Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘hollywood’

Kristen Stewart’s experience is emblematic of LGBTQ people’s struggles in Hollywood

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

 

Image result for casey quinlanIn an interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK, actor Kristen Stewart, who has been romantically linked to model Stella Maxwell since 2017, said, “I have fully been told, ‘If you just like do yourself a favor, and don’t go out holding your girlfriend’s hand in public, you might get a Marvel movie.’ I don’t want to work with people like that.”

Stewart has said publicly she does not identify as bisexual or lesbian, and doesn’t want to choose a label for her sexuality. In the same interview she added, “I was informed by an old school mentality, which is — you want to preserve your career and your success and your productivity, and there are people in the world who don’t like you, and they don’t like that you date girls, and they don’t like that you don’t identify as a quote unquote ‘lesbian’, but you also don’t identify as a quote unquote ‘heterosexual’. And people like to know stuff, so what the fuck are you?’”

Although it may, at times, appear as though LGBTQ representation and participation in Hollywood has achieved some semblance of parity, Stewart’s experience is far from unique. Several young, openly LGBTQ actors such as Ellen Page and Ezra Miller have talked about how their gender and sexuality have affected how people talk to them about their careers.

Ellen Page, star of Inception, Juno, and Tallulah, came out as gay in 2014. “I was distinctly told, by people in the industry, when I started to become known: ‘People cannot know you’re gay.’,” she said to Porter Edit earlier this year. “And I was pressured — forced, in many cases — to always wear dresses and heels for events and photo shoots. As if lesbians don’t wear dresses and heels. But I will never let anyone put me in anything I feel uncomfortable in ever again.”

Ezra Miller, who has starred in Justice League, Madame Bovary, and the most recent Harry Potter franchise Fantastic Beasts, came out as queer in 2012 to Out, and told GQ in 2018 that their gender is fluid.

“I’m comfortable with all the pronouns. I let he/his/him ride, and that’s fine,” Miller said.

But Miller said they were told not to be open about their sexuality and gender by a number of people who thought it would damage their acting career.

In 2017, Miller said, “I won’t specify [who told me not to come out.] Folks in the industry, folks outside the industry. People I’ve never spoken to. They said there’s a reason so many gay, queer, gender-fluid people in Hollywood conceal their sexual identity, or their gender identity in their public image. I was told I had done a ‘silly’ thing in…thwarting my own potential to be a leading man.”

Sarah Paulson, who also chooses not to label her sexual identity, told Porter Edit in 2017 said that she was told that her relationship with Holland Taylor could be a liability for her career.

“Early on, when people found out I was with Holland, some said: ‘I think you have to be careful, I’m afraid it’s going to affect your career negatively,’” the Ocean’s 8 actor said.

One of the most notorious examples of Hollywood reacting negatively to an actor’s sexuality was Rupert Everett, star of My Best Friend’s Wedding and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, who said that he stopped getting offers for roles in 2007. He has since focused on writing scripts and roles that he could play, such as poet and playwright Oscar Wilde.

He said in 2010, to BBC’s Radio 4, that Hollywood is “an extremely conservative world” that “pretends to be a liberal world.”

Although LGBTQ character diversity in films is increasing in some respects, Hollywood has a lot of progress to make on LGBTQ inclusion. According to GLAAD’s 2019 Studio Responsibility Index, LGBTQ characters had more screen time than in previous years — of the 20 LGBTQ-inclusive films released last year, 10 featured more than 10 minutes of screen-time for an LGBTQ character. When looking at each of the 45 LGBTQ characters GLAAD counted, 26 had less than three minutes of screen time and 16 had less than one minute of screen time. Transgender characters were absent from the 110 major studio releases for the second year in a row.

And there is often tremendous buzz around movies’ supposed LGBTQ representation, only to ultimately fail to deliver anything meaningful in terms of screen time or actual representation of a queer relationship.

Often there is only a hint of a relationship, or a wink and a nod, rather than representation in line with relationships between straight people. Beauty and the Beast’s live action remake was applauded for featuring a gay LeFou, but he was only very briefly shown dancing with a man in drag during a ballroom scene, largely for comedic effect. Finding Dory briefly showed two women together in a park, which some audience members interpreted as a lesbian couple and others didn’t, and they were only shown in a speechless reaction shot. When questioned about the women, the movie’s co-director Andrew Stanton said, “They can be whatever you want them to be. There’s no right or wrong answer.” Most recently, Marvel’s Avengers Endgame tossed in a quick throwaway line alluding to a gay relationship, a scene Disney pumped up as the first openly gay character in the largest box office franchise in cinematic history.

