The head of the IATSE local in Santa Fe, New Mexico has been accused of sexually harassing the union’s outside public relations rep and then terminating her contract after she complained. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Santa Fe, Christa Valdez claims that Jon Hendry, business agent of IATSE Local 480, sent her a text in 2016 that said: “Could you send me a pic of your naked, sweaty, skinny body? At least one of us will feel much better.”
“Hendry continually harassed and intimidated Ms. Valdez with sexual propositions and inappropriate conditions to maintain employment,” according to the suit, which also names Local 480 as a defendant (read it here). “The work environment was hostile, harassing, and discriminatory, through Hendry’s continual and continuing quid pro quo and unprofessional conduct toward Ms. Valdez.” According to the suit, that included Hendry “grabbing Ms. Valdez and other IATSE Local 480 employees’ buttocks” and “showing Ms. Valdez and other IATSE Local 480 employees and members naked photos on his phone.”
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Hendry, one of the most powerful labor figures in the state, also is president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, whose member-unions include IATSE, SAG-AFTRA and Teamsters Local 492. The suit also accuses him of “bragging frequently about how he ruined careers of people in the industry who crossed him.”
Hendry and his attorney did not return Deadline’s calls for comment.
Valdez says in the suit that she was employed at the union for five years and was terminated on October 31, 2017. She also accuses Hendry of asking her “to make false statements to reassure another IATSE Local 480 employee with whom he was romantically involved.”
“Despite such history,” the suit asserts, the local “left Hendry in place, and on August 13, 2017, he advised Ms. Valdez she was being terminated.” The reason given, the suit states, was that the local was going to bring its public relations work “back in-house.”
“Defendants’ stated reason for terminating Ms. Valdez is a pretext for discrimination and retaliation,” the suit claims. After receiving her notice of termination, she says in the suit that she complained to Doug Acton, the local’s president, and Frank Garcia, its secretary-treasurer, who “acknowledged they were aware of other persons making similar complaints against Mr. Hendry.”
The suit also alleges that Hendry continued to retaliate against her after she was terminated. “Ms. Valdez performed her final services for IATSE Local 480 on or by October 31, 2017, and thereafter received no work or compensation from defendants,” the suit states. “Within two months, individual IATSE executive board members approached Ms. Valdez to discuss a new contract, requesting a proposal. After Ms. Valdez submitted her proposal, on December 17, 2017, an executive member of the board made the presentation to the full board. At the meeting and in response to the presentation, Mr. Hendry objected to Ms. Valdez’s reinstatement in any form and falsely claimed Ms. Valdez had spoken out in a derogatory way against IATSE.”
A few weeks later, the suit says, “a local film industry company, Robert Baxter Casting, offered Ms. Valdez a new public relations contract. Ms. Valdez began preliminary work for the company on February 1, 2018. On February 5th, Robert Baxter, the head of the company, told Ms. Valdez Mr. Hendry strongly advised him not to have anything to do with Ms. Valdez and threatened that Robert Baxter Casting would ‘have no place’ on film projects of or related to Mr. Hendry/IATSE if Mr. Baxter worked with Ms. Valdez. When Mr. Baxter questioned the sudden disdain Hendry had for Ms. Valdez, Hendry falsely claimed Ms. Valdez had ‘tried to take credit’ for a large scale IATSE-related project. In response to Hendry’s threats, Robert Baxter Casting ceased performance on its contract with Ms. Valdez.”
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