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James Charles

James Charles breaks his social media hiatus to discuss lawsuit against him

TextAlex Peters

Following the fallout over his underage sexting allegations, the beauty influencer says he is being ‘blackmailed’ by a former employee who is taking legal action against him

Beauty influencer James Charles has been under a self-imposed social media silence for the past few weeks following the fallout over a sexting scandal allegedly involving underage boys which saw YouTube demonetise his channel and Morphe cut ties with the star. But on Monday (May 10), Charles briefly ended his hiatus to share with his followers claims that he is being “blackmailed” by a former employee who is currently suing him for wrongful termination. 

“Don’t worry, this isn’t my return to social media but unfortunately I am logging in today because I feel as though I am being cornered and have to make yet another public statement,” he says in a seven minute video posted to Twitter, explaining that while he has been quiet on social media, things behind the scenes have been anything but. 

Charles is currently involved in an ongoing lawsuit brought against him by his former producer and creative director Kelly Rocklein. Rocklein worked for Charles for six months in 2018 on a salary of $72,000 per year according to Charles, before she was fired. She is now suing for wrongful termination, disability discrimination, and failure to pay minimum wage for overtime hours worked, among other claims. In an interview with Insider, Rocklein and another source also allege that Charles used the ‘N-word’ in front of them on numerous occasions.

In her complaint, Rocklein says Charles required her to work 12 hour days, seven days a week and says she was never given overtime or double time, according to NBC News. She is also claiming that Charles was not sympathetic to her recovery needs after she suffered a head injury that resulted in her experiencing “headaches, temporary loss of consciousness, confusion, and amnesia” and that he “callously accused her of not being dedicated to her job as a result of her work being delayed while she was hospitalised.” Following a week off for a concussion at a doctor’s recommendation, Rocklein says she was fired on her return despite never receiving any negative performance feedback.

In his video, Charles denied the allegations of wrongful termination and poor treatment saying that his team has always been very well taken care of. “The fact that this is even attempting to become a narrative makes me feel sick to my stomach because it is wildly, wildy untrue.” He also denies the accusation of using the ‘N-word’, calling the claim “absolutely ridiculous, absurd, untrue, defamatory”. In turn, he suggested Rocklein is trying to take advantage of the unrelated scandals surrounding him currently by going to the press with her claims now, as a ploy to get settlement money. 

“This is something that I have never spoken about, never mentioned because I wanted to keep it private out of respect for her and the fact that it’s literally an ongoing litigation. But now she’s speaking about it which is just perfect timing considering everything else that’s going on,” he says, adding that he feels he is being “blackmailed”.

In a phone interview with NBC News, Rocklein’s lawyer Edwin Pairavi denied the claims of  blackmail and said while the timing of the sexting scandal was a factor in their decision to talk to the press, it was for a different reason: Rocklein felt more comfortable coming forward against someone with a big following and loyal fans after witnessing the public respond positively to others claiming to be victims. 

Pairavi also responded to Charles’s suggestion in the video that Rocklein’s behaviour was an attempt to pressure him into making “a much, much higher settlement offer”, claiming that, in fact, after being informed that she was going public Charles’ team offered his client a settlement in an attempt to silence her. In the lawsuit, Rocklein is seeking compensation for unpaid wages and interest from the three years since she was fired, as well as damages for distress and mental anguish, adding up to “hundreds of thousands of dollars” according to Charles. 

Charles also claimed in his video that this is not the first time Rocklein has sued an employer over mistreatment – she went through a similar lawsuit with social media star Erika Costell. Rocklein appeared to alluded to this in an April 26 tweet in which she wrote, “Won 1, going 2 for 2 because im all about law and order”. A few minutes prior she had tweeted “Watching the same people who screwed me over massively end up in deep scandals isn’t news to me, it’s karmic debt,” which many people assumed was a reference to Charles. 

Charles ended his video on Monday saying, “Contrary to popular belief I have never paid anybody to speak or not speak about me, and this will not be the first time that I do it.” He continued: “My only option is to pursue this to the fullest extent of the law and hope that when it gets to a courtroom, justice will be served.”

This is, of course, not the first scandal that Charles has faced over his career. In 2017, he apologised on Twitter for making a joke about possibly getting ebola while in Africa. In 2019, Tati Westbrook claimed Charles was predatory towards other men in the now-infamous “Bye Sister” scandal. Westbrook later said these were fabricated and accused Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson of manipulating her into believing the claims.

Watch Charles’s full statement below.

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