Actress Eliza Dushku broke her silence on Wednesday about a $9.5 million (Dh34.8 million) settlement she reached with CBS over workplace sexual harassment, saying she was fired from a television show as retaliation for complaining about onset treatment.
In an essay published by The Boston Globe, Dushku wrote that she was written off the show ‘Bull’ after she confronted actor Michael Weatherly about sexually charged comments he made onset.
Dushku wrote that she initially declined to comment about the settlement to The New York Times, which first reported on its existence in a story published on Thursday, because she wanted to honour the terms of the agreement.
“The narrative propagated by CBS, actor Michael Weatherly, and writer-producer Glenn Gordon Caron is deceptive and in no way fits with how they treated me on the set of the television show ‘Bull’ and retaliated against me for simply asking to do my job without relentless sexual harassment,” she wrote. “This is not a ‘he-said/she-said’ case. Weatherly’s behaviour was captured on CBS’s own videotape recordings.”
She also wrote that the “boys’ club remains in full force at CBS; and that “the bullying continued” after she was no longer employed by the network. “In the settlement process, CBS used as defence a photo of me in a bathing suit, pulled from my own Instagram, as if this suggested I deserved or was not offended by the sexual harassment I experienced,” she wrote.
Weatherly told The Times he “made some jokes mocking some lines in the script. When Eliza told me that she wasn’t comfortable with my language and attempt at humour, I was mortified to have offended her and immediately apologised.”
Dushku’s comments come as CBS is publicly dealing with several sexual-misconduct scandals. Details of her settlement came out during the independent investigation the network launched this summer into allegations against former chief Les Moonves. (CBS’ board of directors announced Monday that Moonves was terminated for cause and that he would not receive $120 million in severance.)
“The allegations in Ms Dushku’s claims are an example that, while we remain committed to a culture defined by a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace, our work is far from done,” CBS said in a statement to The Times last week. “The settlement of these claims reflects the projected amount that Ms Dushku would have received for the balance of her contract as a series regular, and was determined in a mutually agreed upon mediation process at the time.”
A day after the Dushku settlement became public knowledge, CBS announced that it would distribute $20 million to 18 organisations focused on curbing workplace sexual harassment. “CBS’ support of these endeavours ties into the company’s ongoing commitment to strengthening its own workplace culture,” the network said in a statement.
According to Dushku and the Times report, she was hired to appear in the three episodes of the first season of ‘Bull,’ with plans for her to continue in a major role in future seasons.
But Dushku wrote that she endured repeated harassment that was captured on tape, including comments made by Weatherly about taking her to his “rape van,” him calling her names, playing “provocative songs (like ‘Barracuda’) on his iPhone when I approached my set marks” and remarks he made in a room full of people “about having a threesome.”
According to Dushku, she asked Weatherly to “help ease the sexualised set comments,” and shortly after, he complained to the CBS Television president that Dushku had a “humour deficit.” Within days, she wrote, producer-writer Caron fired her.
Weatherly told The Times he wasn’t involved in the decision to write Dushku off the show, and Caron denied that retaliation was behind the move.
For Dushku’s part, she wrote, “I really struggled with this and still do.” She agreed to the terms — which included designating a sexual harassment compliance monitor at CBS — as she faced the prospect of a lengthy and costly legal battle.
“In the end, I found uneasy solace in the important conditions I imposed on CBS, and that I would get paid for at least some of my contract,” she wrote.