Did Dr. Phil Hold His Staff Hostage?
If the number of times a man is sued is directly proportional to his popularity, then Dr. Phil is a huge fucking star.
Former segment director Leah Rothman is the next litigant in line, slapping Dr. Phil and CBS with a lawsuit alleging false imprisonment, whistleblower retaliation, wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Rothman says she was summoned into work on her day off, according to the complaint, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday. Once there, she claims she was herded into a room with 300 other employees and a handful of security officers. The doors were locked, Dr. Phil demanded everyone turn off their phones, and that’s when things got weird.
The former psychologist turned butterball TV huckster and Oprah Winfrey BFF began to scream at his employees, according to the complaint. Relying on a set of notecards to guide his tirade, Dr. Phil treated his crew much like he does his guests, “threatening” and “scaring” them (or so the lawsuit claims) in the hopes that one would confess to a leak within the show—one that had spoiled his exclusive interview turned intervention with Bobbi Kristina Brown’s boyfriend, Nick Gordon.
The leak of television’s most despicable hour was transmitted “over state lines,” (whatever that means) and so Dr. Phil allegedly warned the assembled employees that he had “called the Feds” to investigate. “If you fuck with me, I’ll fuck with you,” Dr. Phil allegedly yelled.
When Rothman reported the event to CBS’s Human Resources, she says in the complaint she felt nervous for her job, which she had held for over 10 years. She had never complained about other hostile behavior on the show, she said.
Human Resources allegedly dodged Rothman from then on and never reprimanded Dr. Phil, who, according to the complaint, “got joy out of the process and scaring his employees.” Rothman says the incident and subsequent inaction by CBS caused her to quit.
Read Rothman’s complaint below.
A spokesman from The Dr. Phil Show declined to comment on the lawsuit. Rothman didn’t reply to a request for comment, but presumably she knows this isn’t Dr. Phil’s first trip through the civil court system.
He was sued in 2005 for defamation, invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress by two brothers who were once suspects in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, an Alabama teenager who went missing while on a school trip in Aruba. Deepak and Satish Kalpoe claimed the show altered its secretly recorded interview tape to make it look like they were complicit in her disappearance. The case was dismissed a decade later.
In 2011, CBS and the unexplainably wealthy daytime host settled a lawsuit with two women who subjected themselves to a 2007 stay in “The Dr. Phil House,”™ where participants are mixed up and filmed constantly in an effort to work out their social issues. The ladies balked at the good doctor’s method of sending a nudist to test out their reactions, with one saying she felt “violated and disgusted” in a sworn deposition. One claimed she was “brainwashed” by the show and accused Dr. Phil of touching her left breast during a “therapy” session.
After a questionable dive into the weight-loss market in 2003 (Shape Up!™ suggested 22 pills daily for just $120 a month), Dr. Phil was accused of making false claims with his line of supplements and diet snacks. He reached a $10.5 million settlement in the class action suit.
He’s been sued by parents of a troubled girl who claim that instead of helping her, Dr. Phil exploited her for the show’s benefit and sent her to what amounted to a private prison where she was assaulted by a teacher. “Dr. Phil has shown himself to be a showman more interested in ratings than a psychologist devoted to healing,” the lawsuit claimed. Their case was dismissed.
He’s been sued over a dog bite, and over who got credit for his interior decorating by a man who says the show made him look crazy, and by a memorabilia dealer who said it set him up to look like he framed O.J. Simpson for robbery. (All of these cases were either settled or dismissed.)
What have we learned from this? First, that for a man who got rich and famous purporting to help people, there are a whole lot of folks who claim Dr. Phil has caused them emotional distress. And second, that the Dr. Phil Show loves to settle. Here’s hoping Rothman’s case makes it to trial, where we can hear more about the “other hostile behavior” Dr. Phil allegedly metes out to his own.