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WGA West Survey: 64% of Women Writers Have Suffered Sexual Harassment at Work

More than 2,000 guild members surveyed provide first-hand insight into the extent of workplace abuse they have experienced.

According to a Deadline report, in results released yesterday of a February WGA West members survey, 64% of the female writers said they’d experienced sexual harassment at some point in their career, with a significant amount happening in the writers’ room.

The survey also found that 11% of male writers said that they also had suffered on the job sexual harassment, while many others had witnessed such behaviour. The guild stated to Deadline that the responses, received from around 20% of their active members, “have given us a sobering, first-person insight into the conditions that make addressing the issue both essential and urgent.”

The guild also noted that regarding harassment, its “guiding principle is to ensure a respectful culture with zero tolerance for bullying, harassment and assault; we want a culture which enables victims to speak up in a safe way that takes their experiences seriously. Your employer should investigate such claims thoroughly and with transparency. There should be due process for alleged offenders, and proportionate consequences for guilty offenders. The reality is that this problem is too difficult, too long-standing, and too deeply rooted to yield a quick fix. Be assured that we are working every day to determine and implement a full array of responses that will be necessary to eradicate bullying, harassment, and assault in the writing workplace in Hollywood.”

Back in January, Deadline reported that the WGA West had issued, via email, a “Statement of Principles on Sexual Harassment” that will “form the basis of our policies and actions going forward.”

Here is the text of that email:

Dear WGAW Member,

The Board and Officers have identified the following principles as our starting point toward meaningful change in our industry’s treatment of sexual harassment and discrimination.

The WGAW believes the current social outcry against sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace is not just warranted, it is long overdue. Sexual harassment is a form of employment discrimination, which is illegal under federal and state law. It is the legal and moral responsibility of our employers to adhere to both the letter and the spirit of these laws. Unfortunately, their policies have historically failed to do so. Since it is the right and obligation of the WGAW to support the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, we must take action on behalf of our members to address these issues. To that end, the WGAW supports the creation of a meaningful industrywide policy agenda that is fair, legal, and effective.

The WGAW supports a zero-tolerance policy for any form of workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment. Zero tolerance means that every claim of harassment or discrimination is taken seriously, and the investigation of every claim is thorough and transparent. Zero tolerance does not mean the absence of due process, or that there is a one-size-fits-all punishment for every incident. The WGAW supports a fair and legal process that is consistently and transparently applied. The WGAW also believes that it is a perversion of due process to implement policies that protect the accused or the employer, instead of the accuser, that create obstacles to investigation, or that discourage victims from filing claims.

The WGAW acknowledges that creativity requires a unique workplace. There are no words or ideas that can be off-limits, and deliberately pushing the boundaries of good taste, or social and political correctness, is instrumental to the work we do. But there is nothing about creativity and humor that requires individuals to fear for their physical or economic safety. Assaulting, demeaning, or diminishing anyone is wrong, and doing so in the workplace based on gender or other protected attributes is illegal. The WGAW condemns this type of behavior, both toward its members and by its members. It demeans our profession and our industry as a whole when a hostile work environment is considered normal or acceptable.

WGAW membership standards are defined by our constitution, labor law, and requisite employment by signatory employers. A writer achieves or retains membership despite any personal criminal history. The WGAW is a union, not judge or jury, and cases of harassment and discrimination should be adjudicated in a court of law or through legal policies of employment.

Because harassment and discrimination are products of an institutional imbalance of power, the WGAW believes that there is no solution to harassment that does not include efforts to address the economic and career disadvantages that burden women and other protected classes. Pay equity and equal opportunity are necessary to the solution. The WGAW will actively seek effective programs that promote gender equality in our industry. The WGAW will also investigate any pattern of retribution by employers toward individuals who file claims or who speak out about harassment. No member of the WGAW should tolerate any form of backlash against hiring or working with women due to fear or discomfort around this issue.

These principles form the basis of our policies and actions going forward. We are committed to not merely stating what is right, but to doing what is right, for our members and our industry. We can no longer leave issues of harassment and discrimination solely in the hands of our employers. In addition to the action items above, we will seek every opportunity for change, including: partnerships with our sister Guilds and unions, surveying our membership, creating awareness and training programs that are actually effective, working to correct the toxic culture of discrimination within our industry, and negotiating policies with our employers that focus on protecting victims rather than the companies themselves. There is no issue more important to a union than ensuring a safe and fair workplace for all. That is our goal.

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.

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