A new lawsuit alleges WWE founder Vince McMahon sexually abused a former employee during his time as CEO. Janel Grant filed a lawsuit on Thursday against her former employer WWE, McMahon and former head of talent relations John Laurinaitis.
Grant accused McMahon of using WWE resources to traffick her to other men “as a pawn to secure talent deals,” according to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. The plaintiff seeks unspecified monetary damages and a declaratory judgement that a nondisclosure agreement Grant signed is “void and unenforceable, and does not bar any of Plaintiff’s claims against defendants McMahon and WWE.”
The suit alleges McMahon and Laurinaitis engaged in sexual assault and trafficking “both for their own pleasure and as a pawn to secure talent deals with prospective wrestlers they were recruiting.”
“[McMahon] would shower Ms. Grant with gifts and empty work promotions, while at the same time threatening her livelihood and her reputation if she wouldn’t succumb to his increasingly depraved sexual demands, including disseminating pornography of Ms. Grant to ‘thousands’ of individuals and engaging in sex acts with other WWE employees — some of whom were complete strangers,” the legal complaint claims.
Grant and McMahon allegedly lived in the same apartment building and met in March 2019. Grant was allegedly given an “entry-level position as an ‘administrator-coordinator” after “succumbing to the pressure for a physical relationship.” The lawsuit details multiple allegations of sexual assault and “extreme depravity” conducted by McMahon and Laurinaitis.
Grant allegedly “was abruptly pressured to resign from the WWE and forced to sign an NDA days before a major financial deadline for the organization” after McMahon’s wife learned of the relationship. McMahon allegedly promised to protect her ‘financially and reputationally” and pay her $3 million. McMahon allegedly “refused to make payments to Ms. Grant, falsely claiming that she had leaked information to the press.” The lawsuit states that McMahon paid Grant $1 million in February 2022 but he “failed to make any further payments.”
“Today’s complaint seeks to hold accountable two WWE executives who sexually assaulted and trafficked Plaintiff Janel Grant, as well as the organization that facilitated or turned a blind eye to the abuse and then swept it under the rug,” said Ann Callis, Grant’s attorney, in a statement published by Variety. “She is an incredibly private and courageous person who has suffered deeply at the hands of Mr. McMahon and Mr. Laurinaitis. Ms. Grant hopes that her lawsuit will prevent other women from being victimized. The organization is well aware of Mr. McMahon’s history of depraved behavior, and it’s time that they take responsibility for the misconduct of its leadership.”
McMahon stepped down as WWE CEO in July 2022 while the company investigated allegations of hush-money payments who accused McMahon of sexual misconduct. WWE disclosed that McMahon made $19.6 million in payments dating back to 2007 relating to alleged misconduct. McMahon paid WWE $17.4 million in March 2023 for costs the company incurred while investigating him.
McMahon returned to the company in January 2023 as an executive chairman to lead WWE’s sales efforts. WWE merged with UFC last year, a deal coordinated by Endeavor, leading to the creation of TKO Group Holdings. The lawsuit was filed two days after TKO penned a 10-year deal with Netflix totaling $5 billion. McMahon, WWE, TKO and Netflix have not yet responded to the allegations.
The claims against the defendants include violating the Trafficking Victims Prevention Act, civil battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress concerning years-long sexual and emotional abuse.