Earlier this year, Mark Steines was abruptly fired from his longtime job as co-host of the Hallmark Channel’s daily lifestyle talk show Home & Family. He is now suing the network’s parent company, Crown Media, alleging that he was given the pink slip after showing support for female colleagues who made sexual harassment claims against the show’s 83-year-old executive producer, Woody Fraser.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the Hallmark Channel announced on May 31 that it had parted ways with Steines in order to evolve. His rep said the network vaguely told them they were letting him go because of creative reasons.
Now he is seeking damages for retaliation, wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, failure to prevent retaliation, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, according to Variety, who posted the 20-page lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday, September 20.
Steines had been hired by Crown Media on May 29, 2012, to be one of the original co-hosts on the then-new program, which debuted that fall. In the suit, he stated that the series “always strived to be the most wholesome, family-oriented talk show on daytime television.” However, behind-the-scenes it was allegedly a different story.
He said that Fraser created “a vulgar, demeaning, and hostile work environment, especially for the women,” and “regularly bullied, verbally abused, and harassed cast and crew members.” Steines claims that he repeatedly brought up staff complaints about the executive producer to management, but nothing was ever done about his inappropriate behavior.
The 54-year-old television veteran said that he even witnessed some of Fraser’s “lewd, sexist, and misogynistic behavior” firsthand, including seeing him forcibly hug and massage female employees; ask Steines questions, via his earpiece, about attractive guests he was interviewing, like “Can you see up her skirt (or down her shirt) from there?”; and seeing a photo of Fraser “grabbing the face of a young female producer and forcing a kiss on her lips as she resisted and grimaced.”
Steines believes that everything changed for him at the network in 2017 after two female show producers hired a high-powered attorney, Lisa Bloom, to address their harassment and verbal abuse claims against Fraser. He gave statements to the lawyer in support of the women and was asked to be a potential witness. He said that after Crown Media found out about this, they began retaliating against him.
“They substantially reduced his salary, abruptly cut his regular voice-over work, diminished his role in network events, and cut him out of the show’s opening sequence for Season 6,” it is stated in the lawsuit. “[Their] retaliation ultimately culminated in Mr. Steines’ abrupt early termination, conducted in an utterly unprofessional manner intended to personally humiliate Mr. Steines while maximizing damage to his professional reputation.”
He alleges that Crown Media’s “unlawful conduct was willful, intentional, and malicious, and done with intent to vex, injure, or annoy” him, and because of all that has happened he is suffering mentally, is humiliated, and is under emotional distress.
Steines is seeking “punitive damages in an amount sufficient to punish [the company] and to deter others from engaging in similar conduct,” and compensatory damages because of the wages, benefits, and promotional opportunities he lost due to the termination.
Crown Media released a statement in response to Steines’ lawsuit that said the Hallmark Channel decided to replace him because the ratings for Home & Family had declined and that third-party research indicated he was perceived negatively, reported Deadline.