Famed movie studio accused of gender discrimination, retaliation

On Behalf of | Oct 5, 2020 | Employment Law

Some of the greatest films ever made bore the Warner Bros name, including “Citizen Kane,” “Casablanca,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Cool Hand Luke” and many others. The legendary studio was recently accused by a former marketing executive of gender discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation.

Hired as a secretary in 1987, Susan Steen rose through the Warner Bros ranks during her 31 years there, becoming an executive vice president of the company’s global marketing division.

“However, Ms. Steen’s rise in the company did not come without great cost to her,” her lawsuit states.

She claims that when she complained to her direct supervisor about “ongoing gender bias” and a “sexually hostile work environment” fostered by members of an “old boys’ club” at the studio, her complaints were dismissed as “silly, unimportant, and uncomfortable for (the supervisor) to address.”

Steen says she also reported the problems to the studio’s Human Resources department.

In the third quarter of 2018, Steen filed a complaint alleging a “disparity in pay . . . between men and women” at the company.

Late that year, Warner’s HR department told her it was launching an investigation of her complaints, and that she was not to speak to colleagues about related matters. In her lawsuit, Steen says no investigation actually took place, and that the ruse was apparently designed to keep her quiet.

She was fired days later “without warning” for allegedly violating a non-disclosure agreement by sharing a company email with a vendor. She says that in reality, the email contained “a non-confidential document commonly shared” within the industry.

It’s unlawful for employers to discriminate on the basis of gender, and unlawful as well to retaliate against employees who report discrimination. If you’ve been fired, demoted or denied promotions or raises by a Milwaukee employer because you reported workplace discrimination or sexual harassment, contact the employment law attorneys of Alan C. Olson and Associates.


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