With Bachelor In Paradise having just survived after production was halted earlier this year due to an investigation of alleged misconduct, the Mike Fleiss-created franchise finds itself in hot water again with a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a fired employee. It has the former The Bachelorette producer saying that sexual harassment “is the way of the industry and world we work in.”
“Plaintiff worked for NZK Productions, Inc. and Warner Bros Entertainment on The Bachelor Series from October 2014 until April 2016, when she was wrongfully terminated for complaining about the hostile work environment that the Defendants created by pervasive and persistent sexual inquiries and language directed at her by the show’s Executive Producers and Cast Producers,” says the six-claim and profanity laced compliant (read it here) filed Monday in L.A. Superior Court on Monday by former production assistant and segment producer Becky Steenhoek.
Seeking a range of unspecified damages and a jury trial against Warner Bros Entertainment, NZK and a slew of Bachelor franchise producers, Steenhoek, who was fired in 2016, alleges that the defendants “engaged in despicable conduct, exposing Plaintiff to cruel and unjust hardships, with the intention to cause injury to Plaintiff, and with conscious disregard for her rights.”
Said a WB spokesperson today in response to the suit: “We take all allegations of workplace harassment very seriously. These allegations were brought to our attention and were thoroughly investigated earlier this year. Our findings did not support the plaintiff’s characterization of the events claimed to have taken place, which is why we are disappointed by the filing of this lawsuit.”
WB may say that, but in an environment that seems very sexually charged, the ex-PA and Bachelorette segment producer specifically offers a March 26, 2016 example of Bachelorette EPs and co-EPs Peter Scalettar, Caitlin Stapleton, Bennett Graenber, Elan Gale and others having a lewd conversation over dinner about their own sex lives.
Making almost anyone blush, the group on the ABC show also started seemingly pressuring Steenhoek to tell them about her sex life.
“Steenhoek made it clear that she was not interested in answering questions about her private sexual life or hearing about the sexual activities of her supervisors which are unrelated to work or the show’s creative process,” today’s 23-page filing states of the ridicule the ex-PA felt for refusing to participate in the exchange.
After a similar exchange with cast producer Stapleton on April 9 where Steenhoek said such talk was “making her feel uncomfortable and causing her distress,” the then-segment producer made a verbal complaint “consistent with Defendants’ sexual harassment policy.”
While Stapleton apologized the next day, she also allegedly told Steenhoek that the EPs were a trio of middle-aged men and that’s what such guys talk about. This meeting is also where that “this is the way of the industry and world we work in” remark was supposedly added.
Soon after, Steenhoek said she noticed a chill on the production towards her and the next week she was told that she “would not continue” for the rest of Season 12 of The Bachelorette. In terms familiar to any fan of UnReal, the reason give was that Steenhoek was not “being enough of a bitch.”
Steenhoek was promised she would be brought back for the upcoming season of Bachelor In Paradise, but that ultimately never happened. According to Steenhoek, she was offered and then distinctly unoffered a gig in July 2016 on Bachelor specials because the EPs said she was “not to be hired under any circumstances.”
We’ll see how Warner Bros and the five producers respond to the complaint in court.
Steenhoek is represented by the L.A. firm of Alexander Krakow + Glick LLP