In a new report published by the New York Times, two women who once wrote for Carol’s Second Act claimed they quit the CBS sitcom over how the network and showrunners handled a complaint against executive producer David Hunt — who also happens to be married to the show’s star, Emmy winner Patricia Heaton.
Writer Broti Gupta, who left the show in September, told the Times that she complained to HR about two instances in which the 65-year-old Hunt had allegedly touched her inappropriately. In early August, following a dinner for cast and crew at a pizza restaurant in Los Angeles, Hunt allegedly hugged Gupta from the side twice. She said he went on to compliment her pants and ran his hand up her thigh as they stood in the restaurant’s valet parking area.
A lawyer for Hunt and Heaton, who have been married since 1990 and have four sons, told the newspaper that the British actor, director and producer “did not remember the details as described.”
Attorney Bryan Freedman added that Hunt “does not recall rubbing anyone’s thigh or leg and he disputes that characterization of it.”
Weeks later, Gupta said she was sitting in a chair on set next to writer and co-executive producer Margee Magee, who left the sitcom in October. The women claim that Hunt, who appeared to be looking for something, took Gupta by the shoulders and “jerked” her forward, prompting Magee to say, “Excuse me.” Hunt, they told the Times, did not respond.
Freeman, Hunt and Heaton’s lawyer, said 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 the second alleged incident, Gupta confided in Magee about her experience. Magee encouraged her to air her concerns to Carol’s Second Act showrunners Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern, who went on to alert CBS and its internal HR department. The network, which was rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct from the likes of news anchor Charlie Rose and former chairman Les Moonves, introduced new sexual harassment reporting guidelines in May, according to the Times, and vowed to “ensure safety and build trust."
Gupta said she met with HR executive Ellen Goldsmith, who she claimed told her that an investigation had backed up her report of the chair incident and that “she had no reason to doubt” the writer’s account of the first incident at the restaurant. Gupta reportedly told Goldsmith that she preferred to see Hunt undergo sexual harassment training rather than lose his job.
“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 told the paper.
According to the Times, Hunt completed sexual harassment training on Oct. 1 and received a “closure letter” from CBS which reportedly stated, “Your behavior caused the individual who raised the concerns to feel genuinely uncomfortable in the workplace and it reflected a disregard for CBS’s policies and guidance in the matter. You are hereby cautioned not to engage in such behavior.”
Patricia Heaton out and about
Patricia Heaton out and about
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Actress Patricia Heaton arrives at 2018 Television Advocacy Awards Benefiting The Creative Coalition at the Sofitel Los Angeles At Beverly Hills on September 15, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)
THE MIDDLE - 'A Heck of a Ride: Part One/A Heck of a Ride: Part Two' - After nine hilarious and heartfelt seasons, a Heck leaves the nest as the family takes a road trip to Denver, where Axl will start his new job - and new life away from home, on the one-hour series finale of 'The Middle,' TUESDAY, MAY 22 (8:30-9:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Michael Ansell via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 08: Patricia Heaton visits the SiriusXM Studios on February 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Manny Carabel/Getty Images)
TCA WINTER PRESS TOUR 2018 (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) - The cast and executive producers of ABC series graced the carpet at Disney | ABC Television Group's Winter Press Tour 2018. (Image Group LA/ABC via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Patricia Heaton on Wednesday, November 29, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 21: Actress Patricia Heaton and David Hunt attend the opening night of 'Something Rotten!' at Ahmanson Theatre on November 21, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 04: Actress Patricia Heaton attends the IMF 11th Annual Comedy Celebration at The Wilshire Ebell Theatre on November 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 28: Actress Patricia Heaton attends ABC's 'The Middle' 200th episodes celebration at the Fig & Olive on October 28, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 21: Patricia Heaton attends the 2017 Open Hearts Gala at SLS Hotel on October 21, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Robin L Marshall/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 02: Actress Patricia Heaton discusses 'The Middle' at Build Studio on October 2, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 09: Actor David Hunt and actress Patricia Heaton arrive for the Ed Asner And Friends Poker Tournament Benefiting Autism Society held September 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
THE MIDDLE - On the season premiere episode, 'Vive La Hecks,' airing TUESDAY, OCTOBER 3 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network, Axl returns home from his summer trip to Europe, sporting a man-bun and embracing a new, chill European outlook on life. (Michael Ansell/ABC via Getty Images)
CHARLIE MCDERMOTT, PATRICIA HEATON
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 06: Patricia Heaton (L) and Neil Flynn of 'The Middle' speak onstage during the Disney/ABC Television Group portion of the 2017 Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 6, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
THE MIDDLE - 'Fight or Flight' - Having finally graduated college, Axl tells Frankie and Mike that he's planning on going to Europe over the summer with Kenny. Although Frankie thinks this is a great once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Mike is less than pleased and thinks his slacker son should be putting all of his summer efforts into finding a job. Meanwhile, Sue begins to panic after she barely scrapes a parked SUV and doesn't hear back from the owner after leaving several notes on the windshield, and Brick discovers that his sudden onset of backaches is due to not sitting in his lawn chair, which was replaced by a normal kitchen-table chair, on the season finale of 'The Middle,' TUESDAY, MAY 16 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Michael Ansell/ABC via Getty Images)
EDEN SHER, ATTICUS SHAFFER, PATRICIA HEATON, NEIL FLYNN
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 10: Patricia Heaton arrives at the 2017 Winter TCA Tour - Disney/ABC held at Langham Hotel on January 10, 2017 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
THE MIDDLE - 'Sorry Not Sorry' - Frankie and Mike frantically attempt to shut off the water and save some treasured items when the pipes burst in the basement. But after freaking out and bickering amongst each other, Axl, Sue and Brick call a family intervention meeting to let their parents know that their constant fighting and bickering is negatively affecting them. But while the kids feel like they can benefit from their parents' newfound realization, Frankie and Mike start to think that the kids' lack of support makes them the ones who should be sorry, on 'The Middle,' TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EST), on the ABC Television Network. (Michael Ansell/ABC via Getty Images)
NEIL FLYNN, PATRICIA HEATON
THE MIDDLE - Thanksgiving VIII - Frankie has come to the conclusion that April (guest star Greer Grammer) is not good enough for Axl and does everything in her power to keep her out of their annual Christmas family photo. But she finds herself vying for Axl's attention by trying to rearrange timing for the family's Thanksgiving dinner when she discovers that he plans to go to April's multiple family get-togethers that day. Meanwhile, Sue goes ballistic when she discovers that Brick will now be her new co-worker at Spudsy's, on ABC's 'The Middle,' airing on TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 22 (8:008:30 p.m. EDT). (Michael Ansell/ABC via Getty Images)
GREER GRAMMER, PATRICIA HEATON
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 08: Patricia Heaton visits at SiriusXM Studio on June 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 21: Patricia Heaton arrives at the 4th Annual Light Up The Blues held at the Pantages Theatre on May 21, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 29: David Hunt and David Hunt David HuntPatricia Heaton attends the 2016 Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Awards - Arrivals at Westin Bonaventure Hotel on April 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/WireImage)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
But by that time, Gupta had already quit in protest — with Magee soon to follow, later in October — over concerns that they were being punished for raising the issue. Days after Gupta’s last HR meeting about Hunt, writers on Carol’s Second Act were told that they could not attend that day’s rehearsal, and would no longer be individually allowed to workshop jokes to showrunners. Andrew Brettler, the lawyer representing showrunners Haskins and Ms. Halpern, told the Times that the changes affecting writers had been devised prior to Gupta’s complaint, in an effort to tamp down on-set chaos, and that the timing of the announcement coming on the heels of her HR talks were “a coincidence.”
While CBS backed the showrunners, Gupta said the changes in procedure felt like an effort to separate her from Hunt and “gave me no option but to leave the show.”
In a lengthy Twitter thread posted Saturday, a “disappointed, heartbroken and devastated” Gupta accused Haskins and Halpern of admitting to others that they’d taked “retaliatory actions” against her over the Hunt complaint.
They admitted to Margee Magee in private that my reporting took us off set (a decision nobody asked for, a decision they made on their own) so when I learned that information, I realized that I had to leave — I can’t work for bosses who lie to their extremely smart/talented staff
Eventually, Margee left from their mistreatment of her and they started telling other people that Margee was doing this for attention and making my issue about her. They could not envision a world wherein I had an ally.
This has been a devastating experience for me that could have been extremely easy had my asks been respected. Unfortunately, Sarah and Emily made choices that destroyed my sense of self and my feeling of value in the workplace. I still urge them to learn from this and do better.
Gupta’s tweets appear to be in reaction to the statement the showrunners gave to the Times.
“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 said. “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.”
Magee also said that she faced professional fallout on the set before making the decision to leave, a claim CBS has denied.
“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 said in response to claims that HR representatives mishandled the situation.
Both women have hired an attorney to make sure they are paid the amount owed to them according to their contracts, which CBS has reportedly agreed to do.
Neither Hunt nor Heaton has publicly addressed the Times report.