The actors’ union SAG-AFTRA this week announced a new code of conduct to fight sexual harassment
Stop. Support. Report.
That’s the guiding mantra behind SAG-AFTRA’s new code of conduct on sexual harassment: “Whether during work or at work-related activities, it is the collective responsibility of our members to act as active bystanders and supportive colleagues when we witness or learn of acts of sexual harassment or retaliation. To end the pervasive culture of inaction and silence, we must not look the other way,” reads the actors’ union code unveiled Saturday. “We must intervene to STOP the conduct when we can, SUPPORT those who speak up, and REPORT the conduct.” The document defines types of sexual harassment and retaliation, lays out employers’ responsibilities, and offers avenues for recourse.
The new SAG code marked Hollywood’s latest attempt to rectify an industry plagued by reports of sexual abuse — “Wonder Woman 2,” for example, will be the first film to implement recently issued Producers Guild of America guidelines on sexual harassment, Vanity Fair reported last month. (“Wonder Woman” co-financier Brett Ratner, accused by several women of sexual harassment, won’t return for the sequel.) But the national dialogue stretches far beyond Tinseltown. Here’s how some folks are working to address the problem in their industries and beyond:
Following resignations or retirements by several lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct — and revelations of taxpayer-funded settlements — Congress members recently introduced a bipartisan bill to hold members personally accountable and increase transparency. The measure would overhaul the Office of Compliance, the oft-criticized body tasked with responding to harassment complaints, and require the office to report and publish details on settlements and claims.
Democrat women headed by Rep. Jackie Speier, a leader in Congress on the issue of sexual misconduct, also wore black to President Trump’s Jan. 31 State of the Union address to draw attention to the issue. “We are working together to send a clear message that we will no longer tolerate this abhorrent behavior, which seeps into all professions and breeds other forms of discrimination and disrespect — such as lack of equal pay, childcare, and flexible work schedules,” the congresswoman previously told Moneyish in a statement.
Days after a December HuffPost report revealed since-ousted Miss America leadership had exchanged vile, sexist emails about former pageant winners, the organization named Miss America 1989 Gretchen Carlson — a vocal advocate for sexual harassment survivors — as its new board chair. “Everyone has been stunned by the events of the last several days, and this has not been easy for anyone who loves this program,” Carlson said in a statement at the time. “In the end, we all want a strong, relevant Miss America and we appreciate the existing board taking the steps necessary to quickly begin stabilizing the organization for the future.”
Actors’ Equity president and 1998’s Miss America Kate Shindle — who, along with Carlson, was a target in the emails — also joined the board of directors, as did ex-Miss Americas Heather French Henry and Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss.
Soon after the Harvey Weinstein exposés that kickstarted a national dialogue on sexual abuse, Condé Nast began fashioning a new code of conduct to be implemented this month, the New York Times reported recently. Per the new rules, the publisher will cease working with models under 18, offer an anonymous reporting mechanism for complaints, bar alcohol from photo sets, prohibit photographers from using sets for personal work post-shoot, and gain advance consent from models regarding “sexually suggestive poses” or nudity. “A crisis often results in action,” said Vogue EIC Anna Wintour. Condé Nast, in other news, also severed ties “for the foreseeable future” with photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber, who stand accused of misconduct by several male models.
Meanwhile, an amendment announced in October by Assemblywoman Nily Rozic strives to protect models — who, under New York law, are typically independent contractors lacking state-law protections — by holding photographers, designers, ad agencies and retailers accountable for potential sexual misconduct against them. “Models need protection against sexual harassment, and that shouldn’t be controversial,” Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff, who worked on the legislation with Rozic, previously told Moneyish.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra, the uniquely positioned first female CEO of a major auto company, pledged the company’s commitment in December to a “harassment-free” environment. “It’s unacceptable to not have a policy (against sexual harassment),” she said during an Automotive Press Association event, according to the Detroit Free Press. “We encourage our employees that if something is happening, that they raise it. There will be no retaliation.”
The #MeToo movement has prompted a number of high-profile media firings and suspensions, among them CBS’s Charlie Rose, the New York Times’ Glenn Thrush (later reinstated, but taken off the White House beat) and NBC’s Matt Lauer. In response to the latter, the Peacock Network has reportedly rolled out a stringent new anti-harassment policy requiring employees to report inappropriate workplace relationships.
“Romantic relationships at work are not exactly unusual, but now NBC says it is taking a zero-tolerance approach,” a source told Page Six. “Staffers have been told that if they find out about any affairs, romances, inappropriate relationships or behavior in the office, they have to report it to human resources, their superior or the company anti-harassment phone line. Staffers are shocked that they are now expected to snitch on their friends.” In addition to new guidelines on socialization — like “(not) sharing taxis home and (not) taking vegans to steakhouses” — one edict outlines work-appropriate hugs, the source added: “If you wish to hug a colleague, you have to do a quick hug, then an immediate release, and step away to avoid body contact.” NBC didn’t immediately issue a comment to Page Six.
Restaurateurs John Besh, Mario Batali and Ken Friedman have all toppled after recent accusations of sexual harassment. In response to the growing #MeToo movement, chef Tom Colicchio penned “An open letter to (male) chefs” on Medium blasting “sexist s–t-talk” and calling for industry-wide reform beyond “lip service.” “It’s not enough for us to ask, ‘How can we behave differently around our women employees and coworkers?’” he wrote. “Instead we should be asking ‘What barriers to their success do I owe it to them to remove?’”
Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, whose girlfriend Asia Argento levied a sexual assault allegation against Weinstein, also spoke out about his own role in enabling “bro culture.” “I had to ask myself, particularly given some things that I’m hearing, and the people I’m hearing them about: Why was I not the sort of person, or why was I not seen as the sort of person, that these women could feel comfortable confiding in?” he told Slate. “I see this as a personal failing.”
But in practical terms, the industry has far to go. “I’ve been seeing more and more hand-wringing about the restaurant industry,” employment attorney Paula Brantner, a senior advisor to the nonprofit Workplace Fairness, told Moneyish. “It’s more word-of-mouth, ‘Don’t work for this person,’ rather than the businesses themselves … doing anything particularly innovative or effective to address the problems.”
Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler’s now-legendary blog post last year helped expose a culture of bias and sexual harassment within the company, prompting a string of firings and an industry-wide reckoning. Callisto, an app for college students to report sexual assault that’s been implemented by more than a dozen institutions, will roll out an invite-only pilot version geared toward venture capitalists and tech folks later this year, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last month. The app, CEO Jessica Ladd said, will help companies root out repeat offenders and help survivors report incidents of sexual assault safely.
Companies across industries, said employment attorney and HR consultant Lori Rassas, should work to establish a clear sexual harassment policy and identify where employees should go with complaints. “Leadership needs to make it clear that the message is coming from the top,” she told Moneyish. “(That) this is not going to be tolerated, from the top all the way down.” Employers should work quickly and ensure victims don’t face retaliation, she said.
At this point, Brantner added, “it’s too soon to see whether or not whether we’ve had a true cultural shift.” “Are they going to be consistent, are they going to have policies that they uniformly enforce, are people going to feel safe coming forward, are they going to be protected from retaliation?” she asked. “Is the change real?”
This article was originally published Jan. 23, 2018, and updated with SAG-AFTRA’s new code of conduct.
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