Former ‘Home & Family’ Chef Says She Was Fired for Reporting Sexual Harassment

Shanti Hinojos accuses network’s parent company Crown Media for wrongful termination and retaliation in lawsuit

Home & Family
Jeremy Lee/Crown Media Family Networks

A former chef for Hallmark Channel has filed a lawsuit against the network’s parent company, alleging she was fired for reporting harassment by one of the network’s executive producers.

Shanti Hinojos, a former food stylist and lead chef for Hallmark’s “Home & Family,” named Crown Media and the production companies behind the show in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday. In the suit, Hinojos claimed she was fired from the show after reporting sexual harassment by Woody Fraser, creator and executive producer of the show.

The suit describes Fraser as “[a] harasser who went to great lengths to create a vulgar, sexually charged hostile work environment,” specifically targeting women. Hinojos accuses Fraser of making inappropriate and unwelcome comments about her body and making repeated sexual advances, a hostile work environment exacerbated by his “unhinged temper.”

According to Hinojos, Crown Media and the show’s production companies were made aware of Fraser’s behavior by complaints from several women on the show but turned a blind eye.

“Consistently, Defendants knowingly allowed Mr. Fraser to continue to harass Ms. Hinojos as well as other women on set while they sat back and did nothing,” the suit read.

Hinojos further alleged that her employers threatened retaliation against those who spoke out against Fraser, including after Hinojos contacted attorney Lisa Bloom to represent several of Fraser’s accusers. At one point, Tracy Verna, an executive producer on the show and Hinojos’s immediate supervisor, warned that Hinojos “would be responsible for the entire cast and crew losing their jobs” by causing its cancellation.

In December of last year, Hinojos was fired from the show and told it was due to her “subpar performance.”

“Hinojos was terminated for performance issues. She was given the opportunity to correct those issues, but failed to do so. We have investigated and there is no merit to her allegations,” a Crown Media spokesperson said in a statement issued in response to the suit.

Hinojos’s suit follows a similar one filed by former “Home & Family” host Mark Steines, who said last month that he was fired from the show after supporting two women who brought sexual-harassment claims against Fraser.

According to that 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.”

Steines alleged Crown Media retaliated against his complaints with a substantial reduction of his salary, a cut in his regular voiceover work, a diminished role in network events, and ultimately his “abrupt early termination, conducted in an utterly unprofessional manner intended to personally humiliate Mr. Steines while maximizing damage to his professional reputation.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.