Janel Grant, a former employee of WWE, filed the suit Thursday in federal district court in Connecticut.
A former World Wrestling Entertainment employee filed a lawsuit Thursday against the company, its founder Vince McMahon and a former WWE executive accusing the men of sex trafficking and abuse.
Janel Grant, a former employee of WWE, said in the lawsuit that she was “the victim of physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault and trafficking at WWE.” The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.
“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,” Ann Callis, an attorney for Grant, said in a statement to NBC News. “She is an incredibly private and courageous person who has suffered deeply at the hands of Mr. McMahon and Mr. Laurinaitis.”
Callis said Grant hopes the lawsuit will prevent other women from being victimized.
A spokesperson for McMahon said the lawsuit is “replete with lies, obscene made-up instances that never occurred, and a vindictive distortion of the truth. He will vigorously defend himself.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for WWE's parent company, TKO Group Holdings, said, “Mr. McMahon does not control TKO nor does he oversee the day-to-day operations of WWE. While this matter pre-dates our TKO executive team’s tenure at the company, we take Ms. Grant’s horrific allegations very seriously and are addressing this matter internally.”
John Laurinaitis, the other former executive named in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit includes accusations of sex trafficking, civil battery, intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
According to the lawsuit, Grant met McMahon in March 2019, while he was the company’s chief executive, and he “dangled career-making and life-changing promises” while engaging in increasingly inappropriate behavior toward her.
McMahon allegedly pushed Grant for a physical relationship in exchange for promised employment at WWE, the lawsuit said, adding that she “felt trapped in an impossible situation” where she could either submit to his sexual demands or face ruin.
“Ms. Grant feared she had everything to lose and faced negative consequences no matter what happened,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit said that Grant eventually entered into a physical relationship with McMahon and was given employment at the WWE.
“Despite Ms. Grant’s expressions of unhappiness and attempts to end the sexual relationship — and while she came to understand that McMahon expected the physical relationship to continue as part of her employment — she 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 lawsuit said.
The lawsuit alleges that in 2020 McMahon began sharing sexually explicit photographs and videos of Grant with unnamed men inside and outside of the wrestling company.
Because McMahon was CEO of WWE at the time and Grant had an entry-level position at the company, “coercion was inherent in his increasingly depraved sexual demands,” the lawsuit said.
McMahon allegedly recruited others to have sexual relations with Grant, including with Laurinaitis. Grant was expected to engage in sexual activity at the WWE headquarters, sometimes during working hours, the suit said.
The lawsuit alleges that McMahon and Laurinaitis sexually assaulted Grant inside Laurinaitis’ office as she begged them to stop, while other "colleagues were busy at their desks."
Grant also claims in the lawsuit that others at WWE knew what was going on, but “actively sought to conceal the wrongdoing.”
Grant said in the lawsuit that she lost her employment at the company after McMahon said his wife had found out about their relationship in January 2022 and that he put her under “immense pressure” to sign a nondisclosure agreement that would prevent Grant from talking about the sexual misconduct.
She eventually signed the NDA in exchange for payments, which McMahon later stopped making, the lawsuit alleges. The suit did not give details on the amount and frequency of the payments.
The lawsuit is seeking to void the NDA as well as compensatory and punitive damages.
The lawsuit alleges that even after she was pushed out of the company, McMahon attempted to traffic her to an unnamed WWE star in March 2022.
The alleged abuse and predatory behavior “has left Ms. Grant crippled, both physically and mentally,” and she suffers with “debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder,” the lawsuit said.
WWE is alleged to have attempted to “sweep the matter under the rug” following media reports of McMahon’s involvement in a hush money payment scandal, announcing a special committee or its board of directors to investigate the alleged misconduct, the lawsuit said.
Grant alleged that the special committee never interviewed her or requested any documents, despite Grant saying she would cooperate, according to the lawsuit.
“Ms. Grant was groomed and coerced by McMahon and Laurinaitis, and the WWE stood by and facilitated efforts to keep Ms. Grant employed by WWE to ensure McMahon’s continued sexual exploitation,” the lawsuit said.
World Wrestling Entertainment said last year that McMahon, also a majority shareholder, would be reinstated to the company’s board.
McMahon had initially stepped down as CEO in 2022 after an investigation found that he had paid nearly $15 million to four women over 16 years to quiet claims of sexual misconduct.
Even during his leave, McMahon maintained control over the company as a majority shareholder. In a November regulatory filing, WWE said, “Mr. McMahon can effectively exercise control over our affairs.”