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Hollywood May Face Federal Lawsuit for Discriminating Against Women Directors


director's chair, clapboard, and megaphone

Earlier this week, Deadline reported that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is in “settlement talks” with the major Hollywood studios. These talks are in response to allegations that the studios systematically discriminated against women directors. A “knowledgeable” but anonymous source told Deadline, “Every one of the major studios has received a charge contending that they failed to hire women directors…The EEOC is attempting to resolve the charges but, if unable to, may file a lawsuit.”

It is difficult to confirm this story, since the EEOC legally cannot comment on ongoing cases unless they end up filing a lawsuit. While they are negotiating, they will neither confirm nor deny the settlement talks.

However, the ACLU, which presented the original evidence of discrimination to the EEOC in 2015, said that they “have no reason to doubt [the article’s] veracity.” They also noted that the article seems to be corroborated by December’s contract negotiations between the studios and the Directors Guild of America (DGA).

The DGA reportedly pushed for a Hollywood version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires that teams interview minority candidates for high-level coaching and operations positions. The Hollywood version would have required that studios interview women and people of color for director jobs. However, the studios rejected the proposal, citing “legal reasons.” The ACLU speculates that these “legal reasons” likely referred to the EEOC settlement.

Should the EEOC successfully negotiate for more equitable hiring terms–and that’s still very much up in the air–it would be a tremendous step forward for Hollywood equality. As the ACLU said in their statement, “[EEOC] settlement of those charges will result in tangible change in the studios’ hiring practices — with continuing federal oversight that will assure compliance — so that women will finally have equal opportunities to sit in the director’s chair.”

The dearth of women directors, producers and screenwriters in Hollywood has prompted a number of campaigns, from #HireTheseWomen to #OscarsSoMale. It’s been an ongoing problem for years, and it’s high time that the the issue was addressed. Of course, in an ideal world, women directors would receive equitable treatment without government intervention.

But in our very-not-ideal world, I’ll settle for a practical solution that puts more women in control of our culture’s stories.

(Via Deadline and the ACLU Speak Freely blog; image via Shutterstock)

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