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A suit has been filed by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleging that Gregory St. Johns, a former director of photography on CBS's Criminal Minds, sexually and verbally harassed men while on set.
Furthermore, the suit claims that after the alleged victims complained to the executive production team -- including show runner Erica Messer, executive producers Harry Bring and John Been Frazier, director Glenn Kershaw, and unit production manager Stacey Beneville -- their concerns were left unchecked for several years.
In fact, over a dozen men were fired at the request of St. John himself, the complaint alleges, and no necessary steps to prevent such harassment and discrimination were taken. Instead, the suit reads, executives "fired anyone who resisted or who tacitly evaded St. Johns' advances or abuse."
Now, the department is suing The Walt Disney Company, ABC Signature Studios, CBS Studios and various individuals on behalf of former employees who filed wrongful termination and harassment complaints -- including Anthony Matulic, a former technician who alleges he was fired after complaining to executives that he resisted a butt slap from St. John while on set; and Dauv McNeely, a former employee in the video playback department who was fired after acting as a corroborating witness to a separate complaint against St. Johns.
"With the aid of defendants, St. Johns created an unchecked intimidating, hostile, and offensive work environment on the set of Criminal Minds," the complaint states, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "Defendants chose to act in conscious disregard of its employees' rights by ignoring the complaints made by the crew members. It was not until the media made St. Johns' conduct public and potentially threatened their brand that Defendants removed St. Johns from the show. Even when they did so, despite the allegations against him, corporate Defendants paid St. Johns an 'enhanced severance.'"
An October 2018 Variety story previously unmasked St. Johns' alleged inappropriate behavior against 19 former or current staffers at Criminal Minds, which had its final episode in February.
According to Variety, an anonymous email was sent in January 2018 to nearly 100 crew members on the show. The email explained that producers had been contacted by staffers complaining of St. Johns' behavior, which included "inappropriate touching of genitalia, rear ends, verbal abuse, retaliatory firings of entire electrical department employees, camera department employees and the numerous outstanding directors who made it clear that they would never return to the show because of how they were treated by Greg St. Johns."
An internal investigation was conducted in February 2018 by ABC Studios' human resource department, the findings of which are unknown.
Matulic filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in April of that year, reiterating with Variety that he was fired for speaking out against St. Johns.
"I called him out and I was showing that I was uncomfortable with what he was doing," said Matulic, who claims that St. Johns grabbed his rear end "once every couple of weeks" over eight years of being on the show, and that he would frequently grab his inner thighs, flick his nipples, and at one point grabbed his genitals.
"I was abused by St. Johns verbally and physically," another former crew member told Variety. "The guy's an ass grabber. He's a nut grabber. If you dare to question his authority on any particular subject he'll verbally abuse you right there in front of people."
St. Johns was fired in 2018, soon after the Variety story was published. He has yet to comment publicly about the suit.
ABC Studios, a division of Disney, has since commented about the complaint, telling The Hollywood Reporter, "The Company works hard to maintain a work environment free from discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. In this instance the Company took corrective action. We cooperated with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing during its investigation, and we regret that we were unable to reach a reasonable resolution with the Department. We now intend to defend the asserted claims vigorously."