SAG-AFTRA Moves to End Business Meetings in Private Hotel Rooms

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SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris

The union calls for an end to meetings in "high-risk locations."

A once- and perhaps still-common industry practice came under fire from SAG-AFTRA on Thursday as the performers union issued a guideline calling for the industry to “put an end to high-risk locations for professional meetings,” specifically including private hotel rooms and residences.

The document, the first in a planned series, is titled “No Auditions or Interviews in Private Hotel Rooms or Residences” and observes that “misconduct … often occurs outside of the formal workplace setting.” It calls on producers and others to stop holding meetings in “these high-risk locations” and on SAG-AFTRA members and their representatives to stop agreeing to professional meetings in such locations.

“We are committed to addressing the scenario that has allowed predators to exploit performers behind closed doors under the guise of a professional meeting,” said union president Gabrielle Carteris.

Calling the practice “antiquated and typically unnecessary,” the guideline also says that “in the unlikely event that there is no reasonable alternative forum for a professional meeting,” the actor or actress should bring a “support peer” to the meeting and that person should be allowed to maintain physical access to the union member.

The Writers Guild of America, West, and the Anita Hill-led industrywide Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace issued statements of support for the guideline.

“The Commission applauds SAG-AFTRA’s recently issued Guideline No. 1,” Hill said in a statement. “The implementation of this guideline marks an important first step in communicating appropriate industry standards for professional practices. This is exactly the kind of action the Commission encourages as part of our ongoing effort to introduce systemic changes that create safer, fairer and more equitable workspaces throughout the industry. We call on other stakeholders to support SAG-AFTRA’s effort and encourage them to adopt similar guidelines within their own institutions.”

The union noted in a statement that the guideline is also applicable when a SAG-AFTRA member is a producer.

The guideline was developed, the union said, after hearing from members around the country and from a broad range of experts and industry stakeholders. SAG-AFTRA is working on other guidelines as well, with one expected to address nudity and simulated nudity in productions. The intent is to grapple with scenarios that are unique to the entertainment industry and that present heightened risks of sexual harassment or related exploitation.

The guidelines are offshoots of the union’s Code of Conduct on sexual harassment, which it issued in early February. Numerous other guilds and industry organizations in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. have issued such codes in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal that erupted in October and the ensuing #MeToo and Time's Up movements seeking to end sexual harassment across the entertainment, media and related industries. SAG-AFTRA’s real-world guidelines appear to be unique, however.