Scott Rudin has had a public reputation as an abusive boss for decades. But this week, for the first time, he began to experience some consequences for it.
A24 let it be known that it was cutting ties with the producer, who had delivered such films as “Lady Bird” and “Uncut Gems.” Rudin was compelled to “step back” from his Broadway work, and when that didn’t stop the drumbeat, he dropped out of his film and streaming projects as well.
The accountability remains tentative, as the vast majority of stars and directors who have worked with him over the years have stayed silent. But experts on workplace bullying are watching closely to see if Rudin’s case will do for their issue what Harvey Weinstein did for sexual harassment.
“I think it puts bullying front and center, as opposed to other serious concerns we see,” said David Yamada, professor at Suffolk University Law School, and the director of the New Workplace Institute. “Rudin’s reported behaviors just meet a classic profile of a workplace bully of the rage-aholic variety.”
In a cover story in the Hollywood Reporter two weeks ago, former employees accused Rudin of numerous violent outbursts, including throwing a potato and smashing a monitor on an assistant’s hand. David Graham-Caso, a communications deputy at L.A. City Hall, accused Rudin of contributing to the suicide of his twin brother, Kevin, who had worked as Rudin’s assistant in 2008-2009.
When the New York Times exposed Weinstein in 2017, he was universally condemned and fired from his company within days. The Rudin case has been different. One key difference is that bullying — unlike sexual harassment or racial discrimination — is not illegal, and therefore Rudin’s company faces little risk of litigation. (Assault is illegal, but no one has sued Rudin for throwing computer equipment at them.)
Yamada has been leading an effort for years to change that. He has written draft legislation, the Healthy Workplace Bill, that would give employees a cause of action if they experienced workplace bullying that was severe enough to create health problems. The bill has been introduced in 31 states, but only Puerto Rico has passed a version of it into law.
“I think this would be a very actionable set of circumstances under the law we’ve proposed,” Yamada said. “It underscores the need to fill this void.”
Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute, was particularly struck by the story of Kevin Graham-Caso, whose friends told Variety that he had lost weight, was throwing up a lot, and had kidney stones while working for Rudin. His friends said that he continued to suffer psychological effects for years afterwards.
“That poor boy. Kevin walked on eggshells as do every one of his assistants. They don’t have a life without apprehension,” Namie said. “They know bad stuff is going to happen. They don’t know what form or when.”
Namie said the case highlights the need for companies to adopt written policies against bullying.
“Without having a standard written, the Rudins in this world are going to say, ‘Show me where what I’m doing is wrong,'” he said. “Something’s got to get through to people that this does not need to be an accepted way of managing people.”
Namie has been working on the issue for decades, and said that younger employees are forcing many companies to reevaluate the issue.
“We have several classes of high school grads and college grads who have gone through the school system being exposed to anti-bullying training and being told they need to never tolerate it,” Namie said. “These old-timers think they can bark at these people. Young ones are saying, ‘You can’t bark at me.'”