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Ex-talk show host alleges sex bias

While talk radio can get a bit raunchy on the air, it got even raunchier in the studio at WFLA, according to a lawsuit filed by a former talk show host. Liz Richards has sued the radio station, charging managers and co-workers with sex discrimination, assault and battery, invasion of privacy and breach of contract.

Richards, whose legal name is Elizabeth Gilbert, alleges in a lawsuit filed this week that she was fired in June 1989 in retaliation for filing a sex discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) six months earlier.

The lawsuit, filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, charges that male WFLA employees made sexually explicit comments toward and about her and other women at the station and fostered a work atmosphere degrading toward women.

Richards alleges one co-worker kissed her and bit her on the neck without her consent while she was broadcasting and that another grabbed her and tried to force her to touch his groin.

At one point, the lawsuit states, WFLA promoted Richards' show with billboards that read, "Liz can say "Hi Sailor' in 36 languages."

In addition, the lawsuit states, a female stripper removed all her clothes at a mandatory staff meeting; female employees were asked to try on womens' underwear brought into the station; pornographic caricatures of female employees were displayed in the station; and female employees routinely were referred to as "bimbos" and other derogatory terms.

Tedd Webb, an on-air personality named as a defendant in the case, said Wednesday he was shocked to hear about Richards' lawsuit.

"The charges are without base. It's ridiculous, ludicrous, an embarrassment to me and my family," said Webb, whose real name is Henry Ruiz. Webb was in Los Angeles covering a Major League Baseball meeting.

Webb said he was not named in Richards' 1989 complaint to the EEOC. He said he maintained a very cordial relationship with Richards after she left the station and even took some publicity photos of her for free when she was looking for a new job.

Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are Randy Michaels, Bob Lassiter, David Macejko and Frank Wood, as well as Jacor Communications Inc. and Jacor Broadcasting of Tampa Bay Inc., WFLA's owners. Lassiter, also a former talk show host, Macejko and Wood are no longer with the company; Michaels has moved to Jacor's Cincinnati headquarters.

WFLA's attorney, Thomas Gonzalez, said the station and Jacor deny the allegations.

"We're going to defend it pretty aggressively," said Gonzalez, who said Richards' EEOC complaint has not been resolved.

"The type of behavior she attributes to the radio station is in fact what she engaged in," Gonzalez said. "The suggestive things were a hallmark of her radio program."

He also said Richards approved the "Hi Sailor" billboards.

Richards, who is studying law, said Wednesday she tried to find a job for a year after she was fired from WFLA and has no plans to return to broadcasting.