Terri Goddard, a former assistant at New Line, said that Ratner was notorious around the office for ogling the assistants, invading their space, and making them uncomfortable. His behavior was sufficiently persistent and unwelcome that she and several other employees complained to the human resources department.
“It’s humiliating to be objectified when you’re trying to do your work,” she said. “People were just appalled.”
Goddard said that Ratner’s behavior stopped after she and the other assistants complained to New Line’s HR department, and that it appeared the company had talked to him about the allegations. A second employee, who also complained to HR, said that Ratner called her a few days later to confront her about why she had reported him.
Ratner’s attorney, however, denied that he was ever informed of the allegations.
“Brett wasn’t aware of any report being filed against him by anyone at New Line,” said the attorney, Andrew Brettler of Lavely & Singer. “No one came to Brett to tell him he needed to curb his behavior.”
At the time, New Line operated as a independent studio under Time Warner’s ownership out of offices on Robertson Blvd. near Beverly Hills. Subsequently, it became a division within Warner Bros. and relocated to the studio’s Burbank lot.
In a statement, Warner Bros. said it was unable to locate a record of the complaint.
“We have no evidence of any claim filed in this matter,” a spokesman said.
Ratner was not an employee of New Line, but he had directed “Rush Hour,” “Money Talks,” and “Rush Hour 2” for the studio, making him an important creative force there.
In addition to Goddard, five other former New Line employees said they either witnessed or were told about Ratner’s harassment at the time. Eric Stauble, a former New Line assistant, said that Goddard complained about it to him. During that period, he said New Line had a reputation as a boys’ club. The culture was documented in a 1998 article in Premiere Magazine, which detailed numerous complaints from female executives.
“This was kind of the heyday of when a lot of this stuff was going on,” Stauble said. “There was a blind eye turned.”
Three former employees who asked not to be identified said they had personally witnessed or experienced Ratner’s harassment.
Marty Singer, another attorney for Ratner, has repeatedly stated that no one has ever filed a legal claim against him for sexual harassment.
“I have represented Mr. Ratner for two decades, and no woman has ever made a claim against him for sexual misconduct or sexual harassment,” Singer wrote in an Oct. 31 letter to Variety.
Goddard said she was coming forward to counter the notion that no one had ever complained about Ratner’s behavior. She said she began working at New Line in late 2005. Over the course of a couple of months, Ratner would regularly come in for meetings. Each time, he would stop to flirt with the assistants who sat in a row in front of the executive offices.
“It was someone leaning over your desk, in your personal space, looking at your body up and down with a smile on their face,” Goddard said.
She said Ratner would badger her with questions about her personal life and relationship status. Goddard said that because Ratner was so important to New Line that she felt pressure to be polite with him.
“You have to pander to it,” she said. “And you’re trying to pander to it to make it go away.”
Goddard said she was interviewed by HR and was assured that corrective measures would be taken.
After that, she said, Ratner stopped harassing her. “He would come in and give me a dirty look,” she said. “He knew something had been said.”
Warner Bros. cut ties with Ratner last week following an L.A. Times report in which six women alleged that Ratner had engaged in various forms of sexual misconduct. The same day, Ratner filed a libel suit against Melanie Kohler, a former Endeavor Talent Agency employee who wrote a Facebook post alleging that he had raped her. Variety also reported on Thursday that Ratner and producer Russell Simmons were investigated in 2001 for an alleged sexual battery. No charges were filed in that case.