Ex-'Law & Order' Staffer Sues NBC Universal Claiming Sex Bias

Law and Order SVU Cast 2013 - H 2012

Law and Order SVU Cast 2013 - H 2012

A female post-production employee who worked on NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has sued the network's owner and several executives behind the series, claiming she was fired after complaining about sex discrimination and taking time off to seek treatment for breast cancer.

Charlotte Grau, who says she had 27 years of experience as a colorist in Hollywood when she was terminated in May 2012 after seven years with NBC Universal, claims in a lawsuit filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court that she was routinely mistreated by NBCU employees, paid less in overtime than male colleagues, told that her work was inferior and physically assaulted by a male superior.

She's seeking at least $5 million in damages on claims of sex discrimination, battery, assault, defamation and gender violence, among others. Defendants are NBC Universal, Universal Studios and former owner Vivendi, as well as individuals Mike Daruty, Robin Wilson, Nate Fitzgerald, Kip Sears, Ron Silveira, Arthur Forney, Scott Garrow, Harvey Landy, Dean Winger and Susan Gosstrom. [Feb. 28, 2018 Editor's Note: Most causes of action against the individual defendants were dismissed when the court granted a demurrer on Aug. 13, 2013. The matter was dismissed entirely in March 2015.] 

Read the full complaint here.

NBCUniversal declined to comment.

Hollywood's post-production community has long been heavily male, and Grau says she was the only female colorist working on L&O: SVU. She says she complained several times about what she believed was discriminatory treatment, but her complaints were ignored.

"[NBC] Universal was intentionally failing to prevent or remedy the sexual harassment of female employees by male employees," the lawsuit states. Grau "was routinely treated differently and less favorably than her male counterparts at Universal."

She claims the campaign to denigrate and discredit her went on for years.

"Because of [Grau’s] solid reputation in the industry, it took a long time to erode [Grau’s] standing with clients," the complaint alleges.

Grau also alleges that L&O: SVU executive producer Forney hit her forcefully in the back after giving her a hug, conduct she found abusive and reported to her superiors. "Universal was unconcerned that a client was physically abusing [Grau]," the complaint states.

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Then, when Grau was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, she took a three-month leave from SVU for treatment. When she returned, she says she was removed from SVU without explanation. She says she overheard two Universal employees complaining that she "never finishes her work, and when she does it takes her longer than 'the boys,'" the lawsuit states.

Grau was reassigned to NBC’s Grimm but claims the production staff made it difficult to do her job, denying needed training and blaming her for technical difficulties. In May 2012, she was told she was being laid off because there was no work for her. "In reality, Universal terminated [Grau] in retaliation for [her] reports of verbal abuse, harassment, disparate treatment, and the exercise of [her] protected rights, including the right to take medical leave for her own serious health condition, among other things," the complaint alleges.  

The suit, filed by LA attorney Lisa Maki, alleges a whopping 18 causes of action.

Feb 28., 5:20 p.m. Updated to reflect that the matter was dismissed.