Celebrity Culture: A Former TMZ Employee Says She Was Fired After Complaining About A Sexist, Toxic Work Environment
“I need the custom to alternate. I don’t prefer any individual to leave that place of job and divulge and the truth is feel fancy they’re nugatory,” Bernadette Zilio steered BuzzFeed Files.
Posted on August 25, 2020, at eleven:forty five a.m. ET
A extinct TMZ worker filed a lawsuit against the celebrity gossip display’s guardian corporations Warner Bros. Entertainment and EHM Productions on Tuesday alleging gender discrimination and retaliation.
Bernadette Zilio, 27, labored at TMZ and TooFab, another entertainment plan owned by Warner Bros. and EHM Productions, from 2015 to 2020 and acknowledged she changed into fired after she complained to HR about a custom of toxicity and sexism. TMZ founder Harvey Levin, TooFab Managing Editor Shyam Dodge, and TooFab Senior Producer Ross McDonagh are additionally named in the lawsuit.
Within the grievance, which changed into filed Tuesday with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Rate and the California Division of Beautiful Employment and Housing, Zilio acknowledged she went to Warner Bros. HR representatives in April 2019 about points of “sexism, belittlement, preferential therapy and lies running rampant on [her] workers.” She steered HR that she felt there changed into a division of how ladies and men folks were handled on her workers, and that as soon as she spoke up about McDonagh writing articles she regarded as sexist and offensive, such as one which in contrast Rihanna getting sick with bronchitis and the “assault on her lungs” to her being attacked by Chris Brown, her considerations about making light of home violence were brushed off.
The grievance additionally says that Zilio and her female colleagues described the work ambiance as “a boys’ club,” “one hundred% a bro fest,” and a “freaking frat dwelling.”
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“The foremost time I went to HR, they launched an investigation,” Zilio steered BuzzFeed Files. “Nothing is ever concrete, nothing is ever written down. I in no device discover emails following up with anything… they uncover you now we discover got a no-retaliation policy. The investigation concludes, nothing changes, and that’s when these small kinds of retaliation I the truth is feel took location.”
Two weeks later, Zilio acknowledged HR steered her they didn’t discover any evidence of gender bias in their investigation in step with her grievance. That’s when Zilio acknowledged she began to the truth is feel retaliated against for reporting her considerations.
Zilio acknowledged that TMZ Well-liked Supervisor Stuart Alpert pulled her into a gathering and acknowledged, “Shyam [Dodge] is your boss. You hear to him and characteristic as one, or you allow.” Levin additionally allegedly known as Zilio into a conference room for a non-public assembly after the HR investigation.
“He laid out that no matter I had an argument with, no matter complications I had internally within the staff with management, it didn’t matter,” Zilio acknowledged. “My job changed into to document to Shyam [Dodge] and Shyam changed into the particular individual that Harvey hired, and as a result of this incontrovertible truth that is the chain of narrate and I’m speculated to cease what I’m steered. It the truth is wasn’t a conversation, there changed into no substitute for me to issue anything and so I walked out of that assembly in tears.”
Zilio acknowledged she changed into additionally reprimanded for making mistakes at work that her male colleagues weren’t criticized for.
In January 2020, Zilio contacted another Warner Bros. HR e book to issue that she didn’t imagine anything had been done to repair the sexist work ambiance she had complained about in 2019. She then spoke with Warner Bros. Worker Kinfolk representatives in February about how she thought the male and female staffers were handled otherwise and described what she known as a sexist ambiance, despite the incontrovertible truth that she acknowledged she changed into fearful about being retaliated against for continuing to head to HR.
Zilio changed into finally fired and, per the grievance, her separation agreement, which she declined to signal, changed into dated Feb. 26, 2020, sooner or later after her final HR assembly about her allegations of a poisonous and sexist work custom.
“By the level I reached out to HR for the 2nd time in January 2020, I namely acknowledged, ‘I am taken aback to be talking to you right away due to the my lifestyles changed into made hell after the last time I went to an HR e book,’” Zilio acknowledged. “She again reiterated, ‘We discover a no-retaliation policy. No matter complications you discover, we produce no longer discriminate right here, I’m right here to allow you to.’ And that’s the explanation the an identical woman who walked me out the front door on my last day.”
In an announcement, a spokesperson for TMZ and TooFab acknowledged the company “parted ways” with Zilio after “incidents of plagiarism and unsuitable reporting.”
“Right here’s a blatant are attempting to utilize damaging publicity and unsuitable claims to power TooFab and TMZ to pay a monetary settlement,” the spokesperson added. “We can vigorously shield against any are attempting to mischaracterize what’s a merely and justified employment decision.”
Bryan Arbeit, a lawyer representing Zilio, steered BuzzFeed Files in an announcement that “this ambiance has been allowed to persist and positively Warner Bros. is responsive to what occurs in the previous and what continues to happen.”
He added that any claim of work performance-connected points are “belied by the incontrovertible truth that Ms. Zilio labored for the company for five years and got a fundamental elevate precise earlier than her grievance of discrimination, and she changed into fired directly thereafter.”
“We’re asking the EEOC to cease a fat investigation into the poisonous ambiance that Warner Brothers and its subsidiaries discover condoned for too a few years,” Arbeit acknowledged. “We hope other girls folks who discover skilled same discrimination and retaliation as Ms. Zilio will disclose out to attend alternate how girls folks are handled in the entertainment substitute.”
Zilio acknowledged she’s “aloof shy” to overtly focus on her journey at TMZ and TooFab no matter the incontrovertible truth that she doesn’t work there anymore, but her goal is to enhance working prerequisites for newest workers there.
“I’m terrified, but on the an identical time, this is greater than precise me getting fired. I the truth is feel fancy it’s time for folks to be held responsible,” Zilio acknowledged. “I need the custom to alternate. I don’t prefer any individual to leave that place of job and divulge and the truth is feel fancy they’re nugatory. I don’t think that’s healthy or traditional.”
Beyond seeing a shift in the work ambiance at TMZ, TooFab, and Warner Bros., Zilio acknowledged she additionally hopes your entire entertainment substitute makes concrete changes to discover decided that girls folks the truth is feel kindly going to HR after they’re working in a poisonous and sexist ambiance.
“It will seemingly be definitely, definitely taken into story when a woman goes to HR and says, ‘I produce no longer the truth is feel pleased with this,’ or ‘I definitely discover a topic with that,’ and I accept as true with there discover to be steps taken to discover a more concrete HR investigation job,” she acknowledged. “Because right away, I accept as true with folk precise twiddle their thumbs and attain inspire and uncover you nothing is defective. I accept as true with there must be paper trails, more involvement with the particular worker, and more testimony from folk.”