A former “Bachelor” staffer has sued Warner Bros. Entertainment for sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination, and says she was fired for “complaining about the hostile work environment that Defendants created by pervasive and persistent sexual inquiries.”
In a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles on Oct. 30, Becky Steenhoek, a former Production Assistant on “The Bachelor” series, including “The Bachelorette,” “Bachelor in Paradise” and “Jade & Tanner’s Wedding,” alleges that the inquiries were not part of the “creative” process of the show but were “instead intended to embarrass her because of her sexual inexperience and conservative views about sex.”
“Despite Steenhoek’s making clear that she was not interested in discussing her sexual life with her supervisors and co-workers, the Executive and Cast Producers of the show,” the suit read, naming Elan Gale, Peter Scalettar, Bennett Graebner, Jacqueline Naz Perez and Caitlin Stapleton as having asked Steenhoek questions on a daily basis such as:
- How often do you masturbate?
- Do you own sex toys/dildos?
- Have you ever had anal sex?
- Do you enjoy giving hand jobs?
- Is your vagina shaved? Do you have a landing strip?
- Has a man ever got your ‘taco’ [euphemism for vagina] talking?”
“Simply put, questioning Steenhoek about her sex life was entertainment for Executive Producers,” the suit alleges. “After Steenhoek protested against the unwanted sexual comments and personal inquiries, the Executive Producers subjected Steenhoek to retaliatory conduct, unjustly criticized her work performance, terminated her, and prevented her from being hired again on the series in her former position as a production assistant.”
Steenhoek began working as a Production Assistant for “The Bachelor” (Season 19) in the fall of 2014. She was later promoted to Casting P.A. and Cast Handler for subsequent seasons, and in March 2016 she interviewed for Segment Producer.
“While Steenhoek understood that sex was a theme on the show, she was never told that the job of segment producer would require her to share the intimate details of her own sexual life with her supervisors or to be forced to hear about her supervisors’ personal experiences in intimate detail,” she filing reads.
“Soon into the filming of ‘The Bachelorette’ (Season 12), Steenhoek witnessed and experienced daily and pervasive discussions about sex,” it continues. “None of the sexual talk was related to the production of the show or assisting in the creative process. Instead, the production team bragged — in graphic detail — about their personal, sexual conduct and directed sexually charged, deeply personal inquiries to Steenhoek despite her clear indications that she was uncomfortable discussing her personal sex life.”
According to the filing, she would not engage in the conversations and made it clear she wasn’t interested in answering the questions, but “the more Steenhoek would get flustered and refuse to engage in the conversation … the more the Executive Producers targeted her and pressured her to answer the questions.”
On one occasion, she was told, “this is the way of the industry and world that we work in,” she Steenhoek “just had to accept it.” She complained to Stapleton in April of 2016 and although she received an apology, Steenhoek “noticed a dramatic change in the manner in which her supervisors interacted with her.”
“She was shunned as an outsider by the Executive Producer, no longer allowed to sit in on the group meetings during with the producers would discuss the agenda or storylines they wanted to push, asked to step out of the room during show production and interviews, unjustly criticized by the producers, and told she would ‘not be attending’ the filming of the show’s elimination rose ceremony,” reads the filing. “This was humiliating and impacted her ability to do her job. The producers also unfairly blamed Steenhoek for things completely out of her control (e.g. room service taking too long to deliver food or dirty dishes being left by the hotel staff in the room).”
One week later, she was informed she would no longer be working on the show, and a month later was told that “her morals were getting in the way of her work” and “her morals were a threat to the show,” although this had never been relayed to Steenhoek.
Steenhoek also alleges that her future with the company was impacted by her wrongful termination. She is seeking economic, non-economic, exemplary and punitive damages, as well as reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, injunctive relief as well as as interest accrued to date. The plaintiff also requests a trial by jury.
In response, Warner Bros. said in a statement to TheWrap, “We take all allegations of workplace harassment very seriously. These allegations were brought to our attention and were thoroughly investigated earlier this year. Our findings did not support the plaintiff’s characterization of the events claimed to have taken place, which is why we are disappointed by the filing of this lawsuit.”