The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is suing Disney, ABC Studios and CBS Studios over a sexual harassment case, alleging that the companies turned a blind eye to sexual harassment on set by former “Criminal Minds” cinematographer Greg St. Johns.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed on May 19 in California Superior Court, St. Johns habitually touched men’s genitals on set without their consent and punished those who objected over the 14 years he worked on the ABC and CBS co-production.
“On a frequent and regular basis, St. Johns touched numerous men on the testicles, anus, butt cheeks, breasts, and kissed or caressed their necks, shoulders, and ears, among other actions. St. Johns doted on certain men and treated them more favorably, provided they acquiesced to his attention. To those who resisted, he retaliated in common patterns, including the silent treatment, social ostracism, unfair criticism, public shaming, and ultimately termination,” the suit states.
Reps for St. Johns, CBS and Disney did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment Tuesday.
In a statement to TheWrap, an ABC Studios spokesperson said the company “works hard to maintain a work environment free from discrimination, harassment, or retaliation,” and claims that “corrective action” was taken. “We cooperated with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing during its investigation, and we regret that we were unable to reach a reasonable resolution with the Department. We now intend to defend the asserted claims vigorously.”
The suit also says that over a dozen men were fired from the production after complaining about St. Johns’ behavior. St. Johns was dismissed from the series following a 2018 Variety report about crew members’ complaints about his behavior. But the longtime cinematographer was given “enhanced severance” pay, according to the suit.
In addition to Disney, ABC Studios, ABC Signature Studios, CBS Studios, Entertainment Partners, Inc., and other defendants named in the lawsuit include “Criminal Minds” executive producers Erica Messer, Harry Bring, Breen Frazier, Glenn Kershaw, co-producer Stacey Beneville and 10 anonymous defendants.
“Defendants’ executive team not only had actual and constructive knowledge of St. Johns’ abusive conduct, they condoned it. No necessary steps to prevent sex-based harassment and discrimination were taken over the years, nor were appropriate corrective actions. Instead, the executives fired anyone who resisted or who tacitly evaded St. Johns’ advances or abuse,” the suit continues. “Defendants chose to act in conscious disregard of its employees’ rights by ignoring the complaints made by the crewmembers. It was not until the media made St. Johns’ conduct public and threatened their image that defendants removed St. Johns from the show.”
The latest suit comes nearly a year after former “Criminal Minds” crew member Todd Durboraw filed a lawsuit against St. Johns, CBS Corporation, ABC Studios and Entertainment Partners Enterprises LLC. In that suit, Durboraw says that St. Johns subjected him to continuous sexual harassment when he was a second assistant cameraperson on the show, including touching his genitals and rubbing his earlobes.
“Criminal Minds” ran for 15 seasons on CBS and aired its final episode in February 2020.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.