Eliza Dushku testified before a congressional committee on Tuesday about being “fired in silence” from the CBS series Bull, when she detailed her allegations of sexual harassment against co-star Michael Weatherly and then, after she complained, was released from the series and forced into arbitration and a secrecy agreement.
The actress told members of the House Judiciary Committee that she was able to “break this silence” when she responded to a congressional summons to testify.
“Countless others bound by arbitration are not so lucky,” Dushku said, appearing virtually. She has gone public with some of her claims before.
The committee hearing was entitled Silent: How Forced Arbitration Keeps victims of sexual violence and sexual harassment in the shadows. It was held while lawmakers are considering new legislation to eliminate forced arbitration clauses in employment, consumer and civil rights cases. The Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on the bill on Wednesday.
In 2018, it was revealed that Dushku was paid $ 9.5 million to settle claims of sexual harassment on the set of Bull which concerned Weatherly.
Although she was held back by a duty of confidentiality as part of the settlement, she revealed some details about her allegations in an up at the Boston Globe the year she challenged the network’s version of events, as well as that of Weatherly and author. producer Glenn Gordon Caron.
Before the committee, Dushku went into detail about his allegations about what happened on the set of Bull. She said that in her first week on the job, she “found myself in the predominance of gross, sexualized and immoral verbal abuse. I have been subjected to almost constant sexual harassment by my co-star. This was beyond anything I had experienced. in my 30-year career. “
She did not mention Weatherly by name in his opening statement, but detailed how he “often referred to me as ‘legs’. He smelled me and looked grinning at me up and down. Outside the script, in front of about 100 crew members and cast members, he once said , that he would take me to his ‘rape car’ and use lube and long phallic things on me and take me over his knees and hit me like a little girl. ” She said that another time “he told me that his sperm were powerful swimmers.”
“These were not lines in the script,” she said. “They were incessant and derogatory and approached me in the middle of what was supposed to be a professional workplace.”
Dushku said she “feared that if I pushed back or reacted strongly, my job could be jeopardized or my professional reputation could be damaged.”
After an incident while doing a scene where she was holding a monologue in the courtroom, Dushku said her co-star “shouted out that he and his buddy wanted a threesome with me and started mocking penis gloom while the camera was still rolling” So, as I was going for my coffee break between the scenes, a random male crew member stepped up to me at the dinner table and whispered, ‘I’m with you Bull. I also want a threesome with you, Eliza. ‘”
She said the experience made her “physically nauseous.”
She said she confronted Weatherly and “specifically asked him to be my ally on the set and downplay some of the sexualized comments directed at me, especially since he was leading the way in the workplace.” She said he replied that “no one is more respectful of women than I am. I grew up with sisters.”
Dushku said she later found out that after their conversation, Weatherly wrote a text message to the head of CBS Studios that she had a “humor deficit” and that “he did not want me on the program.” Although the director, whom she has previously identified as David Stapf, told Weatherly that she “made the show better,” she was “fired the next day.”
Dushku said that when she examined her legal options, she found that the mandatory arbitration clause in her contract “would be used to keep what had happened to me secret and would protect CBS and the perpetrator of sexual harassment who openly had retaliated against me for trying to stop the harassment in my workplace. ”
“I was shocked to hear that I signed my rights to a public forum before taking a job,” Dushku said.
As New York Times revealed the settlement in a December 2018 story, Weatherly responded with a statement to the Times, in which he said: “During the recording of our show, I made some jokes that mocked some lines in the script. When Eliza told me that she was not comfortable with my language and my attempt at humor, I was horrified to have offended her and immediately apologized.After reflecting further on this, I better understand that what I said was both not funny and not appropriate, and I’m sorry and sorry for the pain this caused Eliza. ” Dushku then claimed that Weatherly violated the terms of the settlement and wrote the Globe up oath.
A CBS spokesman declined to comment on Dushku’s testimony.
At the time, the network issued a statement saying: “The allegations in Mrs Dushku’s allegations are an example that even though we remain committed to a culture defined by a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace, our work is far from complete.. of these claims reflects the expected amount that Ms. Dushku would have received for the remainder of her contract as a regular series, and was determined in a mutually agreed mediation process at that time. “
Dushku told the committee that when her lawyer made her claim, CBS handed out tapes “which included video of the actual harassment.”
“No one other than my legal advisors at CBS has ever seen or will ever see these tapes,” she said. She later argued that if people could have seen the ties, “accountability would have changed the outcome.”