UPDATE, 7:30 PM: It took most of the day, but the Disney defendants finally have something to say about a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit from the state of California over Criminal Minds‘ long-time director of photography.
And that statement can be boiled down to that famous speech of Winston Churchill’s that has become the House of Mouse rallying call when under legal attack: “Whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”
Or as an ABC Studios spokesperson told Deadline tonight of the move by the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
“The Company works hard to maintain a work environment free from discrimination, harassment, or retaliation,” the Disney-owned unit said of the multi-damages and relief case against them, CBS and a strong guard of the now concluded Criminal Minds’ executives arising from the apparently covered up behavior of DP Gregory St. Johns.
“In this instance the Company took corrective action. We cooperated with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing during its investigation, and we regret that we were unable to reach a reasonable resolution with the Department. We now intend to defend the asserted claims vigorously.”
AKA: Never surrender!
Still no response to the scathing complaint from the DFEH from CBS, who was also in now fruitless talks with the state in hopes of avoiding more time in the docket over the alleged misconduct of St. Johns
PREVIOUSLY, 11:26 AM: Criminal Minds may be off the air now, but Disney, CBS and a pretorian guard of executives from the long-running series are now looking down the barrel of a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Over a period of 14 years, Gregory St. Johns, the director of photography for Disney and ABC-CBS’ joint production of Criminal Minds, “engaged in sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation against persons working on the set of the show, including without limitation, production crew members,” proclaims the filing from the state agency in Los Angeles Superior Court against the long-accused director of photography.
“St. Johns’ conduct was rampant, frequent, and in the open,” adds the 23-page document, which seeks widespread damages and relief (read it here).
“With the aid of defendants, St. Johns created an unchecked intimidating, hostile, and offensive work environment on the set of Criminal Minds,” the complaint put in the court docket last week also notes.
“Protected by the executive production team––including showrunner Erica Messer, executive producer Harry Bring, executive producer John Breen Frazier, director Glenn Kershaw, and unit production manager Stacey Beneville––St. Johns continued his unlawful conduct for years,” the filing notes. “Defendants’ executive team not only had actual and constructive knowledge of St. Johns’ abusive conduct, they condoned it. No necessary steps to prevent sex-based harassment and discrimination were taken over the years, nor were appropriate corrective actions. Instead, the executives fired anyone who resisted or who tacitly evaded St. Johns’ advances or abuse.”
Neither CBS nor Disney and its ABC Studio unit responded to request for comment on the lawsuit from the DFEH.
With a fired St. Johns no longer a member of the production team, Criminal Minds wrapped its 15th and final season in February on the network now owned by ViacomCBS.
That’s six months after former 2nd assistant camera operator Todd Durboraw sued ABC Studios and CBS Corp in LASC in a 10-claim complaint citing St. Johns’ alleged misconduct on the series. Further actions from ex-crew members Anthony Matulic and Dauv McNeely prompted the DFEH to make its move against the powerful studios.
In particular, with the duo named as real parties in interest in this legal action, the fact from the former that he was axed from the show after reporting St. Johns to his supervisors seemed to light a fire under the state agency. In fact, after DFEH director Kevin Kish filed a Director’s Complaint about the matter, the parties engaged in an effort to “resolve this matter without litigation,” according to the new-ish filing.
Clearly, that was a bust.