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A California judge has tossed several gender-based claims against Fred Savage in a lawsuit from a former costumer who alleges he created a hostile work environment on the set of Fox series The Grinder.
Youngjoo Hwang claims Savage was verbally abusive, had a reputation for tormenting female crewmembers, and “violently” struck her arm while she was dusting dandruff off of his suit. She and her attorney Anahita Sedaghatfar announced the lawsuit during a March press conference. Both Savage and Fox immediately denied the allegations, and Hwang later withdrew her claims for assault and battery.
Judge Holly Fujie largely granted, with leave to amend, demurrers from Savage and Fox, finding many of Hwang’s remaining claims rely on a showing of gender-based motive that she failed to sufficiently allege.
With regard to the first three causes of action related to civil rights violations arising from gender violence, Fujie found Hwang alleged that Savage’s conduct was driven by a desire to not be touched and a personal dislike of her, and the judge found “Nothing suggests that such dislike was due to her gender.”
“Plaintiff has alleged that Savage engaged in a number of bad acts, but none of the acts alleged appear to be related to gender,” she writes in the Aug. 29 decision, which is posted below. “Though Plaintiff notes Savage was ‘aggressive’ and ‘volatile’ toward women, she neither alleges that such aggression and volatility was due to their gender nor that Savage was not equally aggressive and volatile toward male crew members.”
Because Hwang failed to plead sufficient facts to show she was discriminated against or harassed based on her gender, the court found she therefore can’t assert a cause of action alleging Fox failed to prevent discrimination or harassment.
Fujie overruled Savage’s demurrer to Hwang’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress but sustained Fox’s, finding nothing in the network’s alleged failure to investigate Hwang’s complaint about Savage rises to the level of extreme or outrageous conduct required for it to survive. However, the court found Savage’s alleged conduct could meet the bar.
The judge also overruled the demurrer to the negligent hiring, supervision and retention claim against Fox, finding it was premature to accept the network’s argument that Hwang should have pursued the issue through a worker’s compensation claim and not litigation.
Defendants also contended the alleged actions happened in 2015 and the 2018 lawsuit falls outside the two-year statute of limitations. Fujie found the claims as plead are ambiguous and she can’t currently confirm that the alleged behavior ended before the window closed.
The demurrers were also sustained with regard to claims against both Savage and Fox for civil conspiracy and unfair business practices. Hwang has 20 days to amend her complaint.
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