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Citing labor code violation, H.E.R. sues to be released from her record label

A woman with long hair and wearing an oversized plaid shirt and sunglasses holds a microphone
H.E.R. signed to the label in 2011 at the age of 14.
(Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images for SiriusXM)

More than 11 years after signing to MBK Entertainment at the age of 14, H.E.R. is suing to be released from the label.

In a lawsuit filed in a Los Angeles County Superior Court on June 16, the artist born Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson accused the label of violating the California Labor Code § 2855, which limits personal service contracts to no more than seven years.

“Wilson’s seven years have run,” the complaint reads. “MBK’s attempts to thwart this important and fundamental California public policy should not be condoned.

R&B sensation H.E.R. is nominated for eight Grammy Awards at January’s ceremony, including album and song of the year.

H.E.R’s contract, which she signed on May 19, 2011, says the singer is an “exclusive employee” of MBK for an initial period, which would either end 15 months after she signed or 12 months after the release of her first album. However, the contract could be extended by up to five additional option periods of over one year each. (H.E.R.'s first studio album, “Back of My Mind,” was released on June 18, 2021, nearly one year to the date the lawsuit was filed.)

Around the time she signed to MBK, H.E.R. also tapped the label’s owner Jeff Robinson as her manager, according to the lawsuit. Robinson then fired the law firm that represented H.E.R. while negotiating that contract, and hired his own lawyers to represent her for future contracts such as publishing and touring.

According to the lawsuit, the lawyers received 5% of deals they negotiated, but did it as a “favor” to Robinson, who received a 20% commission for each deal.

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“By its terms, the Agreement has significantly limited Wilson’s employment rights,” the complaint reads. “Since May 19, 2011, MBK has exclusively owned her services as a recording artist and has exclusively owned the right to exploit her name and likeness for her recordings under the Agreement. Wilson has not been free to provide her recording services except as permitted or dictated by MBK.”

H.E.R. has sued MBK Entertainment, but notably, Robinson himself isn’t named as a defendant. Along with her release from MBK, she is suing for her catalog rights, restitution, legal fees and other relief “as the Court deems just and proper.”

Representatives for H.E.R. and MBK Recordings did not immediately respond to The Times’ requests for comments.


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