Anyone who’s enduring sexual harassment, abuse or discrimination in the workplace hopes that colleagues who witness this behavior will support them as they report it or that they’ll take the initiative to report it themselves. Unfortunately, when people take these actions in support of co-workers, they may find themselves facing illegal retaliation, including the loss of their jobs.
One former television host says that’s what happened to him. He’s taking legal action.
Mark Steines was one of the hosts of a lifestyle show on the Hallmark Channel called Home & Family until he was fired this May. This month, Steines filed a suit against Crown Media, the Hallmark Channel’s parent company. He claims that he was fired because he reported the alleged actions of the executive producer (EP) of the show to the company. That producer, he says, verbally abused and sexually harassed the show’s female producers.
Among the behavior Steines says he witnessed was the male EP “grabbing the face of young female producer and forcing a kiss on her lips as she resisted and grimaced.” He also accused the EP of engaging in gender discrimination. He says the man made one woman beg, in a “degrading manner” to be allowed to take vacation time.
At least two women reportedly filed complaints of their own. According to the suit, last year, “two courageous Home & Family female producers asserted claims of sexual harassment” against the EP and Crown Media.
Instead of taking action against the EP, Steines’ attorney Lisa Bloom says the network responded by “diminishing his role on the network, reducing his profile at industry events, cutting his salary by 25 percent, and ultimately firing him months before the end of his contract.”
The producer in question has publicly denied engaging in any “actionable conduct.” He called the suit a “calculated attempt to ruin my reputation” after talks to negotiate a settlement with Steines allegedly broke down. Crown Media claims that the show’s declining ratings precipitated Steines’ firing.
Bloom notes, “The law protects witnesses and employees who oppose sexual harassment in their workplace because we know that victims can rarely win their cases alone. We need male allies like Mark to speak up.”
If you believe you’ve suffered retaliation or wrongful termination because you spoke up about illegal behavior or supported a co-workers’ claims, it’s essential to explore your legal options.