The California Civil Rights Department has announced that the production company behind the hit television series “Criminal Minds” has agreed to pay $3 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. The agency took legal action in 2020 after about a dozen male crew members claimed that the show’s director of photography had touched them inappropriately and threatened to retaliate against them if they complained. The Civil Rights Department informed the media about the settlement on Dec. 19.
Years of abuse
The male crew members say that they were subjected to sexual harassment during the filming of 14 of the show’s 16 seasons. They also claim that ABC Signature, which is a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company and the network that aired “Criminal Minds” was aware of the abuse and did nothing to stop it. ABC Signature denied these allegations at the time, but the director of photography at the center of the controversy left the show shortly after they were made.
The settlement also requires ABC Signature to put policies and procedures in place to prevent similar behavior in the future. The broadcaster has been placed under a consent decree that gives it three years to resolve the matter and distribute the money to the male crew members. ABC Signature will also be required to submit reports every year detailing its efforts to eliminate workplace harassment and comply with the Ralph Civil Rights Act and the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
Inaction has consequences
Successful television shows are very profitable, and “Criminal Minds” was one of America’s most popular drama series for more than a decade. This may explain why ABC Signature was reluctant to take action against one of the show’s most important crew members. Behavior like this is not uncommon in the business world, but this case shows that ignoring harassment can be a costly mistake. ABC signature will now have to pay a large sum of money to the workers it ignored, and it will also be subjected to much higher levels of scrutiny for several years.