on the air in Philadelphia for 35 years, and was a fierce rival of Howard Stern in the 1980s. His morning show is a mix of talk and classic rock.
Neill started at TTWN and IHeartMedia in 2000 as a news and traffic reporter, and took on that role in 2002 for DeBella’s morning show, according to the complaint. She became DeBella’s on-air sidekick in 2010, the complaint states.
She now works as digital communications coordinator at the West Chester Area School District, according to her LinkedIn profile.