America’s Funniest Home Videos Company Settles Three Former Employees for Sexual Harassment and Racism
Vin Di Bona Productions, best known for America’s Funniest Home Videossettled a lawsuit brought by three former employees who alleged sexual and racial harassment.
On Wednesday, the two parties decided to dismiss the case in Los Angeles Superior Court after reaching an agreement. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
More from The Hollywood Reporter
In 2019, three women sued Vin Di Bona and his spin-off FishBowl Worldwide Media, alleging a toxic work environment plagued by sexual misconduct, retaliation and casual racism. These employees – Tunisha Singleton, Columbia Crandell and Jessica Morse – then came forward to The Hollywood Reporter speak publicly and share their experiences within the company.
Singleton, who was then senior director of digital partnerships and business development, alleged that her supervisor Philip Shafran repeatedly made comments about her race, including that he was “blacker” than her because she hadn’t looked Black Panther. She also detailed an incident in which another of her supervisors at a company event called her a “fuckin’ crack” and remarked that she would “never develop” anything because “there is no basketball show to do”.
When she reported the harassment to management, Singleton was fired and told her job had been terminated, according to the complaint.
A month after Singleton’s dismissal, Crandell claimed that Shaftan sexually assaulted her by taking a picture up her skirt. She filed a police report with the Los Angeles Police Department after an investigation led to the furloughing of a company executive.
The lawsuit said Crandell and Morse, who said she felt increasingly unsafe at the company due to the alleged incidents, were eventually fired.
The women, however, were unable to overcome binding agreements in their contracts that required them to arbitrate their claims – a problem often encountered by lawsuits alleging workplace harassment. The judge was not convinced by their arguments that they do not have to arbitrate their claims because they signed their contracts with Cara Communications Corporation, which is under the Vin Di Bona umbrella.
“Given that the records show that Cara Communications Corporation is the true employer of the plaintiff, it would be absurd to allow the plaintiffs to avoid arbitration because they intentionally named entities other than the one named in the agreement,” wrote Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dennis Landin in a July. 2019 order.
Worse, the arbitration agreements also provided for attorney fees to Vin Di Bona in the event the company had to travel to compel arbitration.
Barbara Cowan, who represented the women, argued in an objection to Vin Di Bona’s motion for legal fees that the company was trying to ‘chill current and former employees’ exercise of their rights to testify or seek redress. for Defendants’ abusive and unlawful actions in the workplace.
While Vin Di Bona requested $150,000 in fees, an arbitrator decided on the undisclosed final amount.
The lawsuit sought damages for wrongful termination, harassment, retaliation and emotional distress.
Vin Di Bona Productions attorney David Fink declined to comment.
Click here to read the full article.