The blast radius from allegations of sexual harassment by Home and Family creator Woody Fraser just legally expanded for Hallmark Channel owner Crown Media Family Networks in a wrongful-termination and harassment suit from a former chef on the homespun show.
Longtime food stylist and chef Shanti Hinojos asserts in an 11-claim complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on October 22 that she was incorrectly kicked out the door of “wholesome” HF in December 2017 for “subpar job performance” by allies of alleged serial harasser and ex-EP Fraser. To put in context, this follows a wrongful termination suit against Crown Media and others by ex-HF co-host Mark Steines last month over his firing earlier this year for what the ex-Entertainment Tonight frontman says was sticking up for women on the show who had alleged harassment by Fraser.
“The years of sexual harassment by Defendants Fraser and Fraser Productions created a hostile, intimidating, and oppressive work environment for Plaintiff, whereby the conditions of her employment were adversely altered,” the trial seeking filing by LA-based attorney Martin Kaufman asserts, with detailed tales of inappropriate advances, touching, lewd comments by the EP on the set of HF and even an assertion of marriage to Hinojos if Fraser’s wife died of cancer. As well as creating the 2012 debuting HF, Daytime TV pioneer Fraser was instrumental in the success of The Mike Douglas Show and Good Morning America too. Before he was moved aside in May last year, the EP denied claims of harassment when talk of lawsuit by women on the then Steines and Debbie Matenopoulos hosted show started brewing.
Though Fraser was eventually removed in by Crown Media after a number of HF female employees and staffers took their long term claims to attorney Lisa Bloom and as co-host Steines complained to his corporate bosses, things seemed to actually get worse workwise for Hinojos with an air of retaliation on set.
“Ms. Hinojos was viewed by Defendants as a ‘problem’ waiting to happen and consistent with their strategized ‘damage control’ Defendants took steps to sideline Ms. Hinojo permanently,” the complaint from earlier this week states (read it here). “Given the years of diligent work Ms. Hinojos performed on HF, under horrific working conditions, the least Defendants could do was to afford Ms. Hinojos the opportunity to depart the set with dignity,” it adds of her sudden ouster late last year. “Rather, they opted to create false grounds for termination an summarily fired her.”
“Defendants actions in tolerating this illegal, sexually charged workplace on their ‘family-oriented show’ and in wrongfully terminating Ms. Hinojos, so as to damage he reputation and economic well-being, was malicious, oppressive and fraudulent,” the paperwork notes, also pointing out that the chef had taken her concerns to the “Department of Fair Employment and Housing which issued to Plaintiff a right to sue letter” before this action. The action also notes that word of what was going on during Fraser’s reign at HF reached a seemingly mainly disinterested Crown Media CEO Bill Abbot and a cursory investigation was conduct, one in which Hinojos was never asked to tell her story.
“As noted in the prayer for damages, Ms. Hinojos will seek an award of punitive damages, so as to punish Defendants for their outrageous conduct and to deter them from such actions in the future.”
Which means Home and Family, Fraser and Crown Media could be paying out some big big bucks. Today Crown Media had no response to request for comment on Hinojos’ lawsuit.
BTW, there does seem to be a MO here as Hallmark Channel suddenly stated on May 31 that it had “parted ways” with Steines. “The network’s given explanation for making the change was ‘creative reasons’; there were no other reasons given,” said reps for the now departed host on June 1. “We had had nothing but positive reviews and feedback from Hallmark for the entirety of the time he has been on the show including this year.”
Just sayin’, family first.