Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The Animation Guild has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind. We believe all workers deserve a safe and respectful work environment, and we take claims of sexual harassment seriously. Our goal is to respond promptly to each member’s inquiry and communication with compassion and respect.

We will do our best to help members, as follows:

  • Identify the employer’s policies and processes on sexual harassment and other inappropriate sexual misconduct in the workplace
  • Assist members in navigating those processes, if appropriate
  • Determine the extent to which there might be remedies available under the relevant collective bargaining agreement
  • Identify additional resources, including legal aid funds and counseling services

Please take a moment to read the IATSE’s statement against sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.

What is sexual harassment?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Act has defined sexual harassment as the unlawful act of harassing a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Examples of sexual harassment include: unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

There are two kinds of sexual harassment claims: Quid pro quo and hostile work environment. The distinction between the two is merely for categorization as they are both illegal under the Civil Rights Act.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment is any kind of harassment in which someone proposes you do something in exchange for something else. This could be a promised promotion, raise, or better work hours in exchange for a specific act. It could also be a threat if that act is not performed.

Any discrimination that is not classified as quid pro quo is instead described as a hostile work environment. This means that an employee is made to feel unsafe or threatened through the normal course of their work by anyone within the organization. For example, repeated inappropriate sexual comments or behavior in the workplace.

How am I protected?

  • Employer-Specific Policies: Most employers have a workplace policy protecting workers against sexual harassment, including how to proceed if you are the victim of harassment.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. It applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. 
  • California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits sexual harassment in employment. FEHA applies to private or public employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, state licensing boards, and state and local governments that have one or more employees.

What should I do if I am being harassed or see harassment at work?

  1. Consult your employee handbook. See what policies are already established at your workplace to file a complaint with management.
  2. Document everything. Make sure to copy your personal email account on any relevant information for a potential claim.
  3. Talk to a supervisor (if you feel comfortable). A trusted supervisor can help you navigate policies at your workplace.
  4. Confide in family, friends or colleagues. Experiencing sexual harassment is traumatic; reach out to your support system.
  5. Report harassment. It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.
  6. Contact the Union. The Local can guide you towards additional resources or help you file a formal grievance, if appropriate.
  7. File a harassment complaint and/or lawsuit. If you want to file a lawsuit, you will need to first file a complaint with either the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

How do I file a complaint?

You don’t need an attorney to file a complaint.

You can begin by filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, EEOC looks at the whole record: the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis. To file a claim with EEOC, you must do so within 300 days.

If you work for a small employer with less than 15 employees, they may not be covered by federal law, in which case you will want to pursue your claim with the DFEH. If the discrimination took place outside of California, then you should either contact EEOC or that state’s fair employment agency. Under California law, you must file your claim with DFEH within one year of when you believe you were discriminated against. 

To file a claim with DFEH, please contact them at www.dfeh.ca.gov or 1-800-8841684. To file a claim with EEOC, please contact them at www.eeoc.gov or 1-800-669-4000.

Can my employer retaliate against me?

No, it is unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.

I heard that the Union can bring charges against another member who has been accused of sexual harassment. Is this true?

No, the Union cannot bring charges against a member. However, under Article 12 of the TAG Constitution and By-Laws, a Union member can bring charges against another member who has been accused of sexual harassment. Read more about the framework for these internal Union disciplinary proceedings in TAG’s Constitution and By-Laws, beginning on Page 34.

What about adult animated shows that might have sexualized jokes? Does that fall under sexual harassment?

In 2006, the California Supreme Court ruled on Lyle vs. Warner Bros. Television Productions in a decision involving sexually charged conduct in the writers’ room for the television show Friends. You can learn more about the outcome of the case here on WGA FAQ page. However, every situation is unique, so please contact the Guild if you have concerns about your production.

Do all employees have to take mandatory sexual harassment prevention training?

Employers with more than 50 employees are required to provide two hours of sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisory employees every two years. Additionally, all Union employers require industry-standard harassment prevention training for ALL employees, not just supervisors. Learn more here.