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EEOC kicks off Hollywood gender discrimination probe

New York entertainment fans may be interested to learn that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission officially began its investigation into discrimination against female TV and film directors in Los Angeles on Oct. 14. Investigators kicked off their query by interviewing film director Maria Giese about the employment issues female directors face in Hollywood.

Giese, who directed "Hunger" and "When Saturday Comes," originally reported the gender discrimination issue to the American Civil Liberties Union and the EEOC in 2013. She told the media that the EEOC is looking at the hiring patterns by studios, networks, independent production companies and other entertainment industry organizations to determine why female directors are so often denied employment. Currently, women direct approximately 16 percent of television episodes and 5 percent of major film releases.

The EEOC previously investigated Hollywood's allegedly discriminatory hiring practices in 1969, holding several days of hearings with women and other minorities. The federal agency concluded that the entertainment industry was discriminating against minorities in many employment areas, but it then lacked the authority needed to enforce change. The case was referred to the Department of Justice, and a "goals and timetables" schedule was established to increase minority representation. However, female directors weren't included on the list.

In 1983, the Directors Guild of America filed a class-action suit against Columbia and Warner Bros. alleging discrimination against female directors. The suit caused the number of female directors to spike from less than 1 percent to 16 percent over the next 10 years.

A New York employee who faces gender discrimination in the workplace may benefit by consulting with a lawyer. Legal counsel may recommend filing a claim with the EEOC or applicable state agency if it appears that the employer has committed a violation of federal or state law.

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