A Busy Week for Harassment Lawsuits in the Entertainment Industry

July 24, 2010

A former producer on the Joaquin Phoenix documentary film sued director Casey Affleck, brother of Ben Affleck, alleging hostile work environment and quid pro quo.

Meanwhile, a former assistant prop master on “House, M.D.” alleged hostile work environment, discrimination, and retaliation.

Last but not least, a former extra on “Bones,” who is an aspiring actress and is represented by Gloria Allred, alleges actor David Boreanz sexually harassed her.

But it’s not necessarily all bad news for the entertainment industry. Maybe Lifetime can make a movie or two out of it. Seriously, though, without judging the truth of the allegations (all or most of which have been denied), the entertainment business has a long history of alleged problems with sexual harassment and retaliation. And any company that ignores harassment claims does so at its extreme peril.


Update: The Hunter Industries Case Gets Weirder

November 12, 2009

Here’s an interesting twist in the case against Hunter Industries. You’ll recall from my earlier blog that a former employee alleged groping and repeated sexual advances by the company president/CEO, as well as prostitutes being hired to dance on tables at a company retreat

The Channel 6 article referred to the female plaintiff as an “executive.” However, a North County Times article refers to her as the former director of Human Resources for Hunter Industries.

This should be a very interesting case.

Strippers, Groping, and Retaliation Alleged by Employee in San Diego

November 6, 2009

A former executive at San Diego-based Hunter Industries has alleged that some pretty outrageous conduct took place during her employment and that she was fired when she complained about it.

Her complaint alleges that for years, she was subjected to harassment from the President/CEO, including cards with sexual content and propositions; groping of her legs and breasts; and derogatory comments about women. Moreover, her claim that the company hired prostitutes to dance on tables at company-sponsored retreats was allegedly backed by a former colleague (he was also fired).

The company’s attorney has denied the allegations.

Here’s the San Diego Channel 6 report.

Racial Harassment Case Includes Display of Noose

October 2, 2009

Here’s a particularly scary piece of news:

The EEOC has sued a Sikesville, Missouri construction company for racial harassment. Allegedly, two supervisors–brothers of the owner–not only made racially charged statements to three of their African-American employees but displayed a noose (and apparently “used” it in an unspecified manner). Then, when the company owner was told about his brothers’ allegedly behavior, he no longer sent to the complainants out for jobs.

Harassment, retaliation, and threats of lynching. Who says a builder can’t be busy in this economy?

Source: The St. Louis American article

LAPD Keeps Waiting for “April Fool’s!” Punchline as City Slapped with $2.25 Million Verdict

April 2, 2009

On April 1, a federal jury awarded over $2 million to a female Los Angeles police officer. The officer, Melissa Borck, said she had suffered discrimination, harassment, and retaliation and ultimately suffered a stillborn birth due to the stress.

According to court documents, the harassment occurred in 1996 at the Valley Traffic Division, shortly after Borck transferred there. One officer pushed her head to his lap and said, “I thought you’d never ask.” Male officers routinely ordered female officers to run errands for them, including picking up coffee and drycleaning. Borck also alleged she was retaliated against for reporting the harassment to Internal Affairs.

According to the lawsuit, once Borck became pregnant, her fellow officers commented on her breast size and asked to breast feed. Borck had a stillborn birth five months into her pregnancy in November of 1996.

Borck first filed her law suit in 1999. The jury from the first trial, held in 2007, apparently found discrimination and harassment but did not award damages. The first verdict was set aside due to juror misconduct.

The $2.3 million consists of $1 million in economic damages and $1.3 million in non-economic loss, including emotional distress.

Borck has said that 12 years later, she and fellow female officers still face harassment and retaliation from the department. This despite the fact that this past November, the city paid $2.25 million to another female officer (in the canine bomb unit) to settle a sexual harassment suit. That officer had alleged that her colleagues flashed their genitalia, made explicit remarks, and excluded her from training exercises.

So what does it take for some fools to learn? More than $4.5 million, apparently.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Taking a Bite Out of Sexual Harassment: EEOC Sues Denture Provider

March 20, 2009

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued a national denture provider, Affordable Care, Inc., based on alleged sexual and racial harassment by an affiliated dentist.

According to the complaint, the Massachusetts dentist propositioned one of his employees for sex, spanked another repeatedly, referred to women as “whining bitches,” made racial slurs, and warned he had a relative who was a KKK member and could “take care of” anything the provider wanted.

The lawsuit also alleges that although the employees repeatedly complained to Affordable Care, the company did nothing to stop it, instead firing one of the complaining employees.

An EEOC attorney reminded employers, “All entities who function as employers, including affiliated entities with control over operations of others, cannot escape liability for their discriminatory actions.” That’s a thought to chew on.

Source: Kansas City Infozine

Houston Pub Settles Class Action Suit Arising from Manager’s Groping

February 5, 2009

A Houston bar recently agreed to pay $115,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation class action brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to the EEOC, a former manager at Sherlock’s Pub spanked one female employee, pushed a female waitress against the wall, and squeezed another’s breasts. He also repeatedly used vulgarities when referring to his female subordinates in front of both coworkers and bar patrons.

When at least one female employee complained to upper management, nothing was done.

Source: Houston Press Blog

Honestly, I’m surprised the settlement wasn’t even higher. Perhaps part of the settlement involved revoking the former manager’s award for “Boss of the Year”?