A woman who claims she was sexually harassed for several years on the set of “General Hospital” has filed a multimillion-dollar suit against the show’s former stage manager, who was fired by ABC after the network did an in-house investigation.
In response, the Directors Guild of America has challenged ABC’s decision to fire the stage manager, Jerry Blumenthal, with both sides now locked in an arbitration fight over a possible breach of the union agreement.
Meanwhile the woman’s attorney, Alan Newman, said that the arbitrator has ruled that the alleged victims cannot bring attorneys when they are called upon to testify, which he said has put them in the intimidating position of having to testify about the harassment without benefit of counsel being present.
The extra who filed suit, Nancy Parry, said that during several years beginning in 1980, Blumenthal repeatedly harassed her and others. When she did not comply, she eventually was not rehired, her suit contends.
The suit charges Blumenthal with making verbal threats that Parry’s work would be reduced or eliminated if she did not have sex with him; touching her breasts and other body parts; forcing her into a dressing room with the intent of having sex; undressing in front of her and requiring her to stay late to be alone with him.
Blumenthal, when reached by Daily Variety, said the accusations were false. “This is a case of someone looking for some money,” he said.
Parry’s attorney said the actress approached both ABC and the set representative from the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, but to no avail. It wasn’t until she hired an attorney that either org took notice of her complaints. “Extras are considered the lowest form of life on a film or television set,” said Newman. “So when something happens to them, it’s difficult to get it rectified.”
Yet an AFTRA spokesman said that union officials did everything they could under the law, which means referring the victim to the proper government agency since AFTRA’s collective bargaining agreement does include discrimination or harassment charges.
“AFTRA has vigorously sought in network negotiations since 1985 to win the right to bring grievances against the networks when members claim they have been sexually harassed or discriminated against, but we have been unsuccessful,” an AFTRA spokesman said. “Until we achieve the right to arbitrate these claims, we will have to continue to refer members to state and federal agencies in order to secure relief.”
While officials at both the DGA and ABC had no comment on the situation, Parry’s attorney said his own investigation turned up four other alleged victims which in turn convinced ABC to conduct the in-house investigation.
“ABC got an anonymous letter two years ago from a woman who claimed that she was being sexually harassed by this guy,” Newman said. “ABC conducted an investigation but couldn’t turn up anyone who would talk because everyone was scared to death of being black-listed. It wasn’t until Nancy came forward that others started to talk.”
Parry’s suit charges sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, intentional interference with economic or contractual advantage and assault and battery. It seeks $ 4 million in punitive damages with an unspecified amount for other damages.