Vince McMahon, WWE accused of sexual assault and trafficking in new lawsuit

A former employee of World Wrestling Entertainment has sued the company, its embattled founder, Vince McMahon, and its former head of talent relations John Laurinaitis for sexual assault, trafficking and emotional abuse.

Janel Grant filed the complaint Thursday in Connecticut, accusing McMahon of coercing her into a “sexual relationship,” sharing sexually explicit photos and videos of her with male colleagues and subjecting her to “increasingly depraved sexual demands” — including forcing her into “sexual encounters” with Laurinaitis and others — while she was employed at the company.

The 67-page lawsuit arrived months after McMahon unexpectedly returned as chairman of WWE. The wrestling mogul had previously retired from his role as chief executive officer of WWE while under investigation by his board for misconduct. He is currently executive chairman of WWE’s publicly traded parent company, TKO.

“Through all this trauma, Ms. Grant has endured profound suffering in silence, feeling of exploitation, loss of security, and the fear of facing the wrath of WWE and McMahon’s army of attorneys if she were to come forward and bring to light the egregious acts detailed herein,” the complaint reads.

“That time has passed, and Ms. Grant seeks to hold Defendants accountable for their reprehensible and unlawful acts, for her own sake and for others.”

A representative for WWE did not immediately respond Thursday to The Times’ request for comment. McMahon and Laurinaitis could not be reached for comment.

“I have always denied any intentional wrongdoing and continue to do so,” McMahon said last year in a statement to The Times.

Grant alleges in her filing that McMahon “demonstrated an increasing lack of boundaries” — such as greeting her in his underwear, touching her, asking her for hugs and sharing intimate details about his personal life — while recruiting her in 2019 for a potential job at WWE. McMahon allegedly pressured Grant to keep their “closeness” a secret, threatening to summon his “world-class” legal team if she spoke up.

“As such, when McMahon pushed Ms. Grant for a physical relationship in return for long-promised employment at WWE, she felt trapped in an impossible situation: submitting to McMahon’s sexual demands or facing ruin,” the complaint reads.

“Ms. Grant feared she had everything to lose and faced negative consequences no matter what happened.”

While working in WWE’s legal and talent relations departments from 2019 to 2022, Grant allegedly “came to understand that McMahon expected the physical relationship to continue as part of her employment” but “had no idea how sordid it would become, nor how the psychological torture and physical violence would leave her feeling helpless, isolated and trapped,” the filing continues.

In one instance described in the lawsuit, McMahon allegedly defecated on Grant while forcing her to “sexually gratify” him and a friend during a threesome. During another alleged encounter, McMahon and Laurinaitis (a retired pro wrestler known as Johnny Ace) took turns forcing themselves on Grant while she begged them to stop, telling her, “No means yes” and “Take it, b—.”

Numerous other allegations of violent sexual harassment and assault are detailed in the filing.

When Grant left WWE in February 2022, the lawsuit states, McMahon allegedly told Grant that his wife had “found out about their relationship” and urged her to sign a nondisclosure agreement to “avoid divorce, negative publicity and other repercussions,” the complaint reads. McMahon allegedly agreed to pay Grant $3 million in exchange for her silence.

The complaint alleges that WWE attempted to “sweep the matter under the rug” and that McMahon continued to try to exploit and traffic Grant after she left the company.

Grant is asking for a jury trial, as well as judgment for compensatory, legal and punitive damages. She also is seeking declaratory judgment releasing her from the terms of her NDA.

A WWE board investigation found that McMahon made at least $14.6 million in payments between 2006 and 2022 for “alleged misconduct,” according to regulatory filings. His alleged misconduct also has been investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice.

“I am confident that the government’s investigation will be resolved without any findings of wrongdoing,” McMahon said in last year’s statement to The Times.

Times staff writer Stacy Perman contributed to this report.

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