Some LGBTQ viewers were upset with the representation of Harry Potter character Albus Dumblemore in Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald, who J.K. Rowling said had a relationship of a “sexual dimension” with Gellert Grindelwald. But when it came time to show that relationship onscreen and address Dumbledore’s sexuality in general, the director, David Yates, said those things would not be explicit in the film. Similarly, in Thor: Ragnarok, the character Valkyrie — portrayed by out actress Tessa Thompson — had a scene which made her sexuality explicit but was ultimately cut from the film. Some of that representation may improve soon, however — In Thor: Love and Thunder, the next sequel in the same franchise, Valkyrie will reportedly get more explicit representation of a relationship with a woman, according to i09. Marvel Studios confirmed a romantic storyline of Valkyrie seeking a new queen.

This article was originally published at Think Progress on September 4, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Casey Quinlan covers policy issues related to gender and sexuality. Their work has also been published in The Establishment, Bustle, Glamour, The Guardian, Teen Vogue, The Atlantic, and In These Times. They studied economic reporting, political reporting, and investigative journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, where they graduated with an M.A. in business journalism.

 

Do Nondisclosure Agreements Perpetuate a Toxic Workplace Culture?

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

In Hollywood, the cat is out of the bag. Scores of women (and men) are pouring out pent-up tales of sexual assaults and sexual harassment by famous producers, directors and actors. Every day brings new accusations against some movie icon. A group of women at Weinstein Co. has asked to be released from nondisclosure agreements so they can speak publicly to Harvey Weinstein’s alleged decades of predatory abuse and brazen quid pro quo demands.

The mere fact that an entire group of employees at one company is seeking to be unmuzzled is testament to a deep problem. Nor is it limited to the entertainment industry. NDAs and “hush money” settlements are common in every employment sector, including government agencies.

Sweeping it under the rug … until someone notices the lumps

There are two types of nondisclosure agreements at play in scenarios like the Weinstein saga:

First, there are standard NDAs in employment contracts which prevent employees from speaking up about what they’ve seen or experienced. These are a preemptive strike against disclosures that would reflect negatively on the company. When victims, witnesses and allies are effectively gagged, offenders are off the hook and a culture that tolerates sexual harassment is perpetuated.

Second, there are nondisclosure “agreements” thrust upon victims after the fact when they report harassment/assault or threaten legal action. In exchange for a payoff and/or a specifically worded NDA, they keep their jobs or walk away with a settlement and never speak of it again. The alternative is the threat of being blacklisted and smeared.
Again, this dynamic is not unique to Hollywood. Sexual harassment and coerced silence happens in every industry.

How nondisclosure agreements inhibit sexual harassment claims

A few mavericks have violated their NDAs with the Weinstein Co., knowing the company would face fierce public backlash if it tried to enforce the confidentiality agreements. But most people who are subject to NDAs do not have the upper hand. They can be terminated, sued and “outed” for breaching the agreement. The contract may specify monetary damages greater than the original settlement.

One-third of the 90,000 complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission in 2015 involved workplace harassment. About 45 percent of those cases were sexual harassment. A report by the EEOC revealed that taking formal action is the least common response for women or men who reported being sexually harassed at work.

Why would they not file a formal complaint or lawsuit? Some fear termination or other retaliation. Others fear they won’t be believed or that nothing will change. And some take no action because their hands are tied by employment agreements.

Many employment contracts and NDAs require that claims against the employer – including sexual harassment — be resolved through arbitration. Employers favor mandatory arbitration clauses because (a) there is no risk of a big jury award and (b) the proceedings are private. Whatever the outcome, it is kept quiet. For victims of sexual harassment who want their abuser exposed, arbitration is a dead end.

Nondisclosure agreements are not ironclad

The mere threat of enforcing an NDA is very effective. Some victims do not want the public exposure, expense and stress. Settling and staying mum was their way of making the best of an awful ordeal and moving on.

However, NDAs are not as bulletproof as most employees think. No employment agreement can supercede state or federal laws. A victim of a crime cannot be prevented from talking to police or testifying in court. An employer cannot prevent an employee from reporting sexual harassment to the EEOC. A settlement agreement and NDA only prevents the employee from suing the company and speaking publicly about the incident. And if the agreement was overreaching or coerced, it may not be enforceable.

If you are subject to a nondisclosure agreement, you also cannot be barred from talking to a lawyer. An employment law attorney can explain your rights, your legal options, and any possible consequences of breaching the NDA.

This blog was originally published at Passman & Kaplan, P.C., Attorneys at Law on November 3, 2017. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Founded in 1990 by Edward H. Passman and Joseph V. Kaplan, Passman & Kaplan, P.C., Attorneys at Law, is focused on protecting the rights of federal employees and promoting workplace fairness.  The attorneys of Passman & Kaplan (Edward H. Passman, Joseph V. Kaplan, Adria S. Zeldin, Andrew J. Perlmutter, Johnathan P. Lloyd and Erik D. Snyder) represent federal employees before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and other federal administrative agencies, and also represent employees in U.S. District and Appeals Courts.

A Bizarre Labor Arrangement

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Going all the way back to the Industrial Revolution, the “Us vs. Them” dynamic that defines labor-management relations has remained remarkably intact. And that’s a good thing. Yes, the relationship is tense and adversarial, and, yes, it hasn’t always been productive, and, yes, there have been occasions where debilitating strikes and even violence have resulted, but because each side has its own agenda, conflict should be expected.

Lined up on one side are the men and women who do the actual work, who toil long, tedious hours for a defined wage, and lined up on the other are employers who, while grudgingly recognizing the necessity of workers, are committed to not paying them one nickel more than is absolutely necessary. It’s an economic law. You charge for your product all that the market will bear, and you pay your employees as little as you can get away with.

By and large, this primitive relationship has resulted in an equilibrium. Adhering to the principle that there is “strength in numbers,” workers have joined together to form labor unions, and embracing the time-honored belief that “money talks,” business groups have bribed Congress to pass legislation that crippled the labor movement. By “equilibrium” we’re not suggesting there is anything remotely resembling “fairness,” only that there is a stasis of sorts.

Which brings us to the film industry. To be a movie actor, you must belong to SAG (Screen Actors Guild), the actors’ union. Similarly, Hollywood’s bosses are represented by the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers). In many ways, contract negotiations between the Guild and the Alliance are not unlike negotiations between any other parties; it could be the UAW going up against Chrysler, the IAM taking on Boeing, or the Teamsters bargaining with UPS.

[It should be noted that SAG is now known as SAG-AFTRA, having recently voted to merge with AFTRA—American Federation of Television and Radio Artists—but that’s a whole other messy issue, which we won’t get into here.]

But there is one very disturbing way in which SAG’s negotiations with the producers doesn’t resemble those of other unions, and that difference involves a profound conflict of interest. Incredibly, some of the most prominent and influential members of SAG are also producers. It’s true. While these “movie stars” are dues-paying union members who, nominally, do battle with the producers, they themselves are also big-time producers.

You can imagine where their interests lie when it comes to mundane (but critically important) rank-and-file issues such as residuals, new technology, and health insurance premiums. As important as these issues are to 95-percent of working actors, they mean next to nothing to these moguls. Indeed, as producers with an eye on the bottom-line, they’re interested in keeping their costs down, and if this results in their fellow actors receiving a smaller slice of the pie, so be it.

During SAG’s 2009 contract negotiations, some of these actor-producers actually took out advertisements in trade papers urging the membership not to do anything so dumb or reckless as to vote to authorize a strike, presumably because they didn’t want to see actors (whom they themselves employ) rock the boat by interfering with future profits. Of course, a public display of union dissension like this is going to badly undercut any talk of solidarity, which it did.

An accomplished actor friend of mine (he’s brave, so he probably wouldn’t mind me mentioning his name, but I shall preserve his anonymity) has recently (in late September) filed charges with the NLRB against these actor-producers. I read his affidavit. It was well-written and compelling. The extent of the alleged “collusion” was mind-boggling.

The four movie and TV production companies (and the executives associated with them) named in the complaint are:

Jersey Films and Jersey Television (Danny DeVito)
The Playtone Company (Tom Hanks)
Smokehouse Productions (George Clooney)
Tribeca Film (Robert DeNiro)

Anyone who believes in the value and nobility of the labor movement is going to root for this NLRB complaint to succeed. Of course, taking on famous movie stars like these guys will be an uphill climb, but it’s certainly worth the effort. And who knows? Maybe the NLRB will provide us with one of Hollywood’s patented “surprise endings.”

This article was originally published on October 31, 2012 on Dissident Voice. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: David Macaray is a playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”).  His political and entertainment articles have appeared in CounterPunch, Common Dreams,  New York Press, Huffington Post, Utne Reader, Beckett Monthly, LA Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, and various anthologies.

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