LOS ANGELES (CN) – A former background actress on “The Mentalist” claims she was sexually harassed by another extra and then effectively fired after she complained.
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Shanelle Howard is suing fellow extra Lonnie Moore, GEP Cencast, Warner Bros. Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television Production in Superior Court, claiming Moore made “remarks, comments, and conduct of a sexual nature” toward her on the set of the TV police drama.
According to the 15-page complaint, Moore’s lewd comments included, “Are you wearing thongs today or no panties at all?” “I’m married, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun,” “Why did you turn away? Your high beams are on and I’m enjoying the view,” “You need to go on and give me some because I’m not going to stop asking until you do,” and “You have a nice ass, a perfect handful.”
She says he also asked, “What do you want with that white guy, are you scared you can’t handle all of this?” and pointed at his crotch.
“Moore would direct the aforesaid acts and comments … toward plaintiff virtually every day on the set of ‘The Mentalist,'” Howard claims. “Moore’s attempts to find reasons to grab plaintiff on her buttocks were endless. There were many times when Moore caught plaintiff off guard; he was thus able to ‘cop a feel’ before plaintiff could push him away.”
Howard says she complained to Warner Bros. crew and her casting director at GEP, and was assured that she would not be retaliated against. But she says other actors gave her the “cold shoulder,” and she was “highly embarrassed” by a second assistant director who told a group of actors not to gossip about Howard’s allegations against Moore.
When Howard complained to the casting company, she says she went from working five days a week to two and was nearly taken off the show and placed on another one.
“As of November 4, 2011, plaintiff ascertained that Moore would continue to work on the show,” the lawsuit states. “Along with the other background actors, Moore’s conduct toward plaintiff had also become increasingly confrontational and hostile in nature. Moore would stare at plaintiff in a menacing and threatening manner; he would also complain to others that he was being ‘persecuted’ and openly referred to plaintiff as ‘that bitch.’ Moore would remark in a threatening manner, ‘That bitch will get hers.'”
Howard was later told that Moore had been fired from “The Mentalist,” only to discover that he had been rehired, according to the lawsuit.
She claims a Warner Bros. attorney told her that the company had “thoroughly investigated the sexual harassment claim and the matter is closed.”
Before reporting the alleged harassment, Howard says GEP placed her as a background and stand-in actor on other shows when she wasn’t working on “The Mentalist.”
“However, as of late April/early May 2012, plaintiff has not been called to return to work as either a stand-in or background actor on ‘The Mentalist,’ nor has she been offered any work by GEP for other shows; plaintiff’s employment with GEP and Warner Bros. has thus effectively been terminated,” the lawsuit states.
Warner Bros. Entertainment spokesman Paul McGuire said the studio “promptly and fully investigated all allegations to protect [Howard’s] rights as well as those of others working on the production and at the workplace.”
“The company took prompt remedial action in compliance with state and federal law as well as company policy,” McGuire wrote in a statement to Courthouse News. “Additionally, there is simply no merit to Ms. Howard’s claim that her work as a stand-in/background performer was reduced or that she was otherwise mistreated because of her allegations.”
“The Mentalist” stars Simon Baker and first aired on (nonparty) CBS in the fall of 2008. The show was renewed for a fifth season earlier this year.
Howard is represented by Stephen Ebner of Calabasas, Calif.
She seeks unspecified damages for violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, sex discrimination, sexual harassment, failure to take remedial action, and retaliation.
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