Court sends SAG suit to trial


A California court has cleared the way for a wrongful termination lawsuit against the SAG.

The lawsuit, brought by former SAG affirmative action executive Patricia Heisser Metoyer, was dismissed in 2004. In a ruling filed Wednesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the judges ruled 2-1 to reverse the summary judgment after finding that Metoyer's case has merit and can go to trial.

Metoyer filed the suit in 2001 after she was fired for allegedly giving more than $30,000 in union funds to friends, business partners and her husband's production company. In her wrongful-termination suit, Metoyer, who is black, claimed her firing was in retaliation for complaints she had made about alleged acts of discrimination within the guild.

Metoyer contended that minority SAG employees came to her soon after she was hired in 1998, claiming that SAG senior management was keeping black staff members in low-paying jobs and not promoting employees of color.

In June 2004, a federal judge dismissed Metoyer's case, stating she had "not presented any direct evidence of discrimination or retaliation" and that she had not presented "specific or substantial circumstantial evidence to demonstrate discriminatory intent."

In Wednesday's reversal, Judge Dorothy Nelson, writing for the majority, called the 2004 opinion "misguided" and said the court in that case "got the law and the facts wrong."

SAG general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said the decision to reverse the dismissal "relied on allegations and innuendo that are simply untrue." He cited Judge Carlos Bea's partial dissent, which said, "The majority added words to a statute where the words do not exist, and the majority created a triable issue of fact where no triable issue of fact exists."

Crabtree-Ireland said, "We are reviewing our opportunities for further appeal, and will continue to vigorously defend the Guild from these false and baseless claims,"

Representatives for Metoyer were not available for comment.