The recent trailer for the upcoming film Bombshell depicts a hauntingly quiet elevator ride between three women who, we will soon discover, have something awful in common. The film, which will be released in December, is based on the real-life sexual harassment case against the founder and former CEO of Fox News, Roger Ailes. The women who are at the heart of this film, were employed at Fox News and brought forward the allegations against Ailes.
Workplace Sexual Harassment in the Entertainment Industry
The topic of workplace sexual harassment is now at the center of most discussions around workplace safety and workplace culture, but it would be naive to presume that all workplaces are safer since the Me Too movement gained steam in 2017.
Certain workers, by nature of their professions, are in a particularly difficult position with regard to workplace sexual harassment. While the Me Too movement has made a very deliberate attempt to expand its outreach beyond the entertainment and media industry, often making the point that harassment occurs in all industries, individuals who work in entertainment and media do face particular vulnerabilities.
What Makes the Entertainment Industry Different?
While the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) and the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) protect a variety of workers, including individuals in media, entertainers will fall under certain exceptions. For instance, section 25.1(3) of OHSA, prohibits employers from instituting policies requiring employees to work with high heeled shoes. However, this same provision exempts employers from the “entertainment and advertising industry.”
Also, working in the entertainment space may require individuals to behave in ways that would normally be considered unusual in the workplace, such as wearing sexy clothing or performing scenes with simulated sexual activity or intimacy. These circumstances can lead to potentially exploitative situations, particularly for those new to the industry.
Addressing These Gaps
Another challenge for individuals is that many in the industry work outside unions and as such do not benefit from uniform workplace harassment policies. To address this need, the Association of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) created universal guidelines to prevent and respond to harassment, bullying and violence in the workplace. Signatories of the Code of Conduct agree to take appropriate and timely steps to address allegations of harassment, discrimination and violence in the workplace, including taking legal action when necessary. Major players in the entertainment industry, including TIFF and the CBC, have become signatories.
The Directors Guild of Canada (DGC), a labour union that represents various people who work behind the camera, in collaboration with ACTRA, has created HAVEN, a bilingual reporting hotline available to those in the industry experiencing harassment in the workplace. The hotline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is completely confidential – a necessary feature in an industry that is so relationship driven.
While workers should be able to depend on strong legislative frameworks to protect their interests in the workplace, it is promising to see industry leaders come together to address the gaps that make certain workers more vulnerable. Canada is quickly becoming an important player in the world of content creation and, with the eyes of the world on us, it is critical that the entertainment industry work to create safe and supportive working environments for all workers.