Kanye West sued by former Donda Academy employee claiming workplace abuses

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: Rapper Kanye West performs onstage during the "Vultures 1" playback concert during Rolling Loud 2024 the at Hollywood Park Grounds on March 14, 2024 in Inglewood. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
Kanye West performs during the Rolling Loud festival in Inglewood last month. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

A former employee of Kanye West sued the megastar, his Yeezy apparel brand and his Los Angeles-area school, claiming discrimination, a hostile work environment, whistleblower retaliation and unsafe working conditions, among other allegations.

Trevor Phillips, a former employee of Yeezy and Donda Academy, sued West in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday, claiming that “once Phillips pushed back against Kanye’s bigotry and instructions to violate the law … Kanye responded mercilessly, with incessant harassment, humiliation, and attempts to both mentally control, and destroy, Phillips. ... Kanye even threatened Phillips with physical violence.”

A representative for West — who now goes by Ye — could not be reached for comment.

Read more: Kanye doubled down on antisemitic lyrics. Now he's headlining a major L.A. festival

Phillips claims in the suit that he began working for West’s Yeezy apparel brand in 2022, “overseeing projects related to growing cotton and other plants to use as materials in the Yeezy clothing lines,” with goals to “eventually create a self-sustainable Yeezy community.”

But soon after West’s now-infamous antisemitic tirades in October of that year, West's business partners cut ties, and Phillips was brought on to work for Donda Academy. He said he overheard Kanye tell students at Donda Academy, which Phillips' own child and younger brother attended, that “he wanted them to shave their heads and that he intended to put a jail at the school — and that they could be locked in cages.”

Phillips further claimed in the suit that Hitler was a frequent theme around the office, where he alleged West would say “HITLER WAS GREAT. Hitler was an innovator! He invented so many things. He’s the reason we have cars.” He also recalled West saying that “I am going for the Gays! First the Jews, then the Gays. … Gay people are not true Christians. And Gay people are controlled by Bill Gates so that they don’t have children for population control.”

Read more: Deplorable: How Kanye West went from beloved generational rapper to far-right Hitler apologist

Phillips claims that West showed nude photos of his sex partners to employees and ordered Phillips to do dangerous electrical work and other renovations at Donda Academy without any construction experience or permits. He said West fired and rehired him seemingly at random, and that after West confronted him about a garden project, West told him “I was going to punch you in the face” as he screamed at Phillips in front of dozens of staff members and schoolchildren.

Phillips is seeking damages in excess of $35,000, according to the complaint. “By filing this lawsuit, we hope our injured client's rights are vindicated, and that the famous artist Mr. West understands that his messages - which we alleged preach discrimination, antisemitism and Hitler-love - have no place in the world,” said Phillips' attorney, Carney R. Shegerian, in a statement to the Times.

The suit comes as West attempts to revive his music career after years of hate speech and incendiary behavior. His collaboration with Ty Dolla Sign, "Vultures 1," topped the Billboard album and singles charts. West most recently performed at the Rolling Loud festival in Inglewood, where his set earned mixed reviews.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.