Twenty-six-year-old Katie Armiger’s dreams of country stardom have taken a backseat to her continuing fight against her former record label. That fight began over allegations of sexual harassment the singer claims to have endured at the hands of country radio personnel while signed to the label as a teenager.
In the latest development, that label — Cold River Records — has reportedly filed suit against Katie, claiming some of her recent statements to the media violate a “non-disparagement clause” she signed last year after she parted ways with the label, “The Tennessean” reports. The clause was part of a confidential settlement reached between Katie and Cold River after they ended their association on less than amicable terms.
In October, Katie discussed her experience as an artist with FoxNews.com, in addition to making several social media posts highlighting sexual harassment in country music. She has claimed that the label was aware of the harassment she endured, but encouraged her to go along with it in order to keep her career on track. For its part, the label has denied any prior knowledge of Katie’s sexual harassment claims. Label owner Pete O’Heeron has said repeatedly that Katie never informed his company about incidents of harassment or assault, and that her claims to the contrary have damaged his company’s reputation.
Now, O’Heeron is seeking an injunction against the singer. If successful, the injunction could bar her from making any further comments about the sexual harassment she said she experienced after signing her record deal when she was just 15 years old. The injunction also seeks an unspecified amount of money as damages against Katie, whom “The Tennessean” reports has now left the music business to become a full-time college student.
But Katie continues to fight back. She has filed a countersuit, saying that a confidential settlement that silences sexual harassment victims violates broader public policy imperatives and should not be enforced.
She told “The Tennessean” that, in retrospect, she wonders whether or not signing the non-disparagement agreement was the right thing to do.
“It was pitched to me at the time that if maybe I just settled, if we said less even though we wanted to say everything and shout it from the rooftops, that I might get my music back,” she said.
“I thought, ‘OK, if I don’t say anything or if I say less, then maybe that will happen,’ but that hasn’t been the case and I feel comfortable now saying my truth.”
In an emailed statement, O’Heeron told the newspaper, “There is certainly a legitimate policy discussion to be had as to whether non-disparagement agreements should prohibit parties from airing legitimate concerns regarding matters of public interest. However, in this case, it was Ms. Armiger who wanted the non-disparagement provision and she is seeking to enforce it against Cold River. So it is ironic that she would now claim such enforcement is barred by public policy.”
An earlier lawsuit filed by Cold River against Katie claimed that she was in “breach of contract” during her departure from the label. Katie’s initial countersuit is where claims of sexual harassment first come to light, as she alleged that “Cold River officials told her to ‘sex it up’ and hug, flirt and kiss radio programmers and sit in their laps,” according to “The Tennessean.”
Although resolution for Katie’s case doesn’t appear to be in sight yet, it is helping to bring awareness and a much-needed conversation about some of the issues facing country music artists trying to launch a career.