Ex-CPAC employee sues group for discrimination, requests $55 million in damages
The Conservative Political Action Conference and its leaders, including Matt Schlapp, have been named in a former employee’s lawsuit, accusing them of racial discrimination and defamation.
Regina Bratton, a former communications and marketing supervisor who worked for CPAC in 2021 and 2022, claims the organization’s leadership “conspired to and embarked upon a systematic, concerted effort to create a hostile work environment,” according to The Washington Post.
Bratton requests $55 million in the lawsuit, filed in a Virginia federal court on Friday.
“The culture at CPAC was terrible,” the lawsuit states, “as Matt Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, ran the organization as if they were the King and Queen — like a dictatorship which ignored rules, laws, and basic decency when dealing with employees.”
The lawsuit lists the American Conservative Union, CPAC’s parent group, and its foundation arm as defendants. It also names Schlapp, a well-known supporter of former president Donald Trump, Mercedes Schlapp, a senior fellow at CPAC, and general counsel David Safavian.
Bratton alleges that out of around 30 workers, interns and volunteers at CPAC, she was the only one who identified as African American and experienced hostility from up and down the command chain.
She claims a subordinate routinely acted hostilely and defiantly against her and informed her that he didn’t enjoy “working with or for women.”
As Bratton attempted to hire a diverse group of freelancers, the staff member reportedly complained that CPAC was “not an affirmative action employer.”
In the lawsuit, Bratton claims she felt pressured to carry out Schlapp’s personal duties beyond the scope of her employment, which included a request to promote his book and style Mercedes Schlapp’s hair.
Bratton said she experienced retaliation after raising concerns about racial bias and complaining to her managers about various working difficulties.
She asserts that her firing resulted from her holding a second job, despite informing the Schlapps about it and working for a media outfit that serves as the CCTV Washington bureau. Bratton said she later learned Schlapps and Safavian said they fired her because she was “an agent for China.”
This new action threatens to accelerate CPAC’s growing legal costs. Republican strategist Carlton Huffman sued Schlapp earlier this year, accusing him of sexual abuse and defamation. He requested $9.4 million in damages.
Schlapp has vehemently denied any misconduct.
Several seasoned board members have resigned recently, expressing issues with Schlapp’s financial management and high employee turnover.
Charlie Gerow, vice chairman of the ACU board, resigned last week and encouraged other board members to undertake an independent inquiry into any further accusations of sexual misconduct outside of those included in Huffman’s complaint.
Jim McLaughlin, another board member, expressed his continued confidence in Schlapp and CPAC in a recent interview before Bratton filed her lawsuit. He said the organization was experiencing financial difficulties before Schlapp’s leadership in 2014.
Schlapp and two younger men are also at the center of additional complaints reported to certain board and staff members.
In a statement last week, Matt Smith, an American Conservative Union executive committee member, denounced these accusations as “completely fabricated.”
CPAC’s parent group said in a Sept. 1 statement that they would vigorously defend themselves and believed the lawsuit to be without substance.
“ACU will vigorously defend against this suit, which was filed by a disgruntled former employee,” the organization said. “As CPAC continues to expand both in the US and internationally, we will weather these attacks and stay focused on the mission (of) fighting for America and Freedom.”
TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!