A new deep-dive report at Splinter, the news arm of Gizmodo Media Group, alleges that Texas-based theater chain Alamo Drafthouse has long minimized a variety of sexual assault and harassment allegations made against both patrons and employees. In September of last year, IndieWire reported on allegations from five women against former Drafthouse associate and Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knowles. One of those women, former Drafthouse employee Jill Lewis, spoke to the outlet about her own claims made against a patron nearly a decade ago.
Lewis told the outlet that she was grabbed and harassed by a long-time patron of the theater, and when she contacted the theater’s owners, Tim and Karrie League, they “had a dilemma: The customer lived with a traumatic brain injury, and was one of the chain’s most loyal customers. They knew he seemed to struggle with impulse control.” They worried that banning him from the theater would ruin his life, and opted instead to draw “up a document for him to sign, in which he would agree not to do or say inappropriate things to [Lewis].”
The story serves as a microcosmic look inside what writer Dan Solomon alleges is a widespread problem: “There seems to be a class of people in the Leagues’ inner circle who are protected from consequences for the abuse or harassment they inflict.”
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As Lewis explained, “The hardest part about how the company responded was that being around this customer just became part of her job.” She said she did not feel comfortable telling the Leagues he needed to be banned, and she worried about her job security. He continued to patronize the theater.
For the story, Solomon spoke to “more than a dozen people… about negative experiences at the theater that included its leadership minimizing allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment—at the hands of favored customers, high- and low-level employees, and business partners.” ‘
He also added, “One common thread a number of these people identified was that, on multiple occasions and at multiple locations, it seemed that supervisors took minimal action after witnessing or being informed that an employee had behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner with subordinates or co-workers. In some instances, even after an HR complaint, these employees would continue working for the company.”
Solomon also spoke with Jasmine Baker, who first came to IndieWire in the fall of last year to discuss her alleged sexual assaults by Knowles. She shared with Splinter a recorded conversation she had with Karrie League just before her allegations first came to light (the meeting also took place right after former Birth.Movies.Death editor-in-chief Devin Faraci was revealed to still be working for the company, even after he had resigned after he was hit with his own sexual assault allegations). During the discussion, Baker and League discussed another allegation from another woman who Baker had first brought to the Leagues many years earlier, an allegation that claimed that a Drafthouse partner had raped her.
League, it seems, was worried that the story was about to come out. She told Baker that she’d written what she intended to be an open letter to the community at large, as well as the woman in question, which she’d share after the story came out. “It’s too little, too late,” League said. “And it’s a reaction instead of action.” The story has yet to be published, as has League’s letter.
Solomon also reports that “throughout the conversation, Baker quizzed Karrie on how she — who ran human resources for the company for years — and her husband addressed allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Baker brought up a former manager who was reported multiple times, then transferred to another location instead of fired.”
The pair also discussed the Devin Faraci situation, and League “explained that the outrage over Faraci’s employment with the Drafthouse was a misunderstanding. She acknowledged that the company had made mistakes, but bringing Faraci back into the fold wasn’t one of them.” She also claimed that her husband Tim had “permission” from Faraci’s alleged victim to rehire him.
“It wasn’t like, ‘Yes, you may hire this guy to proofread’… but he had a long conversation with her and she said it was not her intent to punish him… Tim took that as permission to help him pay for his rehab by letting him proofread our press releases… a couple times a week,” League said to Baker on the recording. Later, however, League admitted that perhaps her husband should have clarified that takeaway from their discussion.
As Solomon writes, “This kind of rationalization seems to have been common at the Drafthouse. With favored employees and customers, the Leagues have a pattern of being forgiving. In a number of instances, sexually inappropriate behavior wasn’t enough for the company to take decisive, permanent action.”
The story also alleges that “multiple people, from employees who started with in the company in the early 2000s to current staff, described different incidents in which managers or trainers would be reported to a supervisor or HR for sexually inappropriate behavior… the employees who behaved inappropriately would be allowed to remain with the company and could be awarded for their work, or transferred to another location.”
IndieWire reached out to the Drafthouse’s representatives for a statement, to which they provided the same one that appears in the Splinter story:
On January 16, 2018, Alamo Drafthouse posted an updated code of conduct for its employees that was long in the making and includes the efforts of many inside and outside the company. The updated code of conduct is available at [here]. Since September 2017, so many people inside and outside the company have devoted their focus and energy into making certain Alamo Drafthouse is a safe, respectful and inclusive place for everyone — guests and colleagues, friends and family. These latest efforts will better ensure that the Alamo Drafthouse is and always will be a safe, respectful and inclusive place for all.
You can read the full story over at Splinter.