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On May 12, the ACLU asked three state and federal agencies to investigate studios, networks and talent agencies for the “systemic failure to hire women directors at all levels of the film and television industry.” The Hollywood Reporter reached out for comment to the state and federal agencies targeted by the ACLU.
The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) told THR they are reviewing the letter and are “carefully considering its contents.” EEOC spokesperson Justine Lisser said, “We take all allegations of discrimination seriously, regardless of the occupations in which the discrimination is alleged.”
When pressed on whether or not an investigation has been opened or not, Lisser said that as a general matter “all charges of discrimination — whether filed by an individual, a third party or by one of our own commissioners — must be kept strictly confidential by law” and the organization can “neither confirm or deny that any given charge or investigation exists.”
To illustrate how seriously the EEOC takes sex discrimination, Lisser pointed to its litigation from the past month. The EEOC sued ten companies in 12 states for paying women less than men in the same job. A staffing company had to pay $800,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging unlawful job placements or refusals to place candidates on the basis of sex. An appeals court affirmed a more than $1.5 million jury verdict for sexual harassment and retaliation. A company which had never hired any women nationwide had to pay $400,000 and provide extensive injunctive relief in an EEOC sex discrimination lawsuit.
California’s DFEH (Department of Fair Employment and Housing) spokesperson Fahizah Alim said, “We appreciate the information that the ACLU has brought forward.” He added, “We are looking into the claims and we are in communication with the other agencies that were contacted by the ACLU.”
Michael Trupo from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Public Affairs said that at this time, he can only confirm that the agency has received the letter.
The ACLU letters were 15 pages each, detailing an investigation by the civil rights organization. Fifty women directors were consulted for anecdotal evidence, and the letters referenced entertainment studies that have found women directed less than 5 percent of top-grossing films in recent years and less than 15 percent of recent TV episodes.
“External oversight and pressure are needed to fix this long-running civil rights problem,” Melissa Goodman, director of the LGBT, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project at the ACLU of Southern California, told THR. “This is a severe and stark problem.”
“I have always firmly believed that every director should be judged solely by their work, and not by their work based on their gender,” director Kathryn Bigelow said in a statement about the ACLU inquiry. “Hollywood is supposedly a community of forward thinking and progressive people yet this horrific situation for women directors persists.” Director Gina Prince-Bythewood said, “Talent has no gender. Let’s see what the ACLU can do. I applaud their efforts.”
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