The reality show Cheaters® caught the attention of EEOC’s Dallas Office not for what happened on screen, but what happened off-screen in the production office when two female workers filed complaints of sexual harassment.
The 10-year-old syndicated series features investigators with hidden cameras who stake out suspected cheaters in amorous situations for complainants who think their partners are straying, leading to a confrontation between the couple at the end of the show.
“Just because the creator of Cheaters promotes a TV show business which thrives on featuring sexual transgressions, it is no justification for engaging in sexual improprieties which violate the employment rights of his female employees behind the scenes,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert A. Canino.
According to EEOC’s lawsuit against Bobby Goldstein Productions, Inc., and Cheaters II, Ltd. (Civil Action No. 3:08-CV-1912-P), two female office assistants said they were subjected unwanted behavior, including frequent comments and jokes of a sexual nature, propositions for sex, unwelcome touching, and unwanted aggressive physical advances for the duration of their employment.
After investigation EEOC further charged that there was no effective outlet for complaints about the behavior because members of upper management were participants in the harassment, and there was no employee handbook or policy explaining the procedure for reporting inappropriate workplace conduct.
The companies that own and produce the Dallas-based television show have paid $50,000 and will furnish other relief to settle the lawsuit, the agency announced. The 2-year consent decree requires the companies to supplement the employee handbook to include an alternate avenue for making complaints when an employee is uncomfortable reporting conduct through the internal process.
The companies will also provide annual antisexual harassment training to all employees for the duration of the agreement, post a notice of nondiscrimination on employee bulletin boards, and notify EEOC each time they receive a complaint of sexual harassment from one of their employees during the term of the agreement.