An actress who appeared as a regular background character on the CBS television series “The Mentalist” has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court complaining of sexual harassment and retaliation. In the suit, Shanelle Howard alleges that a fellow employee subjected her to ongoing harassment on the set, and that the producers of the show terminated her in retaliation for reporting it. New York City is perhaps second only to Los Angeles in the size of its entertainment industry, and sexual harassment on the job is an ongoing concern.
Howard appeared on the show as a “stand-in and background actress” for several seasons, beginning when the show premiered in 2008. She alleges that another extra, Lonnie Moore, subjected her to almost daily verbal harassment, which sometimes veered into physical assault. According to Howard’s lawsuit, Moore directed “a daily barrage of sexually based comments and unsuitable conduct” towards her, ranging from questions about her clothing to requests for sexual activity. At times, she says, he would grope her or otherwise make unwanted physical contact.
Howard claims that she reported her concerns about Moore’s conduct to her supervisors in October 2011. Although she says that they told her she had “done the right thing” by reporting the harassment, she claims that she immediately began to experience “retaliatory and confrontational conduct” from both her supervisors and coworkers. She had been working on the set five days a week, but her workload abruptly dropped to two days a week. An attorney for Warner Bros., the show’s producer, told her in late November that the investigation into her complaints had been closed. By the end of April, Howard says that she was no longer receiving calls to work on the show, and the agency that did extras casting for the show, GEP Cencast, was not offering her any other work. Howard felt at that time that she had been constructively terminated by Warner Bros. and GEP.
Howard filed suit against Warner Bros. Television, GEP, and Moore on Friday, August 14, 2012. She alleges violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, as well as sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and unlawful retaliation. The suit requests unspecified damages. The California statute is similar in many ways to the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law, which protect workers statewide and in New York City, respectively, from employment discrimination based on gender and other factors. Federal law also prohibits such discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
These laws all prohibit discrimination in employment based on gender. Sexual harassment is generally viewed as a form of gender discrimination since it tends to involve the unequal treatment of one or more employees based on their gender. It is a common problem in the entertainment industry, although it can happen in any kind of workplace. New York’s television and modeling industries, in particular, present challenges in fighting against sexual harassment.
The lawyers at Phillips & Associates represent victims of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination in New York City and surrounding areas, fighting to protect their rights at the municipal, state, and federal levels. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or call (866) 229-9441.