A former Bachelor and Bachelorette producer claims she was sexually harassed while working on the ABC reality show and terminated for complaining about the hostile environment.
Becky Steenhoek has filed a complaint against Warner Bros., the production company behind the long-running dating series, and five of the show’s producers, alleging sexual harassment, hostile work environment, sex discrimination, retaliation, failure to prevent harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and wrongful termination. The lawsuit, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, was filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Steenhoek was as a segment producer from October 2014 through April 2016, working on seasons of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise and the wedding special Jade & Tanner’s Wedding. According to the complaint, she says she was repeatedly asked “pervasive and persistent sexual inquiries” about her sex life during production. While working on JoJo Fletcher’s 2016 season of The Bachelorette, Steenhoek, 31, claims five of the show’s executive and cast producers asked her questions ranging from, “Is your vagina shaved? Do you have a landing strip?” to “Have you ever had anal sex?” and discussed masturbation and how often each of them had sex.
The questions were aimed at Steenhoek to embarrass her because of her “sexual inexperience and conservative views about sex,” the complaint states.
“You could visibly tell it was very uncomfortable to me to witness, just because they did make comments like, ‘Oh, Becky’s blushing,’ or ‘Her ears are probably burning,'” Steenhoek told the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the lawsuit, in an interview. She said it was “fun” for the producers to see her embarrassed. “It was a bit of a theme that carried on throughout the season.”
The former producer says when she informed cast producer Caitlin Stapleton what was going on on April 9, 2016, something that is in the complaint, Stapleton told her, “This is the way of the industry and world that we work in.” She was told it was “locker-room talk” and the way “middle-aged white men” try to bond.
Within days of speaking with Stapleton, Steenhoek says she was excluded from production meetings and the franchise’s signature rose ceremonies. On April 17, she says she was told by producer Bennett Graebner, also named in the lawsuit, that she wasn’t needed for the rest of the season because she was not being enough of a “bitch,” according to the complaint. She was later told her “morals were a threat to the show.”
Though Steenhoek was later contacted to work on the third season of Paradise and the Bachelor-related Men Tell All and After the Final Rose specials, she was ultimately informed that she would no longer be able to work as a production assistant, per the orders of the executive producers mentioned in the complaint.
Warner Bros. is named in the complaint, along with Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss’ production company NZK Productions. Additional producers named in the complaint are Elan Gale, Peter Scalettar and Jacqueline Naz Perez.
“We take all allegations of workplace harassment very seriously,” Warner Bros. said Monday in a statement. “These allegations were brought to our attention and were thoroughly investigated earlier this year. Our findings did not support the plaintiff’s characterization of the events claimed to have taken place, which is why we are disappointed by the filing of this lawsuit.”
The lawsuit comes after the franchise was embroiled in controversy with this summer’s Bachelor in Paradise season. Warners launched an internal investigation into a sexual misconduct claim involving two contestants, later concluding no misconduct took place.
The allegations are also coming to light amid a flood of sexual harassment and assault allegations leveled against powerful figures in the entertainment industry, including Harvey Weinstein, director James Toback and former Amazon chief Roy Price, among others.
The Bachelor returns with Arie Luyendyk Jr. as its next lead in January.
See the complaint below.