Mark Steines, the former “Home & Family” co-host who exited the Hallmark Channel show earlier this year, filed a lawsuit against Hallmark parent company Crown Media on Thursday, alleging that he was fired after supporting two women who brought sexual-harassment claims against the series’ executive producer at the time, Woody Fraser.
According to the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, “In the spring and summer of 2017, two courageous ‘Home & Family’ female producers asserted claims of sexual harassment against Mr. Fraser and Defendants. Plaintiff Mark Steines stood up in support of the women by providing truthful information to the women’s attorneys in support of their claims. Mr. Steines acted appropriately in opposing and reporting Mr. Fraser’s sexual harassment, and supporting the women who spoke out against Mr. Fraser. After learning that Mr. Steines had spoken with the women and their attorney, Defendants chose to flagrantly violate the law by retaliating against him.”
That retaliation, the suit says, included a substantial reduction of Steines’ salary, a cut in his regular voiceover work, a diminished role in network events, and ultimately Steines’ “abrupt early termination, conducted in an utterly unprofessional manner intended to personally humiliate Mr. Steines while maximizing damage to his professional reputation.”
According to the suit, Steines witnessed Fraser “run a fear-based operation on the set of ‘Home & Family’ in which Mr. Fraser regularly bullied, verbally abused, and harassed cast and crew members. While Mr. Fraser was known to have an explosive temper, he was particularly aggressive and volatile when it came to berating female producers.”
The suit adds that Fraser “frequently made sexually inappropriate comments while on the set of ‘Home & Family.’ On multiple occasions, Mr. Fraser would make sexually lewd comments about attractive female guests while speaking to Mr. Steines through his earpiece during the filming of the show. For instance, when Mr. Steines interviewed young attractive female guests, Mr. Fraser would ask, ‘Can you see up her skirt (or down her shirt) from there?’ or ‘Wouldn’t you love to turn her around and bend her over and do her from behind?’”
The suit goes on to say that Steines witnessed Fraser “forcibly hug and massage a number of female employees” and “give bear hugs to female employees from behind or sneak up behind female employees to rub their shoulders.”
In April 2017, Steines’ suit says, a photo of Fraser “grabbing the face of a young female producer and forcing a kiss on her lips as she resisted and grimaced” circulated on the set of the show, after which Steines “texted this photo to his representatives (specifically, to his manager and his talent agent) in the good faith belief that the network would take action if they saw photographic evidence of Mr. Fraser’s sexual harassment.”
That spring, the suit says, two female “Home & Family” employees formally reported their sexual harassment claims and, when contacted by their attorney, Lisa Bloom, Steines “voluntarily participated in Ms. Bloom’s investigation by providing truthful information in support of the sexual harassment victims.”
After which the suit says Steines was retaliated against, culminating in a May 30, 2018 meeting during which Steines “was terminated effective immediately, with Defendants citing only ‘creative differences.’”
“Mr. Steines had no creative differences with the show, the producers, or network executives,” the suit reads. “Mr. Steines is informed and believes that Defendants’ proffered nondiscriminatory reason for terminating Mr. Steines was actually a pretext for terminating Mr. Steines in retaliation for reporting and opposing Mr. Fraser’s sexual harassment to Defendants in December 2016, and for and speaking to Ms. Bloom in support of Mr. Fraser’s sexual harassment victims in 2017.”
TheWrap has reached out to a Hallmark Channel representative for comment on the suit, which alleges retaliation, wrongful discharge and other counts, and seeks unspecified damages.
While Fraser is not named as a defendant in the suit, in June 2017 he issued a statement saying that he had refused to settle sexual harassment accusations in “an amount she demanded,” adding, “I engaged in no actionable conduct.”
“In a few days, on behalf of two of her clients, attorney Lisa Bloom may go public and accuse me of sexual harassment claiming that I have created a hostile workplace environment,” the statement read. “I believe this media-driven event is part of a calculated attempt to ruin my reputation after I refused to settle these accusations in an amount she demanded. Like many others, I would have preferred resolving things quietly, even though I engaged in no actionable conduct.”
“The women who are accusing me remain in their jobs as well-paid television executives. Although I am far from perfect, I am confident that when the facts regarding the nature of the allegations are fully revealed, before a jury if necessary, my reputation will be restored,” the statement added.
In her own statement, Bloom, who is also representing Steines in his suit, said, “The law protects witnesses and employees who oppose sexual harassment in their workplace, because we know that victims can rarely win their cases alone. We need male allies like Mark to speak up. Retaliation against those who do is illegal. If anyone has information about this case, please contact us at TheBloomFirm.com.”