David Hunt, an executive producer on CBS' Carol's Second Act and husband of the series' leading lady, Patricia Heaton, had a formal complaint filed against him for alleged inappropriate behavior in the workplace, the New York Times reports in an article published on Saturday.
Broti Gupta, 25, alleges that Hunt, 65, inappropriately touched her on two occasions and claims that after she reported the alleged incidents in early September, she felt penalized at work, causing her to quit later that month.
Margee Magee, a 43-year-old writer and co-executive producer on Carol's Second Act, also left the show in October and tells the Times that she too felt her job responsibilities shifted after she reported tension between Gupta and Hunt.
Gupta is alleging that while at a cast and crew dinner, Hunt, whom she says she had not met before that night, hugged her twice from the side while she and others waited at the valet parking area. She also claims that he complimented her pants and then ran a hand up the side of her thigh.
Hunt's lawyer, Bryan Freedman, tells the Times that his client "did not remember the details as described" and "does not recall rubbing anyone’s thigh or leg and he disputes that characterization of it."
After the first alleged incident, Gupta tells the newspaper that she decided not to go to human resources but claims that several weeks later, while she was seated on a director's chair on set of the sitcom, Hunt came up behind her and grabbed her by the shoulders, jerking her forward.
Magee says she witnessed this alleged interaction and jumped out of her chair, exclaiming, "Excuse me." The women claim Hunt said nothing and walked away.
In regard to this particular accusation, Hunt's lawyer tells the newspaper that his client "remembers looking for a script but does not remember the detail of touching anyone's shoulders, and if he did that, it was not intended to be offensive."
After meeting with Carol's Second Act showrunners and then with human resources, Gupta says an HR executive assured her the network had started an investigation into Hunt and asked her what she'd like to happen next.
"I told them just my own personal code of ethics, which is that if there is space for education instead of punitive measures, then I believe in education," Gupta tells the Times.
The Times reports that on Oct. 1, Hunt completed sexual harassment training and was sent a "closure letter," which read: "Your behavior caused the individual who raised the concerns to feel genuinely uncomfortable in the workplace and it reflected a disregard for CBS’ policies and guidance in the matter. You are hereby cautioned not to engage in such behavior."
However, Gupta and Magee claim the following week, writers were given restrictions, including being barred from set during Monday's rehearsal and no longer being allowed to "run revised versions of failed jokes to the showrunners." They claim they were told previous rehearsals had "gotten too chaotic" and that from now on, "only the episode's credited writer" would pitch revised jokes.
Gupta says this made some writers feel "confused and a little anxious, thinking maybe they did something wrong."
A lawyer for showrunners Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern tells the Times that these changes were "a coincidence" in terms of timing with the allegations. A CBS statement also backs Haskins and Halpern, stating that the changes were to “streamline their production process."
"To be clear, we have never done and would never do anything to penalize or retaliate against anyone who raised these concerns," Haskins and Halpern say in a joint statement to the Times. "We are devastated that many of the inflammatory claims that have been made about us are simply not tethered to the reality of what happened."
After Gupta quit, Magee says she went to HR herself to express her concerns. She says that after the discussion, her job duties dwindled significantly, leading her to also leave the show.
Meanwhile, CBS is standing behind how HR handled the situation, stating: "Our human resources team always endeavors to address issues in a professional and sensitive manner, and we must clarify that certain allegations about them have either been misstated or taken wholly out of context."
The network further backs the showrunners, stating there is "no evidence" that they had "retaliatory intent in their interactions with the writer or the producer."
The Times also notes that it was agreed that CBS would pay Gupta and Magee what was owed them under their contracts and "supported their request to waive any contractual provisions that would prevent them from speaking about their experiences on the show."
On Monday, CBS released a statement to ET in regard to the Times' story. The statement reads:
"Gupta told the Times that when she complained to human resources, she asked that Hunt go through sexual harassment training rather than be fired. A claim of unprofessional behavior was made by a writer regarding one of the show’s executive producers. The complaint was reported by a producer to the showrunners, who immediately alerted the production company and the Studio. The matter was promptly investigated by human resources, and appropriate action was taken to address the complaint. The executive producer cooperated fully with the process.
In addition, we looked into allegations of retaliatory conduct by the showrunners at the time they were raised, and we found no evidence of retaliatory intent in their interactions with the writer or the producer. In particular, their decisions about the writers’ procedure during rehearsals and tapings were creatively motivated to streamline their production process and were already being discussed prior to the complaint.
Further, our human resources team always endeavors to address issues in a professional and sensitive manner, and we must clarify that certain allegations about them have either been misstated or taken wholly out of context.
The writer and producer decided to leave the show of their own accord. CBS agreed to their request to be paid for the remainder of their guaranteed episodes this season, and we supported their request to waive any contractual provisions that would prevent them from speaking about their experiences on the show."
CBSi and Entertainment Tonight are both owned by CBS.