Real estate mogul James Batmasian is the subject of a new lawsuit by another former employee, this one alleging he was denied overtime pay but instead was given gift cards from Batmasian’s retail tenants as compensation.
The lawsuit, filed by Stacey Blake, seeks back pay for himself and other affected employees who were given the cards to spas, massage parlors and restaurants. The lawsuit also reiterates claims by another former Batmasian employee, Karla Sotomayor, who claims the billionaire real estate owner “has a voracious sexual appetite” and created a sex-filled work environment at his Boca Raton-based Investments Limited.
Blake alleged that instead of overtime for work as a leasing agent and property manager, Batmasian provided vouchers to him and others employees “so that they could receive ‘happy ending’ massages,” or sexual stimulation from massage parlors that rent space from Batmasian.
Blake also alleged Batmasian didn’t pay federal withholding taxes on commission checks. Batmasian went to federal prison in 2008 for failing to pay $253,513 in federal withholding income tax for employees. Batmasian spent less than a year in prison.
In an interview Wednesday, Batmasian said claims he paid Blake in gift cards instead of money “are totally false.” Batmasian said Blake was a salaried employee, and a supervisor, who also received commissions.
Gift cards were handed out to employees as treats, not payment, he said.
The lawsuit includes a 2010 memo purportedly from Batmasian in which he writes that the company will not “pay any overtime going forward.” Batmasian said Wednesday he pays his hourly employees overtime.
Included in the lawsuit, filed July 31 in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, are text messages allegedly sent by Batmasian.
The messages include cartoons, photos and texts featuring sex jokes and photos of sex acts. According to the exhibits, the messages were sent to employees and senior managers.
Batmasian said the messages were forwarded to him by other people: “I don’t initiate anything,” he said.
Another former Batmasian employee, Sotomayor, sued Batmasian and wife, Marta, last year. She claimed she was directed to lease commercial space to people involved in the sex trade so Batmasian could demand sexual favors from the tenants for him and his friends. The Batmasians have denied Sotomayor’s claims.
Batmasian said the sex allegations in Blake’s complaint are just more sensationalism by Blake’s attorney, Cris Kleppin, who also represents Sotomayor. Batmasian said Kleppin sees him as a “rich defendant with a bullseye on his back.”