The Producers Guild of America has adopted new guidelines designed to combat sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. The guidelines, which were unanimously ratified Wednesday at a special meeting of the PGA board, represent the initial recommendations from the PGA’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Task Force, which was created last October in response to the avalanche of allegations of sexual harassment and abuse by high-profile industry figures.
That same month, the PGA moved to kick disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein out of the guild for life, but he resigned before he could be expelled.
“Ultimately,” the guild said, “prevention is the key to eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace. Through sufficient resources we can educate our members and their teams. Together we must model our commitment to a workplace free of harassment and encourage colleagues to do the same. “
“Sexual harassment can no longer be tolerated in our industry or within the ranks of the Producers Guild membership,” said PGA presidents Gary Lucchesi and Lori McCreary in a joint statement. “As producers, we provide key leadership in creating and sustaining work environments built on mutual respect, so it is our obligation to change our culture and eradicate this abuse. While the PGA is a voluntary membership organization, the PGA’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Guidelines are sanctioned as best practices for our members.”
“It’s in the producer’s DNA to look forward and to try to make proactive changes, and we hope we’ve made real progress with these guidelines,” McCreary told Deadline. “But this is just a first step.”
“We have the opportunity,” Lucchesi said, “to make certain that the mistakes of the past will never happen again, and as a result make our industry and our culture better.”
Coming up with guidelines that everyone could agree upon “has been intense,” a PGA source said. “It was not easy to get consensus on this. These are ever-evolving guideline. These are first steps. They’re not set in stone. The PGA is interested in changing the culture that’s allowed sexual harassment to happen. Producers are some of the most powerful people in Hollywood, and by them setting the tone, we can change the culture and the way business is conducted.”
The guild’s recommendations to its members include the following:
- First and foremost, all productions comply with federal and state laws regarding harassment. If you are uncertain about the nature of the law, please consult with your in-house legal department (if you have one) or with an attorney.
- Each production, in whatever medium or budget level, provides in-person anti-sexual harassment training for all members of the cast and crew, prior to the start of production and prior to every season of an ongoing production. Effective training should not be simply focused on avoiding legal liability, but must be part of a culture of respect that starts at the top. Such training takes different forms and styles; make certain that the training you utilize is tailored to your specific production and its needs. Producers should ensure that the individual trainer has experience providing training in the area of sexual harassment laws and that all levels of management are present at the training in order to demonstrate the production’s commitment to the policy.
- Each production continue to be vigilant in efforts to prevent sexual harassment during the production process. Consider taking steps to maintain awareness of harassment on an ongoing basis, such as periodically adding sexual harassment to the assistant director’s safety briefing.
- Each production offer reporting procedures that provide a range of methods, multiple points of contact, including contacts at different organizational levels and in different geographic workplaces (e.g., a TV series that shoots in New York but maintains a writers’ room in Los Angeles), if applicable. We suggest designating at least two individuals, ideally of different genders, that cast/crew members can approach if they are subject to or witness harassment.
- Reports of harassment are listened to with attention and empathy. If a cast or crew member reports an incident of harassment, assume the complainant is being sincere until further inquiry can be undertaken, while bearing in mind that the report itself does not predetermine guilt. Reassure the reporting party that the production takes harassment very seriously and that s/he will face no retaliation for reporting. The production should move quickly to address the allegations or engage a third party to do so, allowing for as much transparency as can be provided.
The PGA said that its Anti-Sexual Harassment Task Force “is undertaking a thorough review of the tools currently available to facilitate prevention, reporting, counseling and protection. We also are working with other organizations in the entertainment community, such as the industry-wide Commission led by Anita Hill, as well as Time’s Up.”
Formed last month, the Anita Hill-led Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Inclusion in the Workplace seeks to establish a “comprehensive strategy to address the complex and inter-related causes of the problems of parity and power,” said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy after its founding meeting, which was attended by a who’s who of industry leaders, including Susan Sprung, the PGA’s associate national executive director.
The PGA also provided a summary provided by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces laws that prohibit sexual harassment, which is a type of sexual discrimination.
- Producers should be alert for any possibility of retaliation against an employee who reports harassment and take steps to ensure that such retaliation does not occur. Retaliation is illegal, and it is a serious concern for individuals reporting harassment and can take many forms. Anyone making a complaint or participating in an investigation is protected against retaliation. Retaliation includes, but is not limited to, firing, change in work responsibilities, transfers, ignoring or excluding, unwarranted discipline, or otherwise making a complainant feel uncomfortable or unwanted in the workplace.
- Producers should be sensitive to interpersonal power dynamics and the way even their casual questions or requests may carry implicit authority. We recommend that producers conduct all meetings and/or casting sessions in an environment that is professional, safe and comfortable for all parties, and encourage others on the production to adhere to these same standards.
The guild also noted that a substantial body of law protects individuals from workplace harassment, and made the following recommendations intended to supplement and facilitate observance of those laws.
- If you are (or believe yourself to be) the victim of a crime, contact the appropriate authorities immediately. Be aware of the statute of limitations on filing a charge for acts of harassment or abuse in your state.
- Create and maintain documents. Make notes regarding any harassment you suffered or witnessed, or any conversation or exchange with the harasser, including dates, times, places, and the specific behavior(s) you felt to be harassment. Make such notes as soon as possible following any incident, while your memory is still fresh. Keep these notes in a place outside the workplace. If possible, send yourself or a trusted friend a time-stamped email containing all of the relevant information. Also, maintain any relevant texts, emails, pictures or other documentation.
- If the behavior is not a crime, and if you are comfortable doing so, consider speaking to the offending person. Be specific about the behavior that made you uncomfortable, and try to communicate and help them understand what made you uncomfortable and/or feel unsafe. An example of what you may say is, “The comment you made to me the other day made me uncomfortable, and I am asking that you do not make similar comments to me in the future.”
- Report the incident(s) to one of the designated individuals working on the production. If that avenue is not available or for whatever reason feels unsafe, report the incident to the relevant human resources department and/or seek the guidance of an attorney, if necessary.
- If you are aware that a member of the team is being harassed and does not feel comfortable speaking to the alleged offender, the producer needs to step up on behalf of the team member, engaging in a candid discussion with the person about the harassing speech or behavior and ensure that they understand that the behavior must stop immediately. The producer then should ensure that the allegations are further addressed as warranted.
The PGA also provided numerous resources for reporting sexual harassment dealing with the legal and emotional fallout.
- If you are looking for an attorney, you can contact the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, which is housed at the National Women’s Law Center: nwlc.org/timesup.
- Women In Film has launched a Sexual Harassment help line to refer victims of harassment to designated mental health counselors, law enforcement professionals, and civil and criminal lawyers and litigators: (323) 545-0333 womeninfilm.org.
- You also may contact the California Bar Association or your local state bar association, which should provide you with referrals and/or access to free legal services.
- The Actors Fund provides free and confidential help for those who have experienced sexual harassment. Services include short term one-on-one counseling, referrals for helpful resources and assistance in locating legal services. Click here for more information.
- SAG-AFTRA has a hotline to report sexual harassment or abuse: (323) 549-6644. Members of the SAG-AFTRA union, as well as all other relevant unions, also may contact their union representative for assistance.
- If you do not have a Human Resources department or the internal reporting process at your company is not effective, then consider filing a formal complaint with a federal or state agency. The three most common states where production takes place and the corresponding agencies are: California, New York and Georgia.
- Or you may contact the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.