A former background actress on CBS’ The Mentalist has sued producer Warner Bros. Television and its casting service claiming her role was reduced and eventually eliminated when she complained about a daily barrage of sexually-charged comments directed at her by a fellow employee.
Shanelle Howard, who says she has performed as a stand-in and background actress on the hit Simon Baker procedural drama since it launched in 2008, filed suit Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court against WBTV, the fellow employee Lonnie Moore and GEP Cencast, the casting agency that handles background actors on the show. Howard says she had been a GEP employee since 2001.
The actress claims Moore subjected her to "a daily barrage of sexually based comments and unsuitable conduct" while working on the show, including statements such as "Are you wearing thongs today or nothing at all?" and "I’m married but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun," and "It’s just sex, stop being so uptight and give me some."
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Howard also claims she was subjected to physical harassment. "There were many times when Moore caught plaintiff off guard, he was thus able to ‘cop a feel’ before plaintiff could push him away," the complaint alleges.
She claims she complained to superiors in October 2011 and was told she had done the right thing by coming forward. But she almost immediately began receiving a cold shoulder from other actors, she claims, and was subjected to retaliatory and confrontational conduct.
Her work declined from 5 days per week to an average of 2 days a week, according to the suit, and in late November, Howard says she had a meeting with Warner Bros. attorney Patty Mayer during which she was told the harassment claim had been investigated and the matter was closed. By late April/early May 2012, Howard claims she was no longer being called to work on The Mentalist and was not being offered any other work by GEP; "plaintiff’s employment with GEP and Warner Bros. has thus effectively been terminated," she alleges.
Warner Bros. TV declined to comment on the suit.
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The complaint, filed by attorney Stephen Ebner, alleges causes of action for sex discrimination, sexual harassment, failure to take remedial action and retaliation.
CBS is not a defendant in the suit.
Email: Matthew.Belloni@thr.com; Twitter: @THRMattBelloni