Ex BET Employee Says Stephen G. Hill Harassed Women
Zola Mashariki is moving forward with a discrimination lawsuit against BET. This week, the former head of originals at the network, filed suit and is suing Viacom, BET, and former president of programming Stephen Hill. She alleges gender discrimination at the network. Singling out Hill, who also exited BET in March, her complaint reads,
Women are grossly underrepresented in leadership positions at the Company. The executive leadership of the Company is overwhelmingly male. Before Defendant Hill left BET, seven of the ten members of its executive team were men. Viacom has a similar overrepresentation of male executives, as six of the nine members of its senior management team are men. Development opportunities, including roles on critical committees, are routinely offered to male executives rather than their female counterparts.
She also adds that Hill,
was a well-known member of the Company’s good old boys’ club. Defendant Hill has been permitted to systematically discriminate against and harass numerous women. He is protected by the Company’s old boys’ club and HR department.
She claims Hill treated women “like administrative support,” took credit for their work, discouraged them from attending senior-level meetings, and interjected himself into high-profile projects.
For instance, Defendant Hill insisted that he play an onscreen role in one of BET’s shows, compromising the integrity and budget of the show.
Mashariki adds that on March 10, 2016, Hill
verbally attacked and threatened Ms. Mashariki when she demonstrated ‘disobedience’ by not immediately forwarding an email that she had not yet opened or reviewed.
She says says she reported the incident to the head of human recourses, whose response she deemed to be “insufficient.” The complaint continues,
The following week, Ms. Mashariki told Defendant Hill that as a woman, she felt uncomfortable with his intimidation and that his conduct made her feel physically unsafe in the workplace. Defendant Hill half-heartedly apologized, qualifying that she could have avoided the situation if she had just obeyed him. Following this unremorseful response, Ms. Mashariki again complained to HR and pointed out that Defendant Hill’s apology felt like victim blaming, a common response to women who protest harassment. Ms. Mashariki was particularly concerned because this was not the first time Defendant Hill had tried to intimidate her or other women.
She is demanding unspecified monetary damages plus a permanent injunction against Viacom and BET from engaging in unlawful practices plus an order requiring the companies to implement programs to remedy a hostile work environment. She also wants her position restored or full back and front pay. Viacom issued the following response:
These claims misrepresent the facts and are without merit. We strongly deny any allegation of wrongdoing and we intend to respond to the specific allegations in the course of legal proceedings. At Viacom and BET, we take the health and well-being of our employees very seriously and we are committed to fostering an inclusive, diverse workplace that supports the success of all employees